Summary and book reviews of Fame by Daniel Kehlmann

Fame

A Novel in Nine Episodes

By Daniel Kehlmann

Fame
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2010,
    192 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2011,
    192 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

Imagine being famous. Being recognized on the street, adored by people who have never even met you, known the world over. Wouldn't that be great?

But what if, one day, you got stuck in a country where celebrity means nothing, where no one spoke your language and you didn't speak theirs, where no one knew your face (no book jackets, no TV) and you had no way of calling home? How would your fame help you then?

What if someone got hold of your cell phone? What if they spoke to your girlfriends, your agent, your director, and started making decisions for you? And worse, what if no one believed you were you anymore? When you saw a look-alike acting your roles for you, what would you do?

And what if one day you realized your magnum opus, like everything else you'd ever written, was a total waste of time, empty nonsense? What would you do next? Would your audience of seven million people keep you going? Or would you lose the capacity to keep on doing it?

Fame and facelessness, truth and deception, spin their way through all nine episodes of this captivating, wickedly funny, and perpetually surprising novel as paths cross and plots thicken, as characters become real people and real people morph into characters. The result is a dazzling tour de force by one of Europe's finest young writers.

Translated by Carol Brown Janeway.

Voices

Even before Ebling reached home, his cell phone rang. For years he had refused to buy one, because he was a technician and didn't trust the thing. Why did nobody wonder about whether it was a good idea to clutch a power­ful source of radiation to your head? But Ebling had a wife, two children, and a handful of acquaintances, and one of them was always complaining that he was unreachable. So finally he'd given in and bought a phone, which he asked the guy he bought it from to activate immediately. In spite of himself, he was impressed: it was absolutely perfect, beautifully designed, smooth lines, elegant. And now, without warning, it was ringing.
 
Very hesitantly, he picked up.
 
A woman asked for someone called Raff, Ralf, or Rauff, he couldn't figure out the name. A mistake, he said, wrong number. She apologized and hung up.
 
That evening, the next call. "Ralf!" The man's voice was loud and hoarse. "What gives, what are you up to, you...

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Reviews

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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... With energy, flexibility, and elegance, Kehlmann constructs a brilliant whole, simultaneously playful and thoughtful, certainly the kind of novel that engages readers emotionally and intellectually in equal measure.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A brazen take on the modern yearning for recognition. Kehlmann is a writer worth reading.

Booklist

Starred Review. Kehlmann showcases a flair for devious satire.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [A] brilliant study of the fragility and interconnectedness of life... Layers of connection, irony, despair, and humor distinguish this masterful work and announce Kehlmann as a worthy heir to Bowles and Camus.

The Guardian - Alberto Manguel

In Kehlmann's hands, language sometimes grows into baroque excrescences and convolutions, sometimes shrinks down to cryptic text messages, as if trying through the very large and the very small to cover all possibilities for expressing our everyday world. Carol Brown Janeway's translation is an extraordinary feat: she has been able to render, with humour and verisimilitude, and without the slightest feeling of artificiality, the various styles and vocabularies that Kehlmann so deftly uses.

Author Blurb Jonathan Franzen
Who would have thought contemporary Central European literature could be so fun and so funny? ...Modern fame may have been invented in America, but nobody has dramatized its paradoxes and heartbreaks more entertainingly than the European Kehlmann does here.

Reader Reviews
Linda Grana

A Gem For The Surrealist
Linked or interconnected short stories is currently my favorite genre, and "Fame" is the best book I've read in this genre in quite awhile. Reminiscent of Charles Baxter's "The Soul Thief", as well as Paul Auster's work, I ...   Read More

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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 ...

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