SANFORD FRIEDMAN (1928-2010) was born in New York City. After graduating from the Horace Mann School and the Carnegie Institute of Technology, he was stationed as a military police officer in Korea, earning a Bronze Star. He began his career as a playwright and theater producer, and was later a writing instructor at Juilliard and SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders). "Ocean," a chapter from Totempole was serialized in Partisan Review in 1964 and won second prize in the 1965 O. Henry Awards. Totempole (1965) was followed by the novels A Haunted Woman (1968), Still Life (1975), and Rip Van Winkle (1980). At the time of his death, Friedman left behind an unpublished manuscript for the novel Conversations with Beethoven, now available as an NYRB Classic. RICHARD HOWARD is the author of seventeen volumes of poetry and has published more than one hundred fifty translations from the French, including, for NYRB, Marc Fumaroli's When the World Spoke French, Balzac's Unknown Masterpiece, and Maupassant's Alien Hearts. He has received a National Book Award for his translation of Les Fleurs du Mal and a Pulitzer Prize for Untitled Subjects, a collection of poetry. His most recent book of poems, inspired by his own schooling in Ohio, is A Progressive Education (2014).
Friedman, who died in 2010, was something of a prodigy - a playwright and novelist who also won a Bronze Star in Korea - but until now never found a publisher for this book, which is a scandal. But at least NYRB Classics (which has never published a duff book since it came into being, so far as I know) has rescued it from limbo ...It is an astonishing achievement." New Statesman The manuscript of Conversations with Beethoven was left unpublished at [Friedman's] death; NYRB Classics has done a service in bringing it to light, since intelligent novels on the subject of composers-or musicians of any kind-rarely come along. Alex Ross, The New Yorker ...a perfect grasp of ebbing mortality, in all its tedium and elusive clarity, informs the depiction of Beethoven's final year...The novel's brilliance lies in the discovery of the flawed human behind immortal genius: Friedman's Beethoven is just like us. Publishers Weekly starred review Conversations with Beethoven is unclassifiable-a novel comprised exclusively of 'oral' speech, that reads rapidly on the page like a kind of music-poetry; a prose poem of numerous voices, in which passion (both declared and undeclared) is the driving force; an intimately detailed double portrait of Beethoven and his nephew Karl that will linger long in the memory, like the most beautiful and enigmatic music. Joyce Carol Oates Conversations with Beethoven is a perfect portrait of an irascible genius. I always wanted to write a book about the tragic relationship between Beethoven and his nephew Karl, but it seems Sanford Friedman got there first. By relying on the format of the conversation books, Friedman cleverly cuts through all the tedious loquaciousness of the period; what we're left with are the revelatory fossils of the last year of Beethoven's anguished life. Edmund White