Claire Messud The Emperor's Children

ISBN 13 : 9780307264190

The Emperor's Children

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9780307264190: The Emperor's Children

Book by Messud Claire

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Revue de presse :

“A subtly nuanced, vividly imagined . . . multilayered work of satiric comedy. Set predominantly in Manhattan in the months leading up to, and following, September 11, The Emperor’s Children is Messud’s first American-set novel, as it is her first work of fiction to rapidly shift perspective from chapter to chapter, leaping about, with authorial freedom, among a number of interlocked characters . . . The classic European novel which The Emperor’s Children most resembles is Flaubert’s L’Éducation sentimentale, considered his masterpiece . . . .  The Emperor’s Children[' s] prevailing tone of crisp, bemused irony [also] suggests the less savage comedies of manners of Alison Lurie, Diane Johnson, and Iris Murdoch . . . How skillful, and how funny, Messud is as a satirist! . . . . Even as she unmasks them, Messud can’t resist evoking sympathy for her mostly foolish, self-deluded characters . . . Bootie is an ideal comic creation. Messud has demonstrated a remarkable imaginative capacity . . . . [This] singular author would seem to exhibit, perhaps more convincingly than James Joyce himself did, those ideal attributes of the artist set forth in Stephan Dedalus’s credo in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man . . . . [ The Emperor's Children is] a mirror of our foundering times.”
–Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books

“Superb . . . . Within several chapters, the spell of Messud’s unerring, lissome prose is cast . . . . [The] story’s power lies not in what happens to [the characters] but rather, as the book’s epigraph from Anthony Powell avers, in ‘what they think happens to them,’ in the revelation of their carefully nurtured personal myths and what each has at stake in preserving them. With Murray [Thwaite], perhaps the novel’s most marbled character, Messud renders this contradiction with exceptional nuance . . . This–the characters’ consistency in getting themselves wrong–is what makes The Emperor’s Children so richly tragicomic. It’s also what puts Messud’s narrative gifts brilliantly on display. [Messud] writes with the archness of a Muriel Spark, only more subtly and sympathetically wielded . . . Ultimately, most impressive is the way Messud relates 9/11 to her characters’ lives: The public tragedy doesn’t eclipse but rather seeps into and amplifies their private sorrows.”
–Kate Levin, The Nation

“Hilarious . . . That Messud’s book is coming out at this moment suggests that the planets may be aligning to loosen the MFA stranglehold on fiction . . . The Emperor's Children is a disturbingly credible tableau of the sort of people who develop in a cocoon of ambition, entitlement, and pride. Messud has curiosity in spades: Her portraits are done not from photographs, but from life. She is observant and honest . . . [We] have Evelyn Waugh, and, happily, we also have Claire Messud.”
–Stefan Beck, The New Criterion

“In March 2001, while Americans were innocent of greater horrors, uninfected by the virus of fear, a trio of clever, beautiful Brown graduates attempts to conquer Manhattan . . . True to their generation, the friends, now 30, are as economically and professionally arrested as they are culturally blasé. Such is the premise of Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, an exquisite, fully realized novel, which should establish her as one of our finest writers, granting her the audience she richly deserves . . . . Messud is brave enough to make her characters flawed, capable of casual cruelty and overblown gestures, all of which makes them more engaging . . . . By early September, everyone appears at risk of catastrophe. The book escalates in tension, all the more so wrapped in Messud’s elegant prose, as the characters proceed toward what is to come . . . . Her agility with language displays [a] maturity, almost 19th-century in its complexity, that is rare in contemporary fiction. [The] voice and hand are authentic, and she never once loses her way in this glorious work.”
–Karen Heller, Philadelphia Inquirer

“[Messud’s] impeccably fun and thoroughly humane new novel, The Emperor’s Children, has suddenly and deservedly become the literary hit of the season . . . [Messud] has an unerring ear for the way the cultured class talks . . . . [There’s] an intensity to the way [she] wraps things around to the same points again and again . . . [Yet the] cold and thrilling calculation with which Messud dissects [her characters’] sins is balanced at all times by sympathy.”
–Tom Nissley, The Stranger

