why onegin killed lensky


In a review for the New York Review of Books (July 15, 1965) which he knew would read as an attack on a personal friend, Edmund Wilson accused Vladimir Nabokov of failing to understand why Pushkin’s Evgeny Onegin killed his friend Lensky. For Wilson, this “failure of interpretation” was the most serious of the failures in Nabokov’s “uneven and sometimes banal” version of Pushkin’s great novel in verse, and in his erudite commentary, which vastly outweighed the translation. “There are no out-of-character actions in Evgeni Onegin. Nabokov has simply not seen the point”, Wilson complained. “He does not seem to be aware that Onegin, among his other qualities, is . . . decidedly nasty, méchant.” Wilson followed his criticism with deference to the learning and experience which made Nabokov a “cultural live wire which vibrates between us and [the] Russian past”. “I imagine that nobody else has explored Pushkin’s sources so thoroughly”, Wilson wrote. “Mr Nabokov seems really to have done his best to read everything that Pushkin could possibly have read.”

more from the TLS here.