Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate
By Daniel Mendelsohn
In this genre-defying book, best-selling memoirist and critic Daniel Mendelsohn explores the mysterious links between the randomness of the lives we lead and the artfulness of the stories we tell.
Combining memoir, biography, history, and literary criticism, Three Rings weaves together the stories of three exiled writers who turned to the classics of the past to create masterpieces of their ownworks that pondered the nature of narrative itself. Erich Auerbach, the Jewish philologist who fled Hitlers Germany and wrote his classic study of Western literature, Mimesis, in Istanbul... François Fénelon, the seventeenth-century French archbishop whose ingenious sequel to the Odyssey, The Adventures of Telemachusa veiled critique of the Sun King and the best-selling book in Europe for one hundred yearsresulted in his banishment... and the German novelist W. G. Sebald, self-exiled to England, whose distinctively meandering narratives explore Odyssean themes of displacement, nostalgia, and separation from home.
Intertwined with these tales of exile and artistic crisis is an account of Mendelsohns struggles to write two of his own booksa family saga of the Holocaust and a memoir about reading the Odyssey with his elderly fatherthat are haunted by tales of oppression and wandering. As Three Rings moves to its startling conclusion, a climactic revelation about the way in which the lives of its three heroes were linked across borders, languages, and centuries forces the reader to reconsider the relationship between narrative and history, art and life.
"In his supple, slender book Mendelsohn links three exiled writers... [he] ingeniously turns his straying into the end of the circle, the point from which it had strayed. More than a master class in literary analysis, Three Rings is Mendelsohn's distinctive, genre-defying inspiration."
The National Review of Books ("Hot Books of the Week")