Iris Vegan, a graduate student living alone and impoverished in New York, encounters four strong characters who fascinate and in different ways subordinate her: an inscrutable urban recluse who employs her to record the possessions of a murdered woman; a photographer whose eerie portrait of Iris takes on a life of its own; an old woman in hospital who tries to claim a remnant of the ailing Iris; and a professor she has an affair with. An exploration of female identity in an age when the old definitions - as some man's daughter/wife/mother - no longer apply, fuelled with eroticism and a sense of menace.
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Siri Hustvedt's first novel, The Blindfold, was published by Sceptre in 1993. Since then she has published The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, What I Loved, The Sorrows of an American, The Summer Without Men and The Blazing World, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014 and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. She is also the author of the poetry collection Reading To You, and four collections of essays -Yonder, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, A Plea for Eros and Living, Thinking, Looking, as well as the memoir The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. Born in Minnesota, Siri Hustvedt now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has a PhD in English from Columbia University and in 2012 was awarded the International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities. She delivered the Schelling Lecture in Aesthetics in Munich in 2010, the Freud Lecture in Vienna in 2011 and the opening keynote at the conference to mark Kierkegaard's 200th anniversary in Copenhagen in 2013, while her latest honorary doctorate is from the University of Gutenburg in Germany. She is also Lecturer in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and has written on art for the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph and several exhibition catalogues.From Kirkus Reviews:
Poet Hustvedt's first novel is unabashedly cerebral, a disturbing and disarming fiction that explores the mysteries of identity. It's a postmodernist puzzle with a queasy eroticism and hints of perversion, and owes much to the work of Beckett, DeLillo, and her husband, Paul Auster. But Hustvedt adds to their explorations in silence and unspeakability her distinctly feminine voice: innocent, intimate, victimized. These four related narratives circle around the life of Iris Vegan, a distraught and hypersensitive graduate student in literature at Columbia. A beautiful, blue-eyed blond from the Midwest, she's continually at the mercy of others, mostly men who shroud themselves in mystery. Iris's first story finds her working as an assistant to a strange writer, a collector of women's discarded objects, who asks her to record her observations so that he may reconstruct their previous owners. After playing this bizarre Scheherazade, Iris is unalterably changed, but not as dramatically as in her second narrative, in which a photographer's portrait of her proves an invasion of her privacy. Her boyfriend at the time admits that cruelty makes him ``feel more alive.'' As her personality begins to disintegrate, Iris (in the third piece) admits to minor hallucinations, which land her in the hospital whacked out on Thorazine and tormented by one of her roommates, a withered old woman who also desires her in some strange way. To demonstrate further that ``distortion is part of desire,'' Iris then alters herself, taking on the role of a brutal boy, a role she has adopted from a German novella she co-translates with her professor/lover. Roaming the city in drag, she indulges her fantasies until the much older professor catches her in disguise. In playful ``blindness,'' she loses all sense of self but also turns out to be as mysterious as all her tormentors, so that we wonder, just who is playing with whom? Hustvedt brings her dark urban landscape to life with her camera eye and Iris's tenacious, Midwestern common sense--the perfect balance to all the existential weirdness. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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