"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Burning Lolita

Or, as it is being called, Ur-Lolita, a last, unfinished manuscript by Nabokov that he explicitly requested to be burnt -- Laura, with the dirty bits left in. It is now up to his son and translator, Dmitri, to decide the manuscript's fate.

A bit more of a hint is given by the second excerpt in The Nabokovian. In this one, we are introduced to a Mr. Hubert (one "m" short of Lolita's Humbert, of course) who seems to be engaged in a Lolita-like relationship with a young girl (presumably the same one as in the first excerpt), here named Flora, of whom we learn little. In the scene, Hubert and Flora play chess with one of those cheap little plastic sets in which the pieces are pegged into holes on the board. There is some sexualizing description of the "tickly-looking little holes [which] ... the pin-sized pawns penetrated easily." And of the young girl who—double entendre warning—"knew the moves." On the relationship of Flora to Laura, though, the passage is mum.

Part one, at Slate, and Part Two. As a Nabokov devotee, and with the classic American authority problem, I can have only one opinion about this -- To hell with the master's wishes, publish the book and sell the original on ebay.

Okay, maybe not ebay.

1 comment:

mirrorball said...

Aargh! What to do? It does come down to ownership I think. Okay, pushing all selfish thoughts aside...Nabokov should have burned the cards himself if he truly wanted them destroyed. I'll be surprised if they do go up in smoke and I'll be very interested to read this! I do hope that the manuscript doesn't end up being "finished" or expanded by another writer.
Whatever happens, even if the mysterious 30 pages are burned, I think this work will remain legendary.