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Between the Covers Podcast

Daniel Mendelsohn : Three Rings — A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate

Daniel Mendelsohn’s latest book you could say is about digression and about ring composition, a form of storytelling with digression at its heart. And yet this book, about digression, is not only his shortest and most concise, a mere 112 pages, but also somehow contains all the concerns of his previous books and much more, distilled down into a tight hypnotic spiral. A book about Homer and the Hebrew Bible, about the Odyssey and the Holocaust, about forced migration, exile, and unexpected hospitality, about Proust, Sebald, Auerbach, Fénelon and many others lost to history. But ultimately it is about representation and narrative. Of how best to represent something in a way that feels most true, whether when telling a story, performing a play, building a monument, or creating a memorial. Three Rings is as much a meditation on art-making and writing as it is a meditation on memory and remembering; the mysteries of both, and also the thorny political and ethical questions that arise when choosing to represent reality in one way or another.

A conversation rich with references, you can find many of the books mentioned in today’s conversation at the Bookshop for today’s episode.

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