The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman

Reviewed by
October 2010, no. 325

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman

Reviewed by
October 2010, no. 325

Conventional wisdom has it that writing comes second to life. Young American journalist Elif Batuman has a different idea. ‘What if,’ she suggests, ‘instead of moving to New York, living in a garret, self-publishing your poetry and having love affairs in order to – some day – write it up as a novel for 21st century America – what if instead you went to Balzac’s house and read every work he ever wrote, dug up every last thing you could find about him – and then started writing?’ In her remarkable and very funny début, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, Batuman has done just that (though not specifically on Balzac) and written a book primarily about her relation to books.

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