The More You Love a Memory, The Stronger and Stranger It Is
February 25, 2012 4:08 PM   Subscribe

Sad news. I never met Dmitri, but years ago I won a contest he sponsored on the Nabokov list-serv. The contest was to solve a riddle VN had composed for DN when DN was a boy, and the prize was a handwritten copy of the riddle from DN.

I'll have to go see if I can find that.

posted by trip and a half at 4:24 PM on February 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


That's really cool, trip and a half, share more if you can.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:43 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by arcticseal at 4:46 PM on February 25, 2012

Thanks, lazaruslong, it was fun. And guess what? I found my post to the listserv where I answered the riddle! (But I misremembered, as you can read in Dmitri's original post: the prize was a fax copy of the original riddle in VN's hand, not Dmitri's.)
posted by trip and a half at 5:06 PM on February 25, 2012 [9 favorites]

“In “Laura,” Mr. Nabokov “imagines the death of his protagonist, a writer and neurologist named Philip, as a sort of Nietzschean act of will, as an exercise in self-erasure conducted body part by body part, beginning with his toes,””

posted by Meatafoecure at 5:27 PM on February 25, 2012

posted by dontoine at 5:47 PM on February 25, 2012

I never met Dmitri

I did. My mother represented the literary estate for almost 25 years, so he was a quite consistent figure when I was growing up. I remember him as being a near-constant presence on the fax machine (and then email, though he remained a devotee of the fax), and an occasional figure in the house. I have no idea how tall he was, but I remember him as being quite imposing, increadibly suave and very European. (As a young teen, I thought he resembled Michael Caine, and so he may simply have dazzled me with confused celebrity; I didn't know who VN was when I was 13, but I did know who Alfie was. Also, I repeat, I was 13 the first time we met.)

I do not believe he particularly liked children, but he sent the very occasional birthday gift or fax to us children (seemingly at random) and always fabulous birthday or Christmas presents for my mother. When Vera was alive, my parents would visit them in Montreux; after Vera died, the visits moved to Florida, and then when he become older, back to Montreux. As far as I am aware, he always maintained the residence at the Montreux Palace he had shared with his mother and father. He never had an apartment in New York, and would sometimes opt to stay at my parents instead of a hotel, sleeping in my childhood bed (which, along with Dimitri's visits, was later transported to New Jersey. DN in NJ always seemed incongruous to me, but he liked the screened porch.)

The volume of ephemera of 25 years of correspondence, contracts, and foreign editions cannot be overstated. One might imagine it was devoted to VN, but that isn't how literary estates work; dead authors are very quiet, while executors are very lively indeed. In the case of DN, also very prolific; it would not be unusual for 3 or 4 faxes - handwritten, typed, sometimes scrawled on hotel postcards - to come in, seven days a week. He also liked to post postcards, which would turn up regularly as bookmarks and no doubt will continue to fall out of books and magazines in my parents' house for the rest of my mother's life.

He was a larger than life figure, of a kind no longer made, and his passing marks something of the end of an era. I am sorry he is no longer with us, but glad for the pieces that remain.

posted by DarlingBri at 5:56 PM on February 25, 2012 [123 favorites]

I thought it was a terrible decision to publish The Original of Laura, but I mourn his passing.

posted by mattbucher at 6:12 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by oonh at 6:25 PM on February 25, 2012

Great comment, DarlingBri. We have the most interesting people here on MeFi.
posted by arcticseal at 7:25 PM on February 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by Chichibio at 3:29 AM on February 26, 2012

Those who are interested in "The Original of Laura" as a phenomenon may be interested in the addendum to the 2000 Edition of "The Wooden Shepherdess," which is equally bad. I think some writers work like oil painters—start very rough, then refine, refine.
posted by RichardS at 6:06 AM on February 26, 2012

Wonderful, DarlingBri, thank you!
posted by seventyfour at 6:24 AM on February 26, 2012

posted by rumposinc at 7:16 AM on February 26, 2012

posted by BibiRose at 1:04 PM on February 26, 2012

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