“Drama–glistening prose, stunning plots, and full-blooded characters. [In] The Emperor’s Children, Messud sets her story for the first time in America, weaving together the lives of three 30somethings at a critical moment in history, a fragment of time in which everything changes forever. The resulting novel is shimmering, hilarious, heartfelt, rooted in place, satiric, ironic, but beyond that, more importantly than that, deeply, deeply human.”
–J. Rentilly, Pages magazine

“The book I’m recommending to all my friends is The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud. It’s an insightful, slyly funny book about a group of 30ish friends trying to forge a life among New York City’s cultural elite.”
–Laurie Muchnick, Newsday Sunday

“Claire Messud’s remarkable new novel The Emperor’s Children is that mythical hybrid: a literary page-turner. In the tradition of Mary McCarthy’s The Group, Messud follows three friends from Brown who have moved to New York City, marking their progress as they make their way in the world. The Emperor’s Children belongs to the robust genre of very-late-coming-of-age novels–among them Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, Benjamin Kunkel’s Indecision, Melissa Bank’s Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing, to name a few–where adolescence ends somewhere in one’s 30s. Unlike many of the contemporary books of its ilk, The Emperor’s Children is interested in the ideas behind the frivolous surfaces of urban life. (In many ways, Messud’s commitment to digging beneath those surfaces gives the book the feel of a Jane Austen novel, or even that great classic of very-late-coming-of-age, Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth.) Messud [also] shares Iris Murdoch’s satirical richness, along with her elaborate plotting and fluent, readable prose. There is in The Emperor’s Children the same impression of dense thought, the same psychological precision behind a deceptive ease of narrative that is Murdoch’s signature . . . At the heart of this book isn’t love, but work, which so rarely comes into the late-coming-of-age novel. With each character, she examines the secretly harbored illusions, the grand thoughts that we have about our talents, and how they careen to Earth . . . Another mark of Messud’s originality is that friendship is in many ways a more vivid theme in this book than love. In evoking those lingering college friendships that often form the framework of young city life–their closeness and intricate pathologies–Messud revels in the tiny tensions, and prickly affections, and almost romantic love that exists between friends, especially female friends who have known each other for most of their adult lives. She observes with absolute accuracy the type of intricate, highly refined gossip that takes place in these sorts of circles.”
–Katie Roiphe, Slate.com

“In a world of surface, deeply felt sympathy is hard to come by and hard to put much faith in. The characters in Claire Messud’s deceptively enjoyable novel, deceptive in that her light, narrative touch and skill at stockpiling quirky, telling events make it initially hard to accept that she has a larger, darker purpose, seem constantly to be asking us whether we like them, whether we think they’re doing the right thing, how it will all turn out for them, even when their behaviour is trivial, silly or morally dubious. A group of New Yorkers hovering around the awkward age of 30, privileged, bonded by lengthy friendship despite mutual irritations and bewilderments, they are ready to make their mark; but to what extent their ambitions are feasible, desirable or even justifiable is a question that quietly resonates [in this] . . . glittering, whirling narrative.”
–Alex Clark, The Observer (UK)

“Elegantly written . . . . Messud draws the reader into the neurotic uncertainties and self-absorption of [her characters’] daily lives, with her pellucid prose and clear-eyed but compassionate observations. The personalities of the three characters subtly shift and change as the author switches the point of view between six people . . . This is unmistakably a story about New York, a place where the ultimate tool of seduction is success, and a person’s self-worth stands or falls on how much success one achieves. Messud beautifully captures the uncertainties, kindnesses and betrayals acted out in the playground of the privileged, using the lightest of touches to change what appears to be black and white into subtle shades of grey.”
–Lise Hand, Irish Independent (UK)

“Of all the works that have pored over the terrible events of [9/11], one novel is currently standing out from the crowd: Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, longlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize . . . . In the best tradition of James and Wharton, Messud shows us a world where competing versions of the way to live one&...

Extrait :

Our Chef Is Very Famous in London

Darlings! Welcome! And you must be Danielle?” Sleek and small, her wide eyes rendered enormous by kohl, Lucy Leverett, in spite of her resemblance to a baby seal, rasped impressively. Her dangling fan earrings clanked at her neck as she leaned in to kiss each of them, Danielle too, and although she held her cigarette, in its mother-of-pearl holder, at arm’s length, its smoke wafted between them and brought tears to Danielle’s eyes.

