The Feud by Alex Beam
Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship

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His book still manages to be humorous — how could the tale of a relationship ruined by word choice be anything but funny? — but it is buttressed with a bittersweetness because, as the author states, “the end of a friendship is always a loss.”
-LA Times

Synopsis

The Feud is the deliciously ironic (and sad) tale of how two literary giants destroyed their friendship in a fit of mutual pique and egomania.

In 1940, Edmund Wilson was the undisputed big dog of American letters. Vladimir Nabokov was a near-penniless Russian exile seeking asylum in the States. Wilson became a mentor to Nabokov, introducing him to every editor of note, assigning him book reviews for The New Republic, engineering a Guggenheim Fellowship. Their intimate friendship blossomed over a shared interest in all things Russian, ruffled a bit by political disagreements. 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 literal translation of Pushkin’s famously untranslatable verse novel, Eugene Onegin. Wilson attacked his friend’s translation with hammer and tongs in The New York Review of Books. Nabokov counterattacked. Back and forth the increasingly aggressive letters flew, until the narcissism of small differences reduced their friendship to ashes.

Alex Beam has fashioned this clash of literary titans into a delightful and irresistible book—a comic contretemps of a very high order and a poignant demonstration of the fragility of even the deepest of friendships.

(With black-and-white illustrations throughout)


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Alex Beam

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Alex Beam is a columnist for the "Boston Globe" and the author of two novels. He has also written for the "Atlantic Monthly," "Slate" and "Forbes/FYI," He lives in Newton, Massachusetts with his wife and three sons.
 
Published December 6, 2016 by Pantheon. 224 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Feud
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Eric Bennett on Dec 09 2016

It’s not surprising that Nabokov’s reputation has endured while Wilson’s has faded. Personality sells. But it would be a shame if “The Feud,” so brisk and entertaining, provided a reader’s only glimpse of one of America’s best critics.

Read Full Review of The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, E... | See more reviews from NY Times

LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Tyler Malone on Dec 08 2016

His book still manages to be humorous — how could the tale of a relationship ruined by word choice be anything but funny? — but it is buttressed with a bittersweetness because, as the author states, “the end of a friendship is always a loss.”

Read Full Review of The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, E... | See more reviews from LA Times
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