Following last week’s revelation that Boris Yashmilye’s second novel, The Musala Affair, went through forty-one different working titles, I have received much correspondence (well, two postcards), querying the availability of his discarded names and pondering whether his other novels (he has written five) went through similarly torturous titling trauma.
In response to the first of these wonderings, I can only say that I find it highly unlikely that Yashmilye has any sort of copyright over the forty-one unused names. Which is to say, should you wish to pen a novel yourself and give it the title The Snow in Summer Falls with Grace or, alternatively, A Tale of Toupees – you are most welcome. Raid the writer’s scrapbook, why not? (I might add that this is mere conjecture. In reality, copyright and I get on like Buddhist and a French chef, and any advice I give regarding its operations should be taken lightly, very lightly indeed).
As for the second issue, I have made some calls and come up with the following information. Yashmilye’s first novel, Flashes at Midnight had the same name from beginning to end. The same applies to his most recent offering, The Bastard. Interestingly, however, both titles have suffered greatly from translation. Flashes at Midnight, as I have long argued, ought to have been called Flashers at Midnight, whilst The Bastard would have made more sense had it been called The Mongrel.
Meanwhile, his third novel Nuts, Nuts, Nuts underwent just the single change. Right up until publication it was known as The Posthumous Experiments of Professor Neils Bohr, but – under publishing house pressure – it suffered a last minute change. Yashmilye claimed, later, that this was a deliberate move; fearing they’d never accept Nuts, Nuts, Nuts, he attempted to soften the effect by comparison. If this was the game he was playing, it worked. One suspects, however, that it was not.
Which leaves us with his fourth work, Out, Damned…
(more on this later)