(1977, New York) made her debut in 2010 with The Possessed, a book about her favourite Russian writers, including Tolstoy, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov. In pursuit of literary truth, Batuman repeats Pushkin's wanderings in the Caucasus, and travels to Tolstoy's ancestral estate to investigate whether the great man might in fact have been murdered. The search leads to digressions on a wide range of subjects, from literary mores and translations to questions of love, songs by The Smiths, and the making of the film King Kong. By following the footsteps of her literary heroes, Batuman succeeds in bringing them to life and giving them a place in today's world. Batuman,born in New York of Turkish parents, received a doctorate in comparative literature from Stanford University. She frequently writes for the New Yorker. Her essays are striking because of their fresh, comical, yet solid style. Her first book appeared in Dutch translation in 2010. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award (2007) and a Whiting Writers' Award (2010).(nov 2010)
Archive available for: Elif Batuman
'I have a problem with the growing internationalisation of literature,' the British writer Tim Parks recently argued in an interview with Bas Heijne in NRC Handelsblad. On Thursday 20 January 2011 he opened the Winternachten Festival.
'Writers don't aim at local situations and local issues, because an international audience isn't interested in them. That makes the literature change.' And that's what worries Parks. He fears that literature will deteriorate into an impersonal message for a readership of merely outsiders. 'When you read those kinds of books you don't have the feeling of looking in on someone else, of ending up in another culture. That makes a lot of literature superficial and untruthful.'
In his Winternachten Lecture Tim Parks elaborated on his disquieting observation. Because many questions remain to be answered. What choice do writers have? Do they have to restrict themselves to the same patterns? Are cultures still so isolated that this is the result? And what about writers who have become estranged and left behind their native soil and culture?
Abdelkader Benali talked to Parks after his lecture and put his views to David van Reybrouck, Maaza Mengiste and Elif Batuman.
This was the first evening in the festival, and the official opening. Before the lecture by Tim Parks, writer Nelleke Noordervliet, chairperson of the festival board, gave the opening speech
In VPRO's De Avonden poets, musicians and writers give the audience a glimpse of their own Utopia. Writers Gustaaf Peek and Hisham Matar wrote letters to each other for some three months, in which they informed one another about their poetics. The writer's Utopia? Does it really exist and how idealistic does one have to be in order to choose a writer's life? Tonight they meet for the first time, live. Both of them will read fragments from their correspondence and discuss their lucky strikes during the literary Blind Date. Writer Elif Batuman talks about writer's luck. Hosts: Jeroen van Kan and Lotje IJzermans. Music: Amarins & Le Gatte Negre Collective. In Dutch and English.
In the collection of essays The Possessed the Turkish-American writer Elif Batuman describes her love for literature and tries among other things to find and answer to the question as to how to bring literature as close to your everyday life as possible. Writer Manon Uphoff wrote Hoe te lezen (How to read) in which she examines what writers, what books aim at. Thereby raising the phenomenon that the writer and the story are increasingly identified as one and the same. Marja Pruis talks to them about the comfort that literature exerts and what the key to it is. In English.
The Turkish-American Elif Batuman wanted to become a writer, but didn't feel at home in the traditional approach of the creative writing course. She decided to study literature and noticed gradually that an academic approach didn't stand in the way of love for literature. Truth and beauty appeared to be one and the same thing eventually. She wrote the collection of essays The Possessed about it, with true stories about the lives of the Russian classics. K. Schippers on the other hand shows in his work that there is no reality, only points of view. His latest book, De bruid van Marcel Duchamp (Marcel Duchamp's bride), is a quest for the most renowned work of the French-American artist Marcel Duchamp – the big glass entitled The Bride Undressed by Her Bachelors – in which Schippers allows fantasy to run free. Jan Donkers talks to the writers about the beauty of reality and the way in which other people's lives can serve as a driving wheel for one's own imagination. English spoken.