Danielle didn’t wipe them, for fear of disturbing her makeup. Having spent half an hour putting on her face in front of the grainy mirror of Moira and John’s bathroom, ogling her imperfections and applying vigorous remedial spackle—beneath which her weary, olive-shaped eyes were pouched by bluish bags, the curves of her nostrils oddly red, and her high forehead peeling—she had no intention of revealing to strangers the disintegration beneath her paint.

“Come in, darlings, come in.” Lucy moved behind them and herded the trio toward the party. The Leveretts’ living room was painted a deep purple—aubergine, in local parlance—and its windows were draped with velvet. From the ceiling hung a brutal wrought iron chandelier, like something salvaged from a medieval castle. Three men loitered by the bay window, talking to one another while staring out at the street, their glasses of red wine luminous in the reflected evening light. A long, plump, pillowed sofa stretched the length of one wall, and upon it four women were disposed like odalisques in a harem. Two occupied opposite ends of the divan, their legs tucked under, their extended arms caressing the cushions, while between them one rested her head upon another’s lap, and smiling, eyes closed, whispered to the ceiling while her friend stroked her abundant hair. The whole effect was, for Danielle, faintly cloudy, as if she had walked into someone else’s dream. She kept feeling this, in Sydney, so far from home: she couldn’t quite say it wasn’t real, but it certainly wasn’t her reality.

“Rog? Rog, more wine!” Lucy called to the innards of the house, then turned again to her guests, a proprietorial arm on Danielle’s bicep. “Red or white? He’s probably even got pink, if you’re after it. Can’t bear it myself—so California.” She grinned, and from her crows’ feet, Danielle knew she was forty, or almost.

Two men bearing bottles emerged from the candlelit gloom of the dining room, both slender, both at first glance slightly fey. Danielle took the imposing one in front, in a pressed lavender shirt and with, above hooded eyes, a high, smooth Nabokovian brow, to be her host. She extended a hand. “I’m Danielle.” His fingers were elegant, and his palm, when it pressed hers, was cool.

“Are you now?” he said.

The other man, at least a decade older, slightly snaggletoothed and goateed, spoke from behind his shoulder. “I’m Roger,” he said. “Good to see you. Don’t mind Ludo, he’s playing hard to get.”

“Ludovic Seeley,” Lucy offered. “Danielle—”

“Minkoff.”

“Moira and John’s friend. From New York.”

“New York,” Ludovic Seeley repeated. “I’m moving there next month.”

“Red or white?” asked Roger, whose open shirt revealed a tanned breast dotted with sparse gray hairs and divided by a narrow gold chain.

“Red, please.”

“Good choice,” said Seeley, almost in a whisper. He was—she could feel it rather than see it, because his hooded eyes did not so much as flicker—looking her up and down. She hoped that her makeup was properly mixed in, that no clump of powder had gathered dustily upon her chin or cheek.

The moment of recognition was, for Danielle, instantaneous. Here, of all places, in this peculiar and irrelevant enclave, she had spotted a familiar. She wondered if he, too, experienced it: the knowledge that this mattered. Ludovic Seeley: she did not know who he was, and yet she felt she knew him, or had been waiting for him. It was not merely his physical presence, the long, feline slope of him, a quality at once loose and controlled, as if he played with the illusion of looseness. Nor was it the timbre of his voice, deep and yet not particularly resonant, its Australian inflection so slight as to be almost British. It was, she decided, something in his face: he knew. Although what he knew she could not have said. There were the eyes, a surprising deep and gold-flecked gray, their lines slightly downturned in an expression both mournful and amused, and the particular small furrow that cut into his right cheek when he smiled even slightly. His ears, pinned close to his head, lent him a tidy aspect; his dark hair, so closely shaven as to allow the blue of his scalp to shine through, emphasized both his irony and his restraint. His skin was pale, almost as pale as Danielle’s own, and his nose a fine, sharp stretch of cartilage. His face, so distinctive, struck her as that of a nineteenth-century portrait, a Sargent perhaps, an embodiment of sardonic wisdom and society, of aristocratic refinement. And yet in the fall of his shirt, the line of his torso, the graceful but not unmanly movement of his slender fingers (and yes, discreetly, but definitely there, he had hair on the backs of his hands—she held to it, as a point of attraction: men ought not to be hairless), he was distinctly of the present. What he knew, perhaps, was what he wanted.

