“I knew him, Horatio.”
Though I was no Hamlet, not even in my youth, and he was neither a Horatio nor a Shakespeare, Vlad and I kept up a steady correspondence from 1938 to my untimely death in 1958.
We discovered each other in a most coincidental way. Being an avid reader of Russian literature, I happened upon his delightful novel, Priglasheniye na kazn' (Invitation to a Beheading) soon after its publication. After reading the first several pages, I sent him a handwritten copy of the first draft of the first several pages of what he called “your delightful short story, Light of My Life.”
Over the years, up to 1955, we continued this exchange. With his encouragement, I was more than willing to send him further material: words, sentences, paragraphs, ideas for plot, etc. I cannot think of a letter in which he did not express his “profound admiration” for my diligent, time-consuming work.
Nor was our correspondence merely an interchange of ideas concerning literary technique, gossip regarding other writers, allusions to the political situations of the countries in which we found ourselves in our cosmopolitan tours of the Western world. We were intimates. It was thus that I discovered that the “masterpiece” (his prescient word) on which he was working was, in fact, autobiographical; and he discovered something that I had suspected since our initial exchange, that we were doppelgangers.
After the publication of what I suspected was the “masterpiece” to which he had been constantly alluding, the indescribably brilliant novel Lolita, our intimacy dissolved. I cannot give the details; I leave that task in the capable hands of my most talented, faithful, and trusted disciple, who is now seeking a publisher for what he assures me will be “the most controversial tell-all book of the current decade.”