A reading and discussion of Daniel Kehlmann’s F

From the internationally acclaimed author of Measuring the World, here is a dazzling tragicomedy about three brothers whose father takes on the occult and both wins and loses.
Arthur is a dilettante, a wannabe writer who decides to fill an afternoon by taking his three young sons to a performance by the Great Lindemann, Master of Hypnosis. While allowing one of them to be called onto the stage and made a spectacle of, Arthur declares himself to be immune to hypnosis and a disbeliever in all magic. But the Great Lindemann knows better. He gets Arthur to tell him his deepest secrets and then tells him to make them real. That night, Arthur empties the family bank account, takes his passport, and vanishes. He’s going to become a world-famous author, a master of the mystical. (F is for fake.)

But what about his sons? Martin, painfully shy, grows up to be a Catholic priest without a vocation. (F is for faith, and lack of it.) Eric becomes a financier (F is for fraud), losing touch with reality as he faces ruin, while Ivan, destined for glory as a painter, instead becomes a forger. (F is for forgery, too.) They’ve settled into their life choices, but when the summer of the global financial crisis dawns they’re thrown together again with cataclysmic results.

“With the wizardry of a puzzle master Daniel Kehlmann permutes the narrative pieces of this Rubik’s Cube of a story—involving a lost father and his three sons—into a solution that clicks into position with a deep thrill of narrative and emotional satisfaction. Kehlmann is one of the brightest, most pleasure-giving writers at work today, and he manages all this while exploring matters of deep philosophical and intellectual import.  He deserves to have more readers in the United States.” —Jeffrey Eugenides

events_F_Kehlmann_compositeDaniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975 and is the son of director Michael Kehlmann and actress Dagmar Mettler. In 1981, he and his family moved to Vienna, where he attended the Kollegium Kalksburg, a Jesuit College. He then studied philosophy and German studies at the University of Vienna. His first novel, Beerholms Vorstellung, was published in 1997. Kehlmann lectured on poetry at the universities in Mainz, Wiesbaden, and Goettingen and was honored with numerous awards, including the Candide Prize, the award of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Doderer Prize, the Kleist Prize (2006), and most recently the Welt literature award (2007). Kehlmann’s reviews and essays have been published in many magazines and newspapers, such as Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Literaturen, and Volltext. His novel Ich und Kaminski was an international success and his novel Die Vermessung der Welt (Measuring the World), which so far has been translated into forty languages, became one of the most successful German novels of the post-war era. Daniel Kehlmann lives in Vienna and Berlin.

Carol Brown Janeway, has been a leading advocate for literature in translation during her long career as senior vice-president and senior editor at Alfred A. Knopf. The list of international writers she has published includes such luminaries as Patrick Süskind, José Donoso, Yukio Mishima, Elsa Morante, Ivan Klíma, Robert Musil, and Nobel laureates Imre Kertész, Heinrich Böll, and Thomas Mann. She is the translator of seminal works by Bernhard Schlink (The Reader), Thomas Bernhard (My Prizes), Ferdinand von Schirach (Crime), Sándor Márai (Embers), Margriet de Moor (The Storm), and Daniel Kehlmann (Measuring the World), among others.

Eric Banks is a writer and editor based in New York. A Mississippi native, he graduated from Columbia College in 1988 and pursued graduate studies in anthropology and linguistics at the University of Chicago. A former senior editor of Artforum, Banks relaunched Bookforum in 2003 and served as the publication’s editor in chief until 2008. He has edited numerous catalogues and collections of artists writings, including Artists for Artists: Fifty Years of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (D.A.P., 2013), and is currently working on the catalogue accompanying the Whitney Museum of Art’s retrospective of Jeff Koons and a collection of the writings of artist Paul Chan. Banks’s writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Bookforum, the New York Times Book Review, the Financial Times, Slate, the Wall Street Journal, Aperture, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He has contributed essays to monographs on a number of artists, including Franz West (To Build a House You Start With the Roof, MIT Press, 2008) and Christopher Wool (Christopher Wool, Taschen, 2008). At present he is researching a book about the life and afterlife of Renaissance writer, doctor, and savant François Rabelais.

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