The son of Viennese émigrés, novelist Allen Kurzweil was raised in Europe and
the United States. Educated at Yale and the University of Rome, he worked for
ten years as a freelance journalist in France, Italy, and Australia before
settling in the United States and turning his attention to fiction.
His first novel, A Case of Curiosities, (Harcourt, 1992) the chronicle of an eighteenth-century mechanical genius, received international critical acclaim. Translated into twelve languages, it earned literary honors in England, Ireland, Italy, and France. The novel was reissued by Harvest Books in 2001.
Kurzweil's next novel, The Grand Complication (Hyperion/Theia Books 2001) redirected the author's love of invention to twentieth-century New York. As with the first book, The Grand Complication is steeped in the world of watches and watchmaking; indeed, the "grand complication" of the title is a 200-year-old timepiece commissioned for Marie Antoinette and stolen from a Jerusalem museum in 1983. To research the circumstances of the theft, Kurzweil spent nearly five years crisscrossing Europe and the Middle East, interviewing detectives, curators, horologists and watch dealers.
Devotion to the complicated passions of his characters has led Allen Kurzweil to take courses in pop-up book design, study the repair of player-pianos and work behind the reference desk of a public library. He regularly constructs the contraptions "invented" by his characters. To date these devices have included roll-players, potato cannons, and color wheels designed to distinguish different brands of potato chips.
Despite a lackluster performance in grade school, Kurzweil, since 2002, has been writing children's books. He has published two novels in the bestselling "Leon" series: Leon and the Spitting Image (2003) followed by Leon and the Champion Chip (2005).
Allen has received fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the New York Public Library Center for Scholars & Writers. He currently sits on the board of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and is a fellow at the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Study of American Civilization at Brown University. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his wife and son.
This biography was last updated on 08/10/2011.
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An Interview with Allen Kurzweil
The Grand Complication took nearly a decade to complete.
The short answer is this: The subject of the book the heist of a priceless pocket watch from a private museum in Israel demanded a huge amount of investigation. Over time, my curiosities, and those of my characters, expanded to include library cataloging, pop-up books, tattoos, security systems, secret compartments, the history of French watchmaking, and book design.
Did you have any say in the design of The Grand Complication
Absolutely. It's a myth that publishers refuse the input of authors. I worked very closely with the editors. It wasn't easy, but in the end, we managed to lay out the book the way the characters in the novel envisioned it.
The characters imagine a book that comes full circle in exactly 360 pages a book that has little gears that turn as the book advances. Happily, those devices appear in the published work.
Was the "grand complication" timepiece your invention?
It depends what you mean by "timepiece." The story is my invention, the watch is not. The actual timepiece that gives the book its title was the creation of France's greatest watchmaker...
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