Elif Batuman biography

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Elif Batuman

Elif Batuman

Elif Batuman Biography

Elif Batuman was born in New York City and grew up in New Jersey, but she comes from a Turkish family. Her name, Elif, is actually the Turkish word for alif or aleph, the first letter of the Arabic and Hebrew alphabets. Because she was born a very skinny and long baby, her parents named her after the letter, which is drawn as a straight line.

Batuman tracks the trajectory of her love affair with Russian literature in the introduction to The Possessed. It began with a copy of Anna Karenina in her grandmother's apartment. For her, this book encapsulates Russianness in its ability to be "simultaneously incredibly funny and sad," she told The Boston Globe.

When Batuman enrolled as a linguistics student at Harvard and chose Russian as her language requirement, she found herself increasingly drawn away from the rules of study of language as a whole and toward the much more "profoundly human" aspect of the Russian language itself. Batuman went on to complete her doctorate in comparative literature at Stanford University, where she currently teaches in the Interdisciplinary Humanities program. But in The Possessed, Batuman confesses, "I wanted to be a writer, not an academic." She goes on to say, "I realized that I would greatly prefer to think of literature as a profession, an art, a science, or pretty much anything else, rather than a craft. What did craft ever try to say about the world, the human condition, or the search for meaning?"

Nevertheless, Batuman's intention was always to write, and she had intended to complete a novel after college. Her first journalistic piece was about a former Thai kickboxing champion and was published in The New Yorker. "Babel in California," the first essay in The Possessed, ran in 2005 in the journal n+1, for which she is a senior writer. Other essays in the collection also first appeared in various other publications, including Harpers and The New Yorker. For readers who can't get enough of Batuman's smart sense of humor, check out her blog.

Elif Batuman's website

This bio was last updated on 01/17/2014. We try to keep BookBrowse's biographies both up to date and accurate, but with many thousands of lives to keep track of it's a tough task. So, please help us - if the information about this author is out of date or inaccurate, and you know of a more complete source, please let us know. Authors and publishers: If you wish to make changes to a bio, send the complete biography as you would like it displayed so that we can replace the old with the new.

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Books by this Author

Books by Elif Batuman at BookBrowse
The Idiot jacket The Possessed jacket
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Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Elif Batuman but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
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  • Pierre Bayard

    Pierre Bayard

    Pierre Bayard is a professor of French literature at the University of Paris VIII and a psychoanalyst. He is the author of Who Killed Roger Ackroyd, How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read, Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Possessed

    Try:
    How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read
    by Pierre Bayard

  • Sonny Brewer

    Sonny Brewer

    Sonny Brewer is the author of the novels, The Poet of Tolstoy Park, A Sound Like Thunder, Cormac - The Tale of a Dog Gone Missing, and The Widow and the Tree. Brewer also edited the anthology series Stories from the Blue Moon... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Possessed

    Try:
    The Poet of Tolstoy Park
    by Sonny Brewer

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