Virtual Event: Claire Messud and André Aciman
Kant's Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write:
An Autobiography in Essays
moderated by JAMES WOOD
October 19, 2020
7:00 PM ET
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Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration
Harvard Book Store's virtual event series and the Mahindra Humanities Center of Harvard University welcome eminent novelists CLAIRE MESSUD—author of the acclaimed novels The Emperor's Children and The Burning Girl—and ANDRÉ ACIMAN—author of the beloved novel Call Me By Your Name—for a discussion of their books Kant's Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: An Autobiography in Essays and the paperback edition Find Me: A Novel. Their conversation will be moderated by esteemed novelist and literary critic JAMES WOOD, author of How Fiction Works.
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About Kant's Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write
In her fiction, Claire Messud "has specialized in creating unusual female characters with ferocious, imaginative inner lives" (Ruth Franklin, New York Times Magazine). Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write opens a window on Messud’s own life: a peripatetic upbringing; a warm, complicated family; and, throughout it all, her devotion to art and literature.
In twenty-six intimate, brilliant, and funny essays, 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. In the luminous title essay, she explores her drive to write, born of the magic of sharing language and the transformative powers of “a single successful sentence.”
Together, these essays show the inner workings of a dazzling literary mind. 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).
About Find Me
No novel in recent memory has spoken more movingly to contemporary readers about the nature of love than André Aciman’s haunting Call Me by Your Name. First published in 2007, it was hailed as “a love letter, an invocation . . . an exceptionally beautiful book” (Stacey D’Erasmo, The New York Times Book Review). Nearly three quarters of a million copies have been sold, and the book became a much-loved, Academy Award–winning film starring Timothée Chalamet as the young Elio and Armie Hammer as Oliver, the graduate student with whom he falls in love.
In Find Me, Aciman shows us Elio’s father, Samuel, on a trip from Florence to Rome to visit Elio, who has become a gifted classical pianist. A chance encounter on the train with a beautiful young woman upends Sami’s plans and changes his life forever.
Elio soon moves to Paris, where he, too, has a consequential affair, while Oliver, now a New England college professor with a family, suddenly finds himself contemplating a return trip across the Atlantic.
Aciman is a master of sensibility, of the intimate details and the emotional nuances that are the substance of passion. Find Me brings us back inside the magic circle of one of our greatest contemporary romances to ask if, in fact, true love ever dies.
Praise for Kant's Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write
“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.” —Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness and What Belongs to You
“Moving and evocative . . . These intimate, contemplative and probing essays reveal Messud’s rich inner life and generosity of spirit.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Praise for Find Me
"Aciman’s quiet, label-free presentation of bisexual life represents a minor triumph . . . Likewise, his refusal to offer easy resolution, which infuses the whole romantic enterprise with a kind of delicious melancholy. There are moments, particularly in the final chapter, that may have readers gazing tearfully into their fireplaces, real or imaginary, just like Timothée Chalamet at the end of Luca Guadagnino’s superlative film of 'Call Me by Your Name.'" —Charles Arrowsmith, The Washington Post
“[Find Me] is a lyrical meditation on being forced to move to another location after the party’s over, on the Sisyphean task of trying to replicate the magic of young passion . . . it strikes an affectingly melancholy chord.” —Josh Duboff, The New York Times Book Review
The Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard brings insights from deep, patient, and immersive work in the humanities to bear on the most urgent questions of our time. For more information, visit: https://mahindrahumanities.fas.harvard.edu/about
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