Description

    Vladimir Nabokov Writes to the French Translator of Lolita About His Troubles with Olympia Press

    Vladimir Nabokov. Typed Letter Signed. [N.p.], December 11, 1958. On plain white typing paper. Approximately 11 x 8.5 inches. Some toning, vertical and horizontal creases. Signed in blue ink ("Vladimir Nabokov") at the bottom. Near fine. This letter is addressed to Madame D[ouissa] Ergaz, who translated Lolita into French, and who also got the manuscript to Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press, where it was eventually published (Olympia Press, 1955).

    This letter clearly reflects Nabokov's displeasure in his dealings with Girodias (as most of Girodias' authors felt, as Girodias was famous for not paying them). "I take note of the new ban on LOLITA and of the ridiculous contention of Mr. Girodias ("M.G. prétend que si M.N. avait volu se joindre à lui pour intener une action..." etc.). I also note [two letters struck-out] that Mr. G. continues his policy of keeping from me all new developments in this matter until such time when a communication in a newspaper lets the cat out of the bag. At this time I see not point in arbitrating, nor do I have the time it would require." He then goes on to describe two offers for the Spanish-language right to Lolita, instructing Ergaz to choose the one she thinks is best, draw up the contract, and include certain instructions in the contract: "I would like you to include in it that every copy must have the line "Copyright [four letters struck-out] 1955 by Vladimir Nabokov. All rights reserved", either on the title page or on its reverse; that the translation must be complete and unabridged; that all payments of my share of advance and royalties must be made to me direct; as well as the usual provisions. I am sorry to be obliged to remind you that Mr. G. and Olympia have nothing to say about these agreements. They only get one third of the proceeds. It was a shock to me to hear from one of your Latin-American correspondents that you informed them you would have to submit their offer "to Mr. Nabokov and to Olympia Press"."

    When Nabokov entered into an agreement with Girodias for Lolita, he was underinformed of the reputation of Girodias and Olympia Press (at the time, Olympia Press was considered a pornographic publisher , not a literary one), and he ignored warnings from his friend Morris Bishop against dealing with Girodias. When Lolita was published by Olympia Press, Nabokov was generally disappointed with the publication ("swarming with typographical errors") even though it sold well. Also, Nabokov had agreed to a complicated contract that guaranteed Girodias one-third of the royalties for Lolita in perpetuity, no matter who published it. However, Girodias lost this share of the royalties when he failed to pay Nabokov on time for the royalties of the French version.


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    Auction Dates
    April, 2013
    10th Wednesday
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