Hi there book bees. Today I want to talk about posthumous publishing, AKA the publishing of a work by a writer after that writer’s death. Sometimes the publication is of unfinished works, other times of finished but unpublished works. There’s a lot of factors that go into posthumous publishing but one of the major one is: did the author want these works published?
Posthumous publishing is sometimes a tricky or controversial endeavor. Some authors write out all of their works in a series or in general and for one reason or another haven’t published them when they pass. In these cases, it seems that they did plan to publish their works and since the works released are usually complete in this case, they are published with minimal changes to respect what the deceased author wrote. Other times, a work is unfinished and a family member or someone close to the author with a firm grasp of their vision for the work will complete the manuscript in order to send it for publication.
There are also times where it appears an author may have wanted another read through or editing of their work before it was published, or perhaps never wanted it published at all. This responsibility would have belonged to the person entrusted with the manuscript and not with readers to avoid that work, so I’m not casting any judgement on people who read posthumously published works with controversial histories. I do believe there are some authors, though, who did not want to be published and it’s a shame we didn’t respect their wishes.
Personally from a writer’s perspective, I would want certain pieces published posthumously but not all of them. And I would absolutely want an editor to go through everything first just in case. I would really only trust those closest to me to determine what could be published and what should be left alone.
I think it’s also important sometimes to remember that in a posthumous publication, the author didn’t get a lot of say in what was published. Be it an unfinished novel, a collection of poems, a memoir or a diary, the product is not as polished as an author would actually want it to be. Which can sometimes make reading and processing these works more difficult, I think. It comes down to what the author seems to have wanted to say–without being able to explain as such now–versus what is presented in the work.
What do you think book bees? Do you believe posthumous publishing honors the memory of an author, or does it remove private writings from their context?