Dmitri Nabokov plans to anger his father’s ghost by publishing Vladimir’s last, unfinished novel.
It would be a tough to be an executor, not to mention the son or daughter of an artist, and have to decide whether or not to ignore final wishes. I’d say that Dmitri, at 73, has spent a good long while thinking about this (his father died in 1977); this is not a rush to publish. If anything, it’s a roll up a steep cliff. That the novel is written on index cards, and that Dmitri does not plan to add to it (appropriate I think), means it will be brief. And nothing published at this point will remove from Vladimir’s legacy or legitimacy as a master storyteller. But I still wonder at the wish for the work to be destroyed. A great artist is their own best editor and critic, and as such, had he lived Vladimir would have decided for his own purposes whether to publish the work or not. That’s been taken away from him. I have a hard time knowing if I think that’s fair or appropriate.
I am reminded that Steven Erickson, when his novel “Days Between Stations” was sold, returned home and destroyed every novel he’d written up to that point. Nothing of those unpublished works will see the light of day – his control over that is ensured.
But not for Vladimir.
What about you? Have you that embarrassing novel or story floating in a drawer somewhere? Should you ignite it now while you still have the chance?