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Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: An Autobiography Through Essays Reviews

Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: An Autobiography Through Essays by Claire Messud

Kant's Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: An Autobiography Through Essays

Claire Messud

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Fleet
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publication date: 5 Nov 2020
ISBN: 9780349726540

A collection of personal and critical essays on everything from childhood to womanhood, literature to visual arts and the relationship between form and meaning in storytelling.

4 stars out of 5
Susie Boyt
20 Dec 2020

"Claire Messud’s complex collection of essays look at authors and artists through her own family dynamics  "

Messud’s rigorous enthusiasm for the writers she admires is infectious. Her appreciation of the wildness of Italo Svevo’s 1923 novel Confessions of Zeno and her admiration for the daring moral slant of Jane Bowles’s 1943 novel Two Serious Ladies sent me straight to the bookshop. Who doesn’t hanker, especially now, for a character who says, as Bowles’s Mrs Copperfield does, “At a certain point gin takes everything off your hands and you flop around like a little baby. Tonight I want to be like a little baby”? Messud’s admiration for Open City by Teju Cole, a novel from 2011 that considers a year in the life of a young half-German, half-Nigerian New York psychiatrist, opening out Manhattan in entirely new ways, made me begin it immediately. 

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
Sarah Ditum
21 Nov 2020

"Her essays on writers such as Ishiguro, Camus and Jane Bowles make returning to their works a renewed pleasure"

Best of all is her commentary on Camus, which also comes closest to fulfilling the title. Messud’s father’s family, like Camus, were pieds noirs — French citizens living in colonial territories. It’s a background that makes her beautifully attuned to the tangle of loyalties in Camus. In her hands, it is obvious that to call him simply a ‘French author’ is to blot out his essential Algerian-ness, and both her family’s story and Camus’s writing are enriched by the contact. A whole book of that — a true autobiography through essays — would be a deep pleasure to read.