Life and The Possessed

“The title of this book is borrowed from Dostoevsky’s weirdest novel, The Demons, formerly translated as The Possessed, which narrates the descent into madness of a circle of intellectuals in a remote Russian province: a situation analogous, in certain ways to my own experiences in graduate school.”

—Elif Batuman, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them.

If you haven’t read this book, which is a hybrid sort of essay collection / memoir / how-not-to, you need to. It’s almost impossible to describe what makes it so wonderful because its humor is cumulative: quotes out of context don’t work and make it sound less funny than it is.

Michael Silverblatt’s interview with Batuman is also characteristically good.

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