Do not be ashamed to grieve about personal things. Another popular technique for waylaying the reader is the use of specificity as a shortcut to nostalgia—as if all a writer has to do is mention Little League or someone called Bucky McGee, and our shared American past will do the rest of the work. The last sentence is creepy and vaguely polemical: Show 25 25 50 All. Returning to the grad school manuscript that would become The Idiot , Batuman looked back at her year-old self. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Reading has become a Protestant good work: She went on this and she kept a diary there and this diary was published. But also the language text that she studies in Russian class, that becomes really important to her. Selin goes to work on linguistics, befriends a cultivated Serbian named Svetlana, and falls in love with Ivan, a Hungarian mathematician in her beginning Russian class. Adventures in Russian Books and the People Who Read Them , which chronicled the obsessives and eccentrics who study Russian language and culture. Returning to the grad school manuscript that would become The Idiot , Batuman looked back at her year-old self. The twist is that both cousins are interesting and mysterious; both have suffered; and they are bound by some hereditary, unarticulated, Zolaesque link.

Despairing over her love for Ivan, Selin goes to a student mental health clinic where a young psychologist triumphantly declares Ivan a figment of her imagination. She washed a cluster of grapes and set it down uncertainly between us, eyeing intently the visual conundrum of the excess of fruit in the too-small bowl. You want to make the familiar strange and memorable again, and an easy shortcut is to make your protagonist young, clueless and innocent.


Do not be ashamed to grieve about personal things. Every now and then he looked up to ask what Evo was saying, since at his seventy-two years of age, Hugo Blanco is nearly deaf.

How has your thinking about this changed over time? Every last clerk, child, and goat has a name.

On Global Warming

On the day of her arrival at university, Selin is given her first email address: When I was in college, I really felt like feminism was over, women had equality, and it was just up to them to make use of it.

Their platonic courtship continues, but they never consummate their affair. I saw that post-nationalism turned out to be untrue. And there was no mention of me. Returning to the grad school manuscript that would become The IdiotBatuman looked back at her year-old self. I think we were around eleven or batunan. In the name of science, I recently read from cover to cover the Best American Short Stories anthologies of and What eluf of dilemmas eli questions were these? I was in for a rude awakening.

Well, maybe not always saying yes. Going through the drafts, I thought, what had I experienced in life and writing? Despite being a little dense with academic jargon, she risked the strike out and knocked it out of the park.

Elif Batuman: Get a Real Degree

The result is not just in medias res, but in-your-face in medias res, a maze of names, subordinate clauses, and minor collisions: Selin begins an email relationship with Ivan, a Hungarian maths major who is in her Russian class. I felt so wounded by that. Do you look back on your early writing and think that you would write differently? She set out to edit and rewrite what became The Idiotthe autobiographically inspired story of Selin, an year-old Turkish-American girl, during her first year at Harvard in That line was about the tyranny of leisure.


Elif Batuman: Get a Real Degree – The Millions

The reader is so sure that certain things are going to happen… everyone is sure that Anna is going elf die in childbirth. And yet the picture that they showed on the news was so gendered.

It is not possible to be a German. It is in an aroused consciousness that the solace and excitement of literature are to be found. If it were, hardly anyone would like to be one. What does Selin think her narrative is? And each message contained the one that had come before, so your own words came back to you … the story of the intersection of your lives with others.

You have to draw meaning from the whole. Dear young writers, write with dignity, not in guilt.

elif batuman essay

There was a lot that I found myself wanting to change. They were supposed to meet as children, but never did.

elif batuman essay