Elif Batuman is an American author, academic, and journalist. She is the author of a memoir, The Possessed, and a novel, The Idiot, which was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Elif Batuman is a novelist and a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her latest article is “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry.” “I hear novelists say things sometimes like the character does something they don’t expect. It’s like talking to people who have done ayahuasca or belong to some cult. That’s how I felt about it until extremely recently. All of these people have drunk some kind of Kool Aid where they’re like, ‘I’m in this trippy zone where characters are doing things.’ And I would think to myself, if they were men—Wow, this person has devised this really ingenious way to avoid self-knowledge. If they were women, I would think—Wow, this woman has found an ingenious way to become complicit in her own bullying and silencing. It’s only kind of recently—and with a lot of therapy actually—that I’ve come to see that there is a mode of fiction that I can imagine participating in where, once I’ve freed myself of a certain amount of stuff I feel like I have to write about, which has gotten quite large by this point, it would be fun to make things up and play around.” Thanks to MailChimp, , and Skillshare for sponsoring this week's episode. Also: Longform Podcast t-shirts are available for just a few more days! @BananaKarenina Batuman on Longform Batuman's archive at The New Yorker Batuman's archive at Harper's Batuman's archive at London Review of Books Longform Podcast t-shirts [2:30] “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry” (The New Yorker • Apr 2018) [12:10] The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (Farrar, Straus and Giroux • 2010) [12:15] The Demons (Fyodor Dostoevsky • The Russian Messenger • 1812) [13:25] The Idiot (Penguin Book • 2017) [16:20] Factual Fictions: The Origins of the English Novel (Lennard Davis • Columbia University Press • 1983) [22:20] The Exception (Christian Jungersen • Anchor • 2008) [23:30] The End of the Story: A Novel (Lydia Davis • Picador • 2004) [29:15] Culture and Imperialism (Edward Said • Vintage • 1994) [29:55] Either/Or: A Fragment of Life (Soren Kierkegaard • Victor Eremita • 1843) [30:35] Nadja (Andre Breton • Grove Press • 1960) [40:50] Scrivener
City Lights presents Elif Batuman who discusses her new novel, The Idiot, published by Penguin Press. A portrait of the artist as a young woman. A novel about not just discovering but inventing oneself. The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings. At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan’s friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin’s summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer. With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman’s fiction is unguarded against both life’s affronts and its beauty–and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail. Elif Batuman has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2010. She is the author of The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and a Paris Review Terry Southern Prize for Humor, she also holds a PhD in comparative literature from Stanford University.
Elif Batuman, is an author and staff writer for The New Yorker. She’s the daughter of Turkish immigrants and her first book, The Possessed, was about her experiences with Russian literature and her travels around the world. She sat down with Isaac Chotiner to talk about her work and her new novel, The Idiot. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
'New Yorker' staff writer Elif Batuman talks about her Turkish-American roots and her new novel, which follows a young woman's first year at Harvard University in the '90s, and how she finds love through email. It's based on her own experiences. Also, writer Daniel Torday reflects on the vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. Milo Miles reviews Sxip Shirey's album 'A Bottle of Whiskey and a Handful of Bees.'
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Creator Details

Location
NYC, NY, USA
Episode Count
4
Podcast Count
4
Total Airtime
3 hours, 14 minutes
PCID
Podchaser Creator ID logo 013921