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Arts & Entertainment

Art vs. Morality

Leslie Epstein talks about his latest work

A celebrated American architect sets out to build a monument to Mussolini in Leslie Epstein’s most recent novel, The Eighth Wonder of the World. Click on the photo above to listen to the author discuss his novel.

Max Shabilian — the protagonist of Leslie Epstein’s 10th novel, The Eighth Wonder of the World — is torn. An aspiring architect, he’s devoted to Amos Prince, a brash American architect with a fondness for puns and a plan for a glorious monument to Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. But as a Jew in the years just before World War II, he’s increasingly worried about the fate of his people and about Prince’s unabashed anti-Semitism. For Max, the book’s central question is where his loyalties should lie. And as his character seeks the answer, Epstein was able to wrestle with a question of his own: whether a great work of art can excuse the artist’s moral failings.

“Are the claims of art irrelevant to the claims of morality?” asks Epstein, the director of Boston University’s Creative Writing Program. “I don’t even pretend to know the answers to these questions, but I can pretend to try to explore them in some way, and that’s what the book does.”

BU Today met with Epstein in his Brookline apartment to discuss art, architecture, and the writing process that led to The Eighth Wonder of the World, published in October by Handsel Books. Click on the image above to see the video.