Aurelia, Aurélia: A Memoir
Kathryn Davis (Author)
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An eerily dreamlike memoir, and the first work of nonfiction by one of our most inventive novelists.Aurelia, Aurélia begins on a boat. The author, sixteen years old, is traveling to Europe at an age when one can "try on personae like dresses." She has the confidence of a teenager cultivating her earliest obsessions--Woolf, Durrell, Bergman--sure of her maturity, sure of the life that awaits her. Soon she finds herself in a Greece far drearier than the Greece of fantasy, "climbing up and down the steep paths every morning with the real old women, looking for kindling." Kathryn Davis's hypnotic new book is a meditation on the way imagination shapes life, and how life, as it moves forward, shapes imagination. At its center is the death of her husband, Eric. The book unfolds as a study of their marriage, its deep joys and stinging frustrations; it is also a book about time, the inexorable events that determine beginnings and endings. The preoccupations that mark Davis's fiction are recognizable here--fateful voyages, an intense sense of place, the unexpected union of the magical and the real--but the vehicle itself is utterly new. Aurelia, Aurélia explodes the conventional bounds of memoir. It is an astonishing accomplishment.
March 01, 2022
5.5 X 8.1 X 0.6 inches | 0.4 pounds
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About the Author
Kathryn Davis is the author of six novels. She has received the Kafka Prize, the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Lannan Foundation Literary Award. She teaches at Washington University, and lives in Vermont and St. Louis, Missouri.
"[An] exquisite, lightning-bolt bright, zigzagging, and striking musing on the self, life, death."--Donna Seaman, Booklist"Bending genre and time, [Aurelia, Aurélia] is a pleasure to get lost in."--Publishers Weekly "Brief yet stunning. . . . An attentive reader and erudite writer, Davis plumbs her internal archive in search of solace and clarity in the face of ineffable tragedy. . . . These disparate moments transform the memoir into something that flows more like a guided dream, rendered in daring, vulnerable prose, steeped in death but brilliantly transformative. . . . A transcendent work of literary divination."--Kirkus Reviews, starred review "As a fan of her novels, I knew what to expect from Kathryn Davis: the beautiful prose, the depth of thought, the originality, the wit. But I was not prepared to be as moved as I was reading her intensely poignant memoir. She has a gift for writing about the most difficult subjects with honesty, precision, and grace, and though much of it is heartbreaking Aurelia, Aurélia made me rejoice."--Sigrid Nunez "This is simply an incomparable book. Kathryn Davis has created what feels like a parallel plane of existence where lucky strangers--readers--are allowed to briefly visit."--Heidi Julavits
"Kathryn Davis's Aurelia, Aurélia is a splendid memoir, a spiritually fortifying meditation on the concept of transition as it applies to literature, music, life and death. The discovery of life's ending comes early with fairy tales and later with her beloved husband's death. In between she discovers words and writers and music. Reading To the Lighthouse with its famous transition, Davis is transported: 'You leave the page behind and if you're lucky you're granted access to the mind of the person who wrote what was on it.' Kathryn Davis grants her readers such access, and it is exhilarating. This is visionary work that rewards reading and re-reading."--Christine Schutt "Kathryn Davis's novels are like no one else's. It should not have surprised me (and yet it did) that her memoir is just as singular. In the same way that a Möbius strip plays tricks with surfaces, Aurelia, Aurélia plays tricks with time. The voice it adopts is classically retrospective, yet it lays its material out with an unusual simultaneity of effect, as if Davis were capable of inhabiting every period of her life just as fully--and with the same immediacy--as she does the present. This is a beautiful, graceful, acutely intelligent memoir, sometimes sorrowful, sometimes quietly funny, but always wide awake to the strange wonder of being."--Kevin Brockmeier