Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Emperor's Children

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The Emperor's Children

by Claire Messud

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2006, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2007, 496 pages

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When asked what The Emperor's Children is about Claire Messud replies.... "That's a big question. I don't think I have a simple answer. What's it about? I hope it's about what it's like to be alive in a certain place in a certain time. It's about a group of people with certain aspirations and expectations and limitations, and the way they contend with what is thrown at them. Probably in my mind it's about ambition, and what it means, or meant, and didn't, in that particular historical moment. And about confronting limitations. And about making a self. All those things. As for where the inspiration for the novel came from, it's lost in the mists of time. I began the novel (with the same characters but in a different form) in early 2001, a long time ago; and later that year abandoned it, because it seemed impossible to continue. It took me a year or more to come back to it, after failing with a couple of other things; and by then it seemed to have an organic necessity, an urgency in my mind, that has kept me from worrying, ever since, about where the idea for it came from. More.


About the Author: Messud's first novel, When the World Was Steady, and her book of novellas, The Hunters, were finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; her second novel, The Last Life, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and an Editor’s Choice at The Village Voice. All three books were New York Times Notable Books of the Year. She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Radcliffe Fellowship, and is the current recipient of the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.

Bibliography
When the World Was Steady (1994)
Last Life (1999)
The Hunters (collection, 2001)
The Emperor's Children (2006)
The Professor's History (2006) - 2 short stories published in the UK under the Picador Shots label (a paperback book series sold for £1/book).

This article was originally published in September 2006, and has been updated for the June 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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