“Come on, darling.” Lucy took her by the elbow. “Let’s introduce you to the rest of the gang.”

This, dinner at the Leveretts’, was Danielle’s last evening in Sydney before heading home. In the morning, she would board the plane and sleep, sleep her way back to yesterday, or by tomorrow, to today, in New York. She’d been away a week, researching a possible television program, with the help of her friend Moira. It wouldn’t be filmed for months, if it were filmed at all, a program about the relationship between the Aborigines and their government, the formal apologies and amends of recent years. The idea was to explore the possibility of reparations to African Americans—a high-profile professor was publishing a book about it—through the Australian prism. It wasn’t clear even to Danielle whether this could fly. Could an American audience care less about the Aborigines? Were the situations even comparable? The week had been filled with meetings and bluster, the zealous singing exchanges of her business, the pretense of certainty where in fact there was none at all. Moira firmly believed it could be done, that it should be done; but Danielle was not convinced.

Sydney was a long way from home. For a week, in her pleasant waft of alienation, Danielle had indulged the fantasy of another possible life—Moira, after all, had left New York for Sydney only two years before—and with it, another future. She rarely considered a life elsewhere; the way, she supposed, with faint incredulity, most people never considered a life in New York. From her bedroom in her friends’ lacy tin-roofed row house at the end of a shady street in Balmain, Danielle could see the water. Not the great sweep of the harbor, with its arcing bridge, nor the ruffled seagull’s wings of the opera house, but a placid stretch of blue beyond the park below, rippled by the wake of occasional ferries and winking in the early evening sunlight.

Early autumn in Sydney, it was still bitter at home. Small, brightly colored birds clustered in the jacaranda trees, trilling their joyous disharmonies. In earliest morning, she had glimpsed, against a dawn-dappled shrub in the backyard, an enormous dew-soaked spiderweb, its intricacies sparkling, and poised, at its edge, an enormous furry spider. Nature was in the city, here. It was another world. She had imagined watching her 747 soar away without her, a new life beginning.

But not really. She was a New Yorker. There was, for Danielle Minkoff, only New York. Her work was there, her friends were there—even her remote acquaintances from college at Brown ten years ago were there—and she had made her home in the cacophonous, cozy comfort of the Village. From her studio in its bleached-brick high-rise at Sixth Avenue and Twelfth Street, she surveyed lower Manhattan like a captain at the prow of her ship. Beleaguered and poor though she sometimes felt, or craving an interruption in the sea of asphalt and iron, a silence in the tide of chatter, she couldn’t imagine giving it up. Sometimes she joked to her mother—raised, as she herself had been, in Columbus, Ohio, and now a resident of Florida—that they’d have to carry her out feet first. There was no place like New York. And Australia, in comparison, was, well, Oz.

This last supper in Sydney was a purely social event. Where the Leveretts lived seemed like an area in which one or two ungentrified Aboriginal people might still linger, gray-haired and bleary, outside the pub at the end of the road: people who, pint in hand, hadn’t accepted the government’s apology and moved on. Or perhaps not, perhaps Danielle was merely imagining the area, its residents, as they had once been: for a second glance at the BMWs and Audis lining the curb suggested that the new Sydney (like the new New York) had already, and eagerly, edged its way in.

Moira was friendly with Lucy Leverett, who owned a small but influential gallery down at The Rocks that specialized in Aboriginal art. Her husband, Roger, was a nove...

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Messud, Claire
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Description du livre Alfred a Knopf Inc, 2006. Hard Cover. État : New. Etat de la jaquette : New. A richly drawn, brilliantly observed novel of fate and fortune of innocence and experience, seduction and self-invention; of ambition, including literary ambition; of glamour, disaster, and promiseThe Emperor’s Children is a tour de force that brings to life a city, a generation, and the way we live in this moment. N° de réf. du libraire 001902

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