Anna Badkhen at Harvard Book Store
Bright Unbearable Reality:
in conversation with JAMES WOOD
October 21, 2022
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes award-winning author ANNA BADKHEN for a discussion of her new essay collection, Bright Unbearable Reality. She will be joined in conversation by JAMES WOOD—staff writer at The New Yorker and Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard University.
A Return to In-Person Events
Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:
- Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.
About Bright Unbearable Reality
Called a “chronicler of a world on the move” by The New York Review of Books, Anna Badkhen seeks what separates and binds us at a time when one in seven people has left their birthplace, while a pandemic dictates the direst season of rupture in humankind’s remembering. Her new essay collection, Bright Unbearable Reality, comprises eleven essays set on four continents—roving everywhere from Oklahoma to Azerbaijan—and united by a common thread of communion and longing.
In these essays, Badkhen addresses the human condition in the era of such unprecedented dislocation, contemplates the roles of memory and wonder in how we relate to one another, and asks how we can soberly and responsibly counter despair and continue to develop—or at least imagine—an emotional vocabulary against depravity.
The subject throughout the collection is bright unbearable reality itself, a translation of Greek enargeia, which, says the poet Alice Oswald, is “when gods come to earth not in disguise but as themselves.”
Praise for Bright Unbearable Reality
"What a book! It’s legendary like the legend on a map that explains things before you go walking through a desert. It’s lost and found, vulnerable, knowledgeable, invited though possibly in danger or trapped, plunging through millenia, to consider if a bone may also be a flute, informing me, incidentally, that the pronghorns on the ranch land where I walk my dog are related to giraffes. These are not light-hearted essays, but ones regularly astonished by what the world holds, at once." —Eileen Myles
“Anna Badkhen is a stunning and sensitive chronicler of our collective condition. She has a rare gift, a writer whose work is both urgent and probing, and always beautiful.” —Imani Perry
“A truly global thinker of rare and beautiful gifts, Anna Badkhen takes us on a journey to the interior of the lyric moment: that space where understanding flashes at us, and we realize we are at home on this planet; despite all our maladies, despite our ‘moral dislocation,’ we still have as our home ‘a memory of our presence, a memory of our absence.’ The path there, perhaps, is the music of Badkhen’s prose, as the mind turns and then stops in the middle of the page, to wonder, to dream, to exhale. This is a beautiful book.” —Ilya Kaminsky
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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