Archive for November, 2010

The Possessed by Elif Batuman

November 24, 2010

A fun, hilarious read that satirizes the academy while communicating some of the passion that prompts people to devote their lives to literature. The Possessed chronicles the experiences of Elif Batuman as she decides to attend graduate school and then feels her way through the first several years. Her chosen area of study is Russian literature, and while she dwells on various Russian authors at some length, the book is still delightful for those not particularly well-versed in this genre. Many of the gems in this book are moments when Elif encounters the real world as opposed to the literature she so loves.

Nonetheless part of what enchanted me about The Possessed is how Elif takes literature seriously. Few people do these days, and against this trend Elif offers one way of making dead authors and their stories come alive. The Possessed offers a lighter perspective on the life of a humanities graduate student but also turns out to be a quite serious (and thoroughly hilarious) meditation on the importance of literature in our lives.