Sunday, May 27, 2007

Nabokov As Rhinoceros

To Hutchinson & Co.

Nestorstrasse 22
November 28th, 1936.

Dear Sirs,

While leaving the final decision entirely with you, I think it my duty to repeat my attempt of persuading you that it is your interest as well as mine to publish "Despair" under your own imprint instead of John Long's.
I am getting gradually acquainted with John Long's latest publications, and I am afraid that my book would look among them like a rhinoceros in a world of humming birds. These publications are doubtlessly excellent in their own way, as they fully satisfy the wants of such readers who are looking for an amusing or thrilling tale, but who could hardly be expected to appreciate a purely psychological novel the merits of which lie not in its plot, but on a wholly different plane. My book is essentially concerned with subtle dissections of a mind anything but "average" or "ordinary": nature had endowed my hero with literary genius, but at the same time there was a criminal taint in his blood; the criminal in him, prevailing over the artist, took over those very methods which nature had meant the artist to use. It is not a "detective novel".

I cannot help feeling that "Despair", were it presented to the right sort of people, might prove quite a success for you and for me. Please believe me that I am not in the habit of praising my own work, and that if I draw your attention to some of its features (as noted by Russian critics), I do so out of business considerations only.
I cannot imagine why, inspite of my previous letters, you avoid discussing this matter with me, and I do hope to hear from you now.
Yours faithfully,

-from Vladimir Nabokov Selected Letters 1940-1977 edited by Dimitri Nabokov and Matthew J. Bruccoli (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich, 1989) p.17.

No comments: