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Golden Hour Books

Stranger Than Fiction: Lives of the Twentieth Century Novel by Edwin Frank (11/19/24)

Stranger Than Fiction: Lives of the Twentieth Century Novel by Edwin Frank (11/19/24)

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A legendary editor's reckoning with the twentieth-century novel and the urgent messages it sends.

For more than two decades, Edwin Frank has introduced readers to forgotten or overlooked texts as the director of the acclaimed publisher New York Review Books. In Stranger Than Fiction, he offers a survey of the key works that defined the twentieth-century novel.

Starting with Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground of 1864, Frank shows how its twitchy, self-undermining narrator established a voice that would echo through the coming century. He illuminates Gertrude Stein's and Ernest Hemingway’s reinvention of the American sentence, Colette's and André Gide’s subversions of traditional gender roles, and the monumental ambitions of works such as Mrs. Dalloway, The Magic Mountain, and The Man Without Qualities to encompass their times. Frank also shows how Japan’s Soseki and Nigeria’s Chinua Achebe adapted European models to their own ends—and how Vasily Grossman, Hans Erich Nossack, and Elsa Morante did the same as they attempted to reckon with the traumas of World War II. Later chapters range from Ralph Ellison and Marguerite Yourcenar to Gabriel García Márquez and W. G. Sebald.

In the manner of Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise, Frank makes sense of the century by mixing biographical portraiture, cultural history, and close encounters with great works of art. In so doing, he renews our appreciation of the paradigmatic art form of our times.

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