Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002552, Fri, 14 Nov 1997 08:41:58 -0800

VN publisher and friend James Laughlin Obit.
In today's New York Times obituary for James Laughlin (who died at the age
of 83 on Wednesday) he is described as "Vladimir Nabokov's first American
publisher [i.e. THE REAL LIFE OF SEBASTIAN KNIGHT]." This is the only
reference to Nabokov in it.

Brian Boyd relates in AMERICAN YEARS that in 1954, as VN was about to give
up on American publishers for LOLITA and his agent was looking for
European ones, James Laughlin expressed interest in seeing the ms:
"Laughlin had published THE REAL LIFE OF SEBASTIAN KNIGHT when no one else
would take on something so strange, and although Nabokov had been
disappointed by the meager financial rewards of publishing with New
Directions, it seemed worth a try. Always ready to launch the original and
challenging, Laughlin nevertheless found LOLITA too great a risk: it would
be unthinkable, he wrote, to publish the book without destroying Nabokov's
reputation and his own. (He also wrote that Nabokov's style 'is so
individual that it seems to me absolutely certain that the real authorship
would quickly be recognized even if a pseudonym were used')." (262-3)

Galya Diment