The Possessed draws on Elif Batuman's articles in the New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, and n+1 to tell the true story of one woman's intellectual and sentimental education and her many strange encounters with scholars devoted to classic Russian writers. In a series of intertwined essays about her life - and other people's lives - in the world of Russian literature and scholarship, Batuman has written a funny, smart and self-deprecating book about Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov and the academics who worship them. It is full of stories of ice palaces and giant apes, conference disasters and excursions into Uzbek poetry; but there is also wisdom, and deep appreciation of the great Russian novels. Elif Batuman is a true original.
Praise for "The Possessed" "In her comic, poignant, beguiling book, Batuman succeeds marvelously in illuminating her version of love." --Reese Kwon, "Virginia"" Quarterly Review ""At every step along the way, Batuman's observations are wonderfully vivid." --Julia Keller, "Chicago"" Tribune ""Odd and oddly profound . . . Among the charms of Ms. Batuman's prose is her fond, funny way of describing the people around her . . . Perhaps Ms. Batuman's best quality as a writer though--beyond her calm, lapidary prose--is the winsome and infectious delight she feels in the presence of literary genius and beauty. She's the kind of reader who sends you back to your bookshelves with a sublime buzz in your head. You want to feel what she's feeling." --Dwight Garner, "The New York Times Book Review ""It's not surprising that some people never get over these books, and Batuman, for her part, goes to get a Ph.D. in Russian literature. Meanwhile, she travels through a country just poignant and absurd enough to showcase her capacious sense of humor (which has room for Isaac Babel, romantic mishaps, and missing luggage) . . . The main attraction is Elif Batuman herself." --Benjamin Moser, "Harper's Magazine ""Hilarious, wide-ranging, erudite, and memorable, The Possessed is a sui generis feast for the mind and the fancy, ants and all. And, unlikely though this may sound, by the time you've reached the end, you just may wish that you, like the author, had fallen down the rabbit hole of comp lit grad school. Batuman's exaltations of Russian literature could have ended up in scholarly treatises gathering dust in university stacks. Instead, she has made her subject glow with the energy of the enigma that drew her to it in the first place." --Liesel Schillinger, "The New York Times Book Revi"ew "A hugely entertaining mix of scholarly spelunking . . . and subtle personal revelation . . . Batuman, a gifted and almost painfully funny raconteur, enco