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Nabokov Suit Accents Copyright Woes

Published: November 14, 2003 (Issue # 919)



  • Dmitry Nabokov
    Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

The Nabokov Estate in Russia has filed a suit against Nezavisimaya Gazeta for publishing several texts by Vladimir Nabokov without permission and defaming the author's name.

The publication in question is "Nabokov About Nabokov Etc.: Interviews, Reviews and Essays," printed in Russian by the Nezavisimaya Gazeta publishing house in 2002.

Olga Voronina, official representative of the Nabokov estate in Russia, says that the book is actually a reprint of Vladimir Nabokov's English-language "Strong Opinions," a collection of letters, interviews and essays, first published in 1973 in the United States, for which Nezavisimaya Gazeta had not received permission.

"They didn't even apply for permission," Voronina said. "Although there were some cuts and some additions, the book is clearly a reprint."

The case was filed in Moscow's Basmanny Court on Tuesday, near the registered office of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, which had no comment on the dispute.

However, Anna Raiskaya, managing editor of the publishing department of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, was quoted by Delovoi Peterburg newspaper this week as saying the publisher had done nothing wrong.

"All the materials, including illustrations, come from magazines and newspapers," she was quoted as saying. "Furthermore, our contract with Nikolai Melnikov, who compiled the book and wrote the introduction, says that he bears all responsibility for it."

Nabokov, considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century in any language, was born into a well-off St. Petersburg family and fled Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution. He spent years in Europe before taking up a career as a teacher in the United States. He spent the last years of his life in Montreux, Switzerland, dying in 1977.

Nabokov's most famous work is "Lolita," the tale of a man's attraction to preadolescent girl.

His son, Dmitry, is in charge of the author's literary and financial heritage. The estate's representative in Russia takes care of his affairs in this country; Dmitry decided that the proceeds from Russian sales of Nabokov's books should be donated to the city's Nabokov museum.

Vadim Uskov, head of St. Petersburg law firm Uskov and Partners, said that although the book was published last year, his company had been trying to settle the dispute out of court.

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