In an agreement that seems to raise as many questions as it settles, maverick publisher Barney Rossett has reached a settlement with the estate of Vladimir Nabokov to publish Lo's Diary by Pia Pera, the controversial retelling of Nabokov's novel Lolita, under his Foxrock imprint. Until this settlement, the Nabokov estate had halted publication of Pera's book in France and the U.S.

Pera's novel was to have been published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, but FSG canceled the book after the Nabokov estate filed a lawsuit charging that the book infringed on the copyright of Nabokov's Lolita. The lawsuit prompted questions over the appropriate scope of copyright versus the needs of artistic freedom.

The new agreement allows the book to be published along with commentary by Dmitri Nabokov, Vladimir's son. The estate will receive a 5% royalty, which will be donated to PEN. Martin Garbus, attorney for Foxrock, told PW he considered Pera's book to be "an original work," and was prepared to challenge the Nabokov estate in court. "I believe Pera has won," he said, noting that although the settlement gives the Nabokov estate "some legal claim" on the use of Lolita's content, it also "allows Pera's book to be published; she will get royalties and now people can decide for themselves about the book."

More Controversy to come?

Another book may have to contend with the litigious Nabokov estate. In March 2000 Crown plans to publish a Lolita-inspired first novel by Nancy Jones, renamed Molly after the first title came too close to the nymphet's name in Nabokov's book. Jones's book is about a cross-country trip taken by a girl and her stepfather, as told by the girl's best friend. Crown counsel Steve Weissman emphasized that it "is not a retelling of the Lolita story," and said he has not heard from the Nabokov estate -- so far. Crown will acknowledge that the book is "inspired" by the Nabokov classic. "We certainly would not publish a book that would infringe on the Nabokov copyright," Weissman said.