"Real. It's a word that means so much, it doesn't mean anything anymore." By the time novelist Leo Richter makes this pronouncement near the end of Fame
, the reader will almost certainly agree with his sentiments. Daniel Kehlmann's novel can be read, in many ways, as an extended exploration of the distinctions between artifice and reality or, more precisely, between story and "real life," whatever that consists of. Defining that distinction - only to blur it again repeatedly - is the ongoing project of Kehlmann's brilliantly playful novel, the thread that unites nine stories into a fascinating whole.
Disorientation is also a theme that runs throughout Fame
- for the reader as much as for the characters who populate its pages. In the opening vignette, a man named Ebling finally breaks down and purchases a cell phone, only to discover that the number he's...
Beyond the Book
In a now-infamous statement preceding the awarding of the 2008 Nobel Prize in literature to French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, Swedish Academy member Horace Engdahl remarked that the publishing climate in the United States had grown "too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature." It's true that no American has won the Nobel Prize in literature since Toni Morrison did so in 1993. However, partly in defiance of Engdahl's statement, and partly in response to the recent run of prizewinners not writing in English, some American publishers are rediscovering the sometimes heady, sometimes just downright entertaining bounty of literature originally written in other languages.
Part of the demand comes,...