Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate
In this genre-defying book, best-selling memoirist and critic Daniel Mendelsohn explores the mysterious links between the randomness of the lives we lead and the artfulness of the stories we tell.
Combining memoir, biography, history, and literary criticism, Three Rings weaves together the stories of three exiled writers who turned to the classics of the past to create masterpieces of their own--works that pondered the nature of narrative itself. Erich Auerbach, the Jewish philologist who fled Hitler's Germany and wrote his classic study of Western literature, Mimesis, in Istanbul... François Fénelon, the seventeenth-century French archbishop whose ingenious sequel to the Odyssey, The Adventures of Telemachus--a veiled critique of the Sun King and the best-selling book in Europe for one hundred years--resulted in his banishment... and the German novelist W. G. Sebald, self-exiled to England, whose distinctively meandering narratives explore Odyssean themes of displacement, nostalgia, and separation from home.
Intertwined with these tales of exile and artistic crisis is an account of Mendelsohn's struggles to write two of his own books--a family saga of the Holocaust and a memoir about reading the Odyssey with his elderly father--that are haunted by tales of oppression and wandering. As Three Rings moves to its startling conclusion, a climactic revelation about the way in which the lives of its three heroes were linked across borders, languages, and centuries forces the reader to reconsider the relationship between narrative and history, art and life.
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About the Author
Daniel Mendelsohn is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, where he is Editor-at-Large. His books include the memoirs An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic and The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million as well as three collections of essays and criticism, most recently Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones. He teaches literature at Bard College.
Classicist, historian, memoirist, cultural critic, wit--with consummate skill and the sharp, sympathetic eye of the poet Daniel Mendelsohn brilliantly combines these roles. Three Rings is a masterly exegesis and demonstration of digression as a high art.--Joyce Carol Oates
Daniel Mendelsohn's Three Rings is erudition, essayism, and memoir, made to dance together like a visible clockworks-or literary scholarship such as Ricky Jay might have practiced it onstage. This little book is ruminative, humane and gorgeously precise.--Jonathan Lethem
A book about telling stories that wanders down the seeming two roads of the Hebrew tradition and the Classical, which, like Proust's two ways, might turn out to be one way after all. Three Rings has the keeled force of a long poem.--Sebastian Barry
Three Rings is a marvel, confirming Mendelsohn's position as one of the most important and original American writers of our time. Mendelsohn does something more commonly found in the most ingenious writers of fiction; his thought-provoking examination of the reworking of stories of wandering and exile, beginning with Homer, ending with Sebald, makes this exceptional work indispensable at a time when it is no longer possible to say "It couldn't happen here, now, again."--Helen DeWitt