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Kant's Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: An Autobiography Through Essays

Claire Messud

7 Reviews

Rated 0

Literary essays

A collection of personal and critical essays on everything from childhood to womanhood, literature to visual arts and the relationship between form and meaning in storytelling.

'An uplifting work: complex, precise and bracing' Susie Boyt, Financial Times

'A profound book about the intrication of literature and life, about the modest, miraculous ways art helps us to live' Garth Greenwell

In twenty-nine intimate, brilliant and funny essays, Claire Messud reflects on a childhood move from her Connecticut home to Australia; the complex relationship between her modern Canadian mother and a fiercely single French Catholic aunt; and a trip to Beirut, where her pied-noir father had once lived, while he was dying. She meditates on contemporary classics from Kazuo Ishiguro, Teju Cole, Rachel Cusk and Valeria Luiselli; examines three facets of Albert Camus and The Stranger; and tours her favorite paintings at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Crafting a vivid portrait of a life in celebration of the power of literature, Messud proves once again 'an absolute master storyteller' (Rebecca Carroll, Los Angeles Times).

'I can think of few writers capable of such thrilling seriousness expressed with so lavish a gift' Rachel Cusk, Evening Standard

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Praise for Kant's Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: An Autobiography Through Essays

  • Powerful and inspirational: Messud is as fine a critic as she is a novelist - Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)

  • All writing is autobiographical, but almost never in the ways we presume. This is a profound book about the intrication of literature and life, about the modest, miraculous ways art helps us to live. Claire Messud, with her lapidary intelligence and dizzying sense of history, is among the most luminous writers at work today

  • A marvelous memoir of the mind, at once intimate and outward-looking, companionable and brilliant

  • Claire Messud's collection of essays and reviews from the past 20 years - titled Kant's Little Prussian Head & Other Reasons Why I Write - is an uplifting work: complex, precise and bracing . . . The family section is rendered vividly, in sentences beautifully formed and built to last. Some of the scenes Messud conjures feel unforgettable . . . The strength and delicacy of these chapters leave you trusting Messud's taste and judgment before you sample her criticism, which doesn't disappoint - Financial Times

  • Moving and evocative . . . These intimate, contemplative and probing essays reveal Messud's rich inner life and generosity of spirit - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • Claire Messud's essays are generous visions of the world, informed by her razor-sharp intellect and uncompromising honesty - Observer (Best books of 2020)

  • All writing is autobiographical, but almost never in the ways we presume. This is a profound book about the intrication of literature and life, about the modest, miraculous ways art helps us to live. Claire Messud, with her lapidary intelligence and dizzying sense of history, is among the most luminous writers at work today

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Claire Messud

Claire Messud is a recipient of Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The author of five other works of fiction including, most recently, The Burning Girl, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her family.

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