Nabokov, Wilson, translation, Pushkin, Onegin, Cold War


The tale of how Edmund Wilson quarreled with Vladimir Nabokov over the latter’s 1964 translation of Eugene Onegin can be instructively read as a politically charged event, specifically a “high culture” allegory of the Cold War. Dissemination of anti-Communist ideals (often in liberal and literary guises) was the mandate of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, whose funding and editorial initiatives included the publication of both pre-Revolution Russian literature and, more notoriously, the journal Encounter (1953-1990), where Nabokov’s fiery “Reply” to Wilson appeared. This essay outlines the propaganda value of the Onegin debate within and to Cold War mythology.

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