Musings on Mortality: From Tolstoy to Primo Levi


Product Details

University of Chicago Press
Publish Date
5.92 X 0.74 X 8.75 inches | 0.84 pounds
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About the Author

Victor Brombert is the Henry Putnam University Professor Emeritus of Romance and Comparative Literatures at Princeton University. He is the author of many books, including In Praise of Antiheroes: Figures and Themes in Modern European Literature, 1830-l980, also published by the University of Chicago Press, and the wartime memoir Trains of Thought. He lives in Princeton, NJ.


"With sensitivity and insight, Princeton University emeritus literature professor Brombert studies the work of eight 20th-century authors and their literary approaches to mortality and death. . . . The simplicity and directness of Brombert's style gives his discussion of the philosophical and aesthetic underpinnings of the works under scrutiny great clarity, and his study of the authors in their native languages allows him to discuss nuances of the text that might otherwise have been lost in translation."--Thomas Laqueur, author of Solitary Sex "Publishers Weekly"
"Albert Camus's The Plague, Thomas Mann's doomed aesthete Aschenbach from Death in Venice, Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz, and the writings of Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf, and J.M. Coetzee are all examined by this distinguished scholar in exemplary essays that reflect the authors' different fears and hopes. Brombert's eloquently written book is for serious lovers of literature."
--Thomas Laqueur, author of Solitary Sex "Library Journal"
"It is clear that Brombert, a fine scholar and critic, is also an inspiring teacher. . . . The moments when Brombert engages in autobiographical reminiscence or tells anecdotes about his students are delightful and instructive."
--Thomas Laqueur, author of Solitary Sex "Times Higher Education"
"An eloquent and stylish book of high-end, close literary criticism. . . . Brombert's examination of each author's work is the epitome of academic objectivity and the product of a lifetime of dedicated scholarship and extraordinarily wide reading. . . . The exploration of the authors' ideas, their personal circumstances and especially their works--all classics--invite further reading."
--Thomas Laqueur, author of Solitary Sex "The Australian"
"Brombert's thoughtful observations on the finite nature of existence make for interesting reading."
--Thomas Laqueur, author of Solitary Sex "The National"
"Musings on Mortality is an invitation to learn gladly from a deeply cultured man who would gladly teach. [Brombert's] lesson, to use his own words about Primo Levi, is a 'lesson in human dignity.' And among the dignities of man, as Victor Brombert convincingly demonstrates, is the serious discussion of serious literature, which treats it as having something wroth saying to those who would only listen."
--D. G. Myers "A Commonplace Blog"
"This handsome, compact book is, in fact, a work of elegant, beautifully written literary criticism, examining how eight major writers--'From Tolstoy to Primo Levi'--dealt with death in their fiction. It offers the highly distilled insights of a master teacher."
--Michael Dirda "Wall Street Journal"
"In these essays, Brombert reads these writers' oeuvres closely with a judicious and restrained eye towards biographical influence and sets them within their larger historical contexts."

"An engagingly personal book."

"Much more than mere 'musings on mortality.'"--Tess Lewis "The Hudson Review"
"Musings on Mortality is a book suffused with wisdom and argued with the strong hand of a weathered and feeling literary scholar. To treat such tragic and inconsolable subject matter with such clarity and respect, with such equanimity and understanding, is to levitate above it, in stoic courage and willed serenity. It is hard to imagine such thematic criticism being done better than here. What a beautiful book."--Thomas Harrison, author of 1910: The Emancipation of Dissonance
"This book offers a unique pleasure--a sustained conversation with one of the most learned and wise critics of our age about the great defining truth of human existence: the persistent awareness of mortality. Full of life, it is self-consciously the musings of old age, of a man who has spent decades with the consolations and discomforts of literature as it engages with death."--Thomas Laqueur, author of Solitary Sex
"A brave and eloquent book devoted to what AndrΓ© Malraux called 'negating nothingness.' Victor Brombert moves gracefully from Tolstoy, though Kafka, Coetzee, and others, to Primo Levi in a meditation that is both engaging and profound, highly erudite, and completely personal."--Peter Brooks, author of Henry James Goes to Paris