The Coming-of-Age Tale That Inspired Mayor Pete to Learn Norwegian

While a student at Harvard, in the early two-thousands, Pete Buttigieg taught himself Norwegian in order to read more books by an author he liked. Not Spanish. Not for a class. Buttigieg, now the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a Presidential candidate, stumbled across the English translation of a 1996 novel called “Naïve. Super,” …

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How Raymond Roussel Put the Impossible on the Page

Many writers believe they are destined for greatness, and almost as many are wrong. In 1896, a young man named Raymond Roussel, the dandyish son of a wealthy Paris stockbroker, was at work on a long narrative poem titled “La Doublure” (“The Understudy” or “The Lining”). Suddenly, he was overcome by a realization that he …

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Mario Benedetti’s Wise, Lonely Novel about Political Exile

The writer Mario Benedetti was born in 1920, in a Uruguay of peace and progressivism. The reformist President José Batlle y Ordóñez had just stepped down, leaving a legacy that included state secularism, divorce rights for women, and a wide range of workers’ protections. The country seemed on track for a calm, egalitarian future, and …

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Reading Myself Aloud

I’m sitting in a small glass soundproof booth. A microphone, suspended from the ceiling, hangs in front of me. This is huge and round, like a luxury showerhead covered with fine metal mesh. Below it, on a slanting surface, lies the glowing screen of an iPad. This contains my most recent novel, “Dawson’s Fall.” When …

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“On a Sunbeam,” the Sci-Fi Comic That Reimagines Utopia

Tillie Walden is an almost shockingly young (born in 1996) comics creator who received wide attention last year for “Spinning,” a beautiful, melancholy graphic memoir about her years as a pre-teen and then teen figure skater. That book excelled in its tactful line work and use of white space; it looked neither superhero-ish nor ugly-on-purpose …

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The Overlooked Autofiction of Yuko Tsushima

At times, autofiction can seem to refer not so much to a genre as to our desire, collectively, to seek the author in a text. We group together novels by Rachel Cusk, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and Jenny Offill because they make it easy to presume that the writer is the protagonist. This freedom feels new, …

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“Native Son” and the Cinematic Aspirations of Richard Wright

“Should the Novel Native Son Be Made Into a Motion Picture?” This was the name of a symposium held at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel in May, 1940—just two and a half months after the publication of Richard Wright’s best-selling novel. Hosted by the League of American Writers, a Communist-affiliated group for which Wright would soon be …

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