NABOKV-L post 0000545, Sat, 1 Apr 1995 16:48:27 -0800

Re: Copyrights and Russian Citizens (fwd)
From: Gene Barabtarlo <>

To the best of my knowledge, all but three editions of Nabokov, original or
translated, published in the Soviet or TransSoviet territories, are
pirated, in both the legal and moral senses of the term, inasmuch as their
publishers neglected or failed to secure an approval from the Estate in
advance of publication. This is how the state of affairs has always been
regarded by the Nabokov family (while being no spokesman for them, I know
the situation well enough as a friend and translator of Nabokov's work into
Russian.) Whether the legal copyright on an old edition has indeed expired
or been renewed or modified is not a matter of idle speculation but rather
of consulting the Estate's agent, Smith and Skolnik Literary Agency of New
York (and not trying to "reach Dmitrii Nabokov"). Such quasi-noble goals as
"making the works available to scholarly study" or "returning Nabokov to
the Russian reader" (whatever the latter phrase means) certainly do not
justify the flagrant infringment upon copyright, which rests entirely and
exclusively with the Estate. The situation is particularly painful since
the editions thus pirated are usually of the worst sort: with all kinds of
omissions, defects, with dreadful pictures, insipid prefaces and
misinformed notes, or, worst of all, in most hideous translations -- into
the precisely the kind of vulgar Sovietese that Nabokov found so abhorrent
and tried to save his Lolita from by translating the book himself.
As for Nabokov letters to others, -- as far as I know, even though they
may be the property of the addressee, he cannot publish them without a
prior permission of the person who penned them, or of his estate.
"But will fragments of documents
instead of actual documents (some of them are rather large like vast
correspondence with Gleb Struve) be sufficient for the scholars?" asks Mr
Ustinov. Perhaps, not, but in the absence of an authorized publication, the
scholars will have to make do with what's available.

Gene Barabtarlo

Gennady Barabtarlo
451 GCB University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
314-882-9454 Fax 314-882-3404