Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003495, Tue, 17 Nov 1998 11:42:44 -0800

Re: Braffort on NABOKV-L (fwd)
From: George Shimanovich <gshiman@worldnet.att.net>
Cc: Paul.Braffort@teaser.fr
Dear Mr. Braffort,

Re your---------
> While doing research for my book "Science et
>Littirature", which contains a > chapter about VN, I had a very pleasant
>correspondance with Dmitri. I was > uneasy when I learned about his
involvement in the movie, but more deeply > shocked by his suing Ms Pera.
Legal action against literary works has always > been a scandal as an
admirer of Flaubert and Baudelaire like VN knew > perfectly well. No
assesment of the aesthetic quality of the book could be > an argument for
suing any author and I fully share Anatoly Vorobey's > comments on that

Copyright laws apply to the work of letters not due
to aesthetic quality of either of two books but simply because such books
and such laws exist. If we express readiness to ignore copyright for the
literary work why not to drop it all together? Then of course we should
be consistent and get rid of copyright in other areas of humanity, like
engineering and science.

> Legal action against literary works has always > been a scandal as an
admirer of Flaubert and Baudelaire like VN knew > perfectly well.

Let me comment that both your examples are
good ones: Flaubert and Baudelaire. I respectfully disagree: may be our
informed judgement should be passed on the case by case basis.

Someone may say that to protect future Flaubert and Baudelaire we should
let 'Lo's diary' to be published. Isn't it a good way to protect future
quality works by protecting the authorship and copyright of ideas
expressed in the literary works of the past. Not any 'ideas' but important
ones. And Lolita writing her diary certainly appears not to be trivial in
comparison to Humbert writing his notes. On the opposite it's exactly
this idea alone (and not the quality of its realization) that puts "Lo's
diary' on comparable scale with original book - 'Lolita', from the
marketing point of view.

To answer the statement by Galya Diment below: while literary ideas are
not copyrighted as patented ideas of science or of technical disciplines
they belong to public domain for public access and not for public
distortion. Opinions of critics do matter but the process should involve
legal sides as long as copywrite law does not expire. By the way Flaubert
won 'Madam Bovary' in court and dedicated the book to .. the lawer.

> I happen to think that the lawsuit, while entertaining, does much
> harm to the notion and principle of artistic freedom. After all, Pera is
> not pretending Nabokov's work is hers -- she uses it merely as a fodder.
> Published works are copyrighted but their "ideas" exist in public domain.
> It is the "idea" of Lolita and her life that she is borrowing here, and
> that, I believe, is and should be both legitimate and legal. It would have
> helped, of course, if she were a better writer, but, in the eyes of the
> law, all writers are equal. That's why we have critics -- and it is in
> their court that this controversy should have been settled.

George Shimanovich