Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

The Case for Book Burning

When Vladimir Nabokov died he left behind him the manuscript for an unfinished novel called The Original of Laura. Prior to his death, Nabokov ordered the manuscript burned, as he did not wish to have his work published in such a raw and incomplete form. However, Dmitri, his son an heir, has never been able to follow through with this request, and the manuscript remains locked inside a Swiss safety deposit box. But he cannot put off the decision inevitably. At 73, with his own death on the horizon, he has been once again weighing the question of whether to follow his father’s wishes and burn what he has called “the most concentrated distillation of [my father’s] creativity,” or should he release the manuscript to the world? To burn or not to burn? That is the question.

Tom Stoppard, speaking from a writer’s perspective, says burn it.

Tyler Cowan, speaking from an economist’s, says don’t.

This is a question that used to really vex me. Continue reading

February 16, 2008 Posted by | Ethics, Literature | Leave a comment