Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027054, Sat, 11 Jun 2016 13:22:26 -0300

[NABOKV] {REVIEWS]Alex Beam on "The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov,
Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship"
The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful
Alex Beam. Pantheon, $26.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-101-87022-8

In this intriguing and melancholy chronicle, Boston Globe columnist Beam
(Gracefully Insane) traces the rise and fall of the friendship between
Edmund Wilson and Vladimir Nabokov. The two men met in 1940, when Nabokov’s
cousin pleaded with Wilson, an eminent critic and writer, to help Nabokov, a
recent émigré from Russia to the U.S. Among other things, Wilson
commissioned reviews from Nabokov, helped him secure a Guggenheim
Fellowship, and introduced him to prominent editors. Over the years, the two
spent holidays together with their families, exchanged affectionate
correspondence, and even collaborated on a translation of Alexander
Pushkin’s Mozart and Salieri. By the time Wilson died in 1972, it had all
fallen apart. The main cause was Wilson’s scathing review of Nabokov’s
1,895-page, hyperquirky translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (one of his
many criticisms was Nabokov’s choosing the obscure term “sapajous” over the
logical translation choice, “monkeys”), which began a protracted war of
words between the two. Beam’s book evokes the strangely satisfying sensation
of witnessing smart people bickering over seemingly small matters. It also
provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse, full of anecdotal
ephemera, of how Wilson and Nabokov interacted and why. But the more lasting
sensation is the bittersweetness of this portrait of a fallen friendship—at
its height, Nabokov wrote to Wilson, “You are one of the few people in the
world whom I keenly miss when I do not see them.” (Dec.)


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