Elif Batuman’s “Either/Or”

June 3, 2022

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Novelist and New Yorker staff writer Elif Batuman joins Kate Wolf to discuss her latest book, Either/Or. A sequel to 2017’s The Idiot, the novel follows Selin in her sophomore year at Harvard University in 1996. Endearingly sincere in her efforts to understand the world around her, Selin turns most often to the books she reads for her literature major to do so, especially the titular work by Kierkegaard, which allows her to consider the merits of an aesthetic life versus an ethical one. It’s The Seducer’s Diary portion of Kierkegaard’s book, however, that Selin finds herself most interested in—and horrified by. It helps explain the mystifying behavior of her crush, Ivan, with whom nothing much of consequence has happened. But are books really a reflection of life? And might Selin write a novel of her own? Selin’s quest for understanding eventually leads her to her native Turkey and then Russia where she connects more deeply with experiences outside of literature and finally finds herself living on her own terms.

Also, Dan Lopez, author of The Show House, drops by to recommend Cuba: An American History by Ada Ferrer