Vladimir Nabokov spent twenty years translating “the first and fundamental Russian novel,” Aleksandr Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. His battle with the text sparked an intellectual debate with his former friend, Edmund Wilson. The Paris Review has his notes. Pair with our own Lydia Kiesling’s thoughts on Lolita.
It is well known that Vladimir Nabokov and Edmund Wilson had one of the more visible falling outs in literary history over the former’s English-language Eugene Onegin translation, and indeed the history of that relationship’s souring is fascinating. But even still, it’s extremely interesting to read Nabokov’s nine-page “Reply” to Wilson’s “adverse criticism.” If nothing else, one has to wonder what Wilson was thinking when he brought a knife to a gun fight.