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Kant's Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9780349726540

Price: £14.99

ON SALE: 5th November 2020

Genre: Literature & Literary Studies / Prose: Non-fiction / Literary Essays

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‘A profound book about the intrication of literature and life, about the modest, miraculous ways art helps us to live’ Garth Greenwell

‘I can think of few writers capable of such thrilling seriousness expressed with so lavish a gift’ Rachel Cusk, Evening Standard

In her fiction, Claire Messud ‘has specialised in creating unusual female characters with ferocious, imaginative inner lives’ (Ruth Franklin, New York Times Magazine). Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write opens a window on Messud’s own life: a peripatetic upbringing; a warm, complicated family; and, throughout it all, her devotion to art and literature.

In twenty-nine intimate, brilliant and funny essays, Messud reflects on a childhood move from her Connecticut home to Australia; the complex relationship between her modern Canadian mother and a fiercely single French Catholic aunt; and a trip to Beirut, where her pied-noir father had once lived, while he was dying. She meditates on contemporary classics from Kazuo Ishiguro, Teju Cole, Rachel Cusk and Valeria Luiselli; examines three facets of Albert Camus and The Stranger; and tours her favorite paintings at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. In the luminous title essay, she explores her drive to write, born of the magic of sharing language and the transformative powers of ‘a single successful sentence’.

Together, these essays show the inner workings of a dazzling literary mind. Crafting a vivid portrait of a life in celebration of the power of literature, Messud proves once again ‘an absolute master storyteller’ (Rebecca Carroll, Los Angeles Times).

What's Inside

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Powerful and inspirational: Messud is as fine a critic as she is a novelist
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Claire Messud's essays are generous visions of the world, informed by her razor-sharp intellect and uncompromising honesty
Maaza Mengiste, Observer (Best books of 2020)
Claire Messud's collection of essays and reviews from the past 20 years - titled Kant's Little Prussian Head & Other Reasons Why I Write - is an uplifting work: complex, precise and bracing . . . The family section is rendered vividly, in sentences beautifully formed and built to last. Some of the scenes Messud conjures feel unforgettable . . . The strength and delicacy of these chapters leave you trusting Messud's taste and judgment before you sample her criticism, which doesn't disappoint
Susie Boyt, Financial Times
All writing is autobiographical, but almost never in the ways we presume. This is a profound book about the intrication of literature and life, about the modest, miraculous ways art helps us to live. Claire Messud, with her lapidary intelligence and dizzying sense of history, is among the most luminous writers at work today
Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness and What Belongs to You
In this moving and evocative essay collection, novelist Messud reflects on family, art, and why she writes . . . These intimate, contemplative and probing essays reveal Messud's rich inner life and generosity of spirit
Publishers Weekly (Starred review)