My Red Heaven
DescriptionSet on a single day in 1927, My Red Heaven imagines a host of characters--some historic, some invented--crossing paths on the streets of Berlin.
The subjects include Robert Musil, Otto Dix, Werner Heisenberg, Anita Berber, Vladimir Nabokov, K the Kollwitz, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Rosa Luxemburg--as well as others history has forgotten: a sommelier, a murderer, a prostitute, a pickpocket, and several ghosts.
Drawing inspiration from Otto Freundlich's painting by the same name, My Red Heaven explores a complex moment in history: the rise of deadly populism at a time when everything seemed possible and the future unimaginable. A terrific read for fans of Richard Powers' The Overstory and Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin.
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About the AuthorLANCE OLSEN is author of more than 25 books of and about innovative writing, including, most recently, the novel Dreamlives of Debris. His short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies, such as Conjunctions, Black Warrior Review, Fiction International, BOMB, McSweeney's, and Best American Non-Required Reading. A Guggenheim, Berlin Prize, D.A.A.D. Artist-in-Berlin Residency, N.E.A. Fellowship, and Pushcart Prize recipient, as well as a Fulbright Scholar, he teaches experimental narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah, where he directs the creative writing program.
--Kirkus Reviews "Inspired by German artist Otto Freundlich's painting of the same title, this meditation on the effects of a specific moment in history and the human condition reaches past cultural barriers and time to create a narrative that pushes boundaries and reflects on what is means to dwell in the here and now."
--Publishers Weekly "Innovative, unpredictable, and revelatory."
--Vol. 1 Brooklyn "Olsen employs a full suite of experimental techniques to tell the story, including newsreel headlines, screenplay excerpts, poetic verses, and ekphrastic reflections on unsettling scenes of bombed-out and abandoned buildings. But the real draw is Olsen's supple, exacting prose, which captures the energy of cutting-edge art movements amid impending political uncertainty. There's an eerie familiarity to the air of technological and social breakthroughs, with fallout or resolution just around the corner."
--Booklist "My Red Heaven is the most accessible of Lance Olsen's works of literature. His writing is as brilliant as ever, from dialogue to choice of just enough items to describe to bring a reader a sense of mise en scène without bogging down the story in excess. His ability to live and speak as multitudes with distinct minds and voices is astonishing."
--The London Economic "Olsen is a fine, clear stylist. ... My Red Heaven captures the eeriness of a city on the brink of an epochal descent into barbarism."
--Wall Street Journal "Lance Olsen is as innovative as he is prolific and an irreplaceable figure in avant-garde fiction. ... Told in vignettes that are formally daring, yet always musical and accessible, this is a powerful book in every respect and an important one for readers here in this country in 2020."
--Robert Lopez for The Believerbr>
"The fleeting encounters of the famous and not-so-famous dead, in their own voices, sketch out a vanishing moment in a Berlin on the brink. Lance Olsen's My Red Heaven is a work of necromantic dazzlement."
--Shelley Jackson, author of Riddance, Half Life, and The Melancholy of Anatomy "Rarely is genuine innovation this heartfelt. Through erudition and capacious prose, Olsen achieves a kind of cultural autopsy of an inflamed space and time. The result is a privileged view of naked humanity, consoled by art, science, and the rest, but ultimately unable to escape its baseness. A powerful work."
--Sergio de la Pava, author of Lost Empress and Personae "Lance Olsen locates his porous, alluring, heartbreaking, and haunted narrative in Berlin on a day in 1927. Poised at a moment of such hope and doom, it is a ravishing meditation on history, on time, and on what is it to be alive."
--Carole Maso, author of Ava and The Art Lover "In this twenty-four-hour novel, Olsen explores new subjectivities and new histories both after and before the moments directly written about. It's fascinating and wonderfully readable. Kafka, Nabokov, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe all make their appearances...and strange lists of newsworthy events cascade down before us now and again. It's a fitting follow-up to Calendar of Regrets and beautifully written.
--Samuel R. Delany, author of Dhalgrenand Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders "The moment in which you awaken is on fire. You are alive or the other thing, falling to scorched earth or ascending to the rooftops of Berlin, a radiantly red heaven. You feel yourself besieged, swirling inside one startling sensibility and then another, deliriums of joy pierced by devastations of loss and sorrow. Sparked by the exuberant energy of his own multivalent perception, ignited by the brilliance of his wildly playful imagination and unfathomably expansive compassion, Lance Olsen has translated My Red Heaven, Otto Freundlich's abstract cubist painting, into a novel full of dissonant shocks and thrilling confusions, a library of loss revealing the perilous ecstasies of life in Berlin between the wars. Layer by layer, he unpeels a palimpsest of paint, turning his fiercely attentive, unbounded love to every being in every moment, exposing infinite unknown dimensions, delivering us to exhilaration and terror as we watch the future and the past irradiate our present moment."
--Melanie Rae Thon, author of The Voice of the River, Silence & Song "Where to stand in this original novel as History that unspeakably painfully hurts while montaging all our astonishing, poignant, and gross ironies. Between lives, even our own, that are less here than nearby or elsewhere; between Dietrich and Heisenberg; between, on one hand (literally), Arendt and Heidegger showering and thinking about thinking, and deaths there perhaps are no words for; between what is actually, terribly being evoked and, dissolve after dissolve, an exquisite narrative prose risking again and again an incorrigible lightness. At random, I thought of Wittgenstein in Duffy's The World as I Found It; dictatorship in Spufford's Red Plenty; the sculptural work of Joseph Beuys; and, where fact seems all the more fact in a context of fictive documentation, the great Sebald."
--Joseph McElroy, author of Women and Men and Cannonball "My Red Heaven is interesting and difficult, ambitious, audacious and smart. Like a Teutonic James Joyce, Lance Olsen is pushing at boundaries."
--John Haskell, author of Out of My Skin and The Complete Ballet: A Fictional Essay in Five Acts "Olsen's My Red Heaven is a superb evocation of a specific time and place--Berlin, 10 June 1927--that captures the intellectual ferment, the descent into decadence, and rise of Nazism during the Weimar Republic. With historically precise detailing and grimly gorgeous imagery, Olsen portrays a number of notable people traversing the day, conveyed from a variety of points-of-view--even a dog's--and in a variety of 1920s forms: Joycean interior monologue, Dos Passosian newsreel, UFA film script, Benjaminian notes, and more. An intellectual and stylistic tour de force from one of America's most consistently innovative writers."
--Steven Moore, author of The Novel, An Alternative History