Nabokov burning

Ben du Preez casts his eye over rich patrons, poets in peril and a masterpiece that may never be rea

Gongs dominated the literary world this week, as the much-touted Glaswegian AL Kennedy won the Costa Prize with her WWII-epic, Day. The chair of judges, Joanna Trollope, described the part-time comedienne as 'an extraordinary stylist' and compared her to James Joyce. But there was also news that the Nestle prize for children's fiction is no more.

With the ongoing grind of Arts Council cuts, it seems like artists will rely even more heavily on the generosity of wealthy benefactors. Take, for example, the £5million facelift Randy Lerner, owner of Aston Villa football club, has graciously donated to the National Portrait Gallery. Villa fans are said to be livid. Lerner's not complaining, though; the ground floor galleries will be named after him in recognition.

Elsewhere, a Burmese poet was arrested for a cryptic message inside a love poem which, when read vertically, the first word of each line formed the sentence: "Power crazy Senior General Than Shwe." Less arcane was the release of Jonathan Yeo's official portrait of a 'mellow, bouncy' Tony Blair as prime minister. For many, however, to burn or not to burn was the question which dominated the week as Dimitri Nabokov, the sole surviving heir of Vladimir Nabokov, hinted he would burn the author's unfinished novel, The Original of Laura, as stipulated in his will. Referring to it as "the most concentrated distillation of [my father's] creativity" has not helped matters.

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“Minoan pendant”: a new poem by Mark Granier

“Yes – I press my nose / to the pleasantly warm glass – / it’s a copy of one I saw / cased in the cool museum”

Yes – I press my nose
to the pleasantly warm glass –
it’s a copy of one I saw
cased in the cool museum –
gold beaten to honey, a grainy
oval dollop, flanked by two
slim symmetrical bees –

garland for a civilisation’s
rise and collapse, eye-dropped
five thousand years: a flash
of evening sun on a windscreen
or wing mirror – Heraklion’s
scooter-life buzzing and humming –

as I step in to browse, become
mesmerised by the warm
dark eyes of the woman
who gives her spiel and moves
softly and with such grace,
that, after leaving, I hesitate

a moment on the pavement
then re-enter with a question
I know not to ask, but ask
anyway, to hear her voice
soften even more as she smiles
and shakes her hair – no.

Mark Granier is an Irish poet and photographer. He is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Haunt (Salmon).

This article first appeared in the 16 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Britain on the brink