Vladimir Nabokov’s last manuscript, The Original of Laura, is apparently in a vault in Switzerland. Nabokov wanted it destroyed, but his son Dmitri (now 73) is undecided about the directive, according to Slate‘s Ron Rosenbaum.
Dmitri’s predicament goes beyond Laura. It’s one that raises the difficult issue of who “owns” a work of art, particularly an unfinished work of art by a dead author who did not want anything but his finished work to become public. Who controls its fate? The dead hand from the grave? Or the eager, perhaps overeager, readers, scholars, and biographers who want to get their hands on it no matter what state it’s in?
To me, an unpublished manuscript belongs to the author only; if Nabokov wanted it destroyed, then it should be.