Dear friends and readers!  I am sorry to report that I am TOTALLY SWAMPED by an amazing (to me) variety of circumstances, and will have to postpone the Chicago reading originally scheduled for April 6.  Only God and I know how much I was looking forward to seeing my incredibly dear Chicago readers, and how sad I am about this delay, but I’m really hoping to reschedule for late spring.  Meanwhile, if nothing else goes wrong, I should be returning to normal life in approximately two weeks.  Until then, I won’t be able to read or respond to non-urgent emails—please believe that it isn’t because I’m too busy with my hedge analyst friends.  Any publishing- or publicity-related inquiries should please be addressed to someone who gets paid to answer them.  Thank you for your understanding, and I hope this finds you all more comfortably situated than it leaves, at present, your humble servant:


This is where my staff and I will be living for the next 2 weeks.

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8 Responses to “Swamped”

  1. Dave Lull Says:

    San Francisco Bay Guardian
    SFBG › This Week ›

    Point for point

    Elif Batuman’s Possessed charts a hidden map of Russia
    03.30.10 – 4:16 pm | Juliette Tang

  2. Dave Lull Says:

    Room for Debate Blog –
    April 5, 2010, 7:09 pm
    Can ‘Neuro Lit Crit’ Save the Humanities?

    What Literature Does
    Elif Batuman

  3. K Says:

    I’m reading and thoroughly enjoying your book, but there’s one thing I can’t get over and I just had to ask. When Aeroflot lost your bag, you ended up borrowing shampoo from a woman in the next hoel room over. I mean, come on … couldn’t you have bought your own shampoo? Surely the hotel had a gift shop, or there was a supermarket or something where you could have bought your own instead of having some stranger give you the last of hers? Which of course gets me wondering what you did regarding toothpaste?

  4. Elif Says:

    THERE WAS NO GIFT SHOP. There was a kiosk that sold vodka, postcards, and canned beef. No shampoo (I asked). I actually had toothpaste and a toothbrush in my backpack, so I could brush my teeth on the plane. But I wasn’t planning to wash my hair on the plane. So, no shampoo.

  5. K Says:

    Thanks for the answer! :) Your book is awesome.

  6. Ludmila Says:

    I really, REALLY enjoyed your book.
    But I have to ask you something. Why did you decide to mention an accident on a bus? I have to admit, it was painful to read and left me with some “aftertaste”.

  7. Elif Says:

    Hi Ludmila! I’m happy you enjoyed the book. I originally wrote the Tolstoy episode as fiction, changing the characters and back-stories. I chose to include the bus episode because it fit with one of the big themes I was trying to address, namely, the frailty of the human body. Chekhov was the guardian of this frailty, but he was also subject to it, as was Tolstoy, and all their readers today, and (presumably) all their future readers. It’s important to me that death doesn’t just turn up at the grand showdown with Prince Andrei, but is something that sneaks up on us all gradually, ignonimously, and upsettingly.

    As fiction, the inclusion of this episode was (for me) a relatively easy decision. As it turns out, both FSG and Harper’s, where the piece was originally published, were only interested publishing it an essay, i.e., nonfiction. (I actually wanted to do The Possessed as a novel, based on my experiences… but nobody wanted to publish such a novel! I don’t know why this is.) As nonfiction, I do agree with you that it’s a gray area. But my editors convinced me to leave it in, with some small details changed to protect the identities of the people involved.

    This has definitely been the most controversial passage in The Possessed, and you aren’t the first reader to question its inclusion. On the other hand, many readers have told me that they found it to be one of the most sad and effective parts of the book. (If one is keeping score, which I guess I am, I can tell you that more readers have actually spoken up pro than con. I’m also happy to say that the piece was recently selected for the Best American Essays of 2009.) Still, I do understand the opposite point of view.

    In summary: my first choice would definitely have been to publish this episode (and in fact my whole book!) as fiction rather than nonfiction, but this was something I didn’t have control over. I didn’t omit it from the book because my editors thought, and I agreed, that it made that essay stronger. Although I’m sorry it has caused discomfort to some readers, I will add also that it’s supposed to be painful to read. Most of all, I really hope readers will understand that the episode in question isn’t mentioned in the name of gossip, or to single anyone out for an embarrassing mishap, but, rather, to underscore the human frailty to which all of us are subject.

  8. Ludmila Says:

    Elif, thank you for finding time to answer my question.
    I have to think about what you wrote.

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