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Alex Beam on The Feud

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Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship
Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam’s latest book The Feud is a “deliciously ironic (and sad) tale of how two literary giants destroyed their friendship in a fit of mutual pique and egomania.” It is both literary biography and a chronicle of the dissolution of an intimate friendship. In 1940, Edmund Wilson was the big dog of American letters. Vladimir Nabokov was a Russian exile seeking asylum in the States. Wilson became a mentor to Nabokov, introducing him to every editor of note and engineering a Guggenheim Fellowship. But then came the worldwide best-selling novel Lolita, and the tables were turned. Suddenly Nabokov was the big (and very rich) dog. The feud finally erupted in full when Nabokov published his hugely footnoted and virtually unreadable translation of Pushkin’s famously untranslatable verse novel, Eugene Onegin. Wilson savaged his friend’s translation in The New York Review of Books. Nabokov counterattacked, until the narcissism of small differences reduced their friendship to ashes. Reviews call The Feud “a comic contretemps of a very high order,” and “a poignant demonstration of the fragility of even the deepest of friendships.” Join the author in this evening of spirited conversation. Alex Beam is a former Moscow bureau chief for Business Week, and author of three other works of nonfiction: American Crucifixion, Gracefully Insane and A Great Idea at the Time.





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