Author(s): Siri Hustvedt
Artist Harriet Burden, consumed by fury at the lack of recognition she has received from the New York art establishment, embarks on an experiment: she hides her identity behind three male fronts who exhibit her work as their own. And yet, even after she has unmasked herself, there are those who refuse to believe she is the woman behind the men. Presented as a collection of texts compiled by a scholar years after Burden's death, the story unfolds through extracts from her notebooks, reviews and articles, as well as testimonies from her children, her lover, a dear friend, and others more distantly connected to her. Each account is different, however, and the mysteries multiply. One thing is clear: Burden's involvement with the last of her 'masks' turned into a dangerous psychological game that ended with the man's bizarre death. This is a polyphonic tour de force from the internationally acclaimed author of What I Loved, an intricately conceived, diabolical puzzle that explores the way prejudice, fame, money and desire influence our perceptions of one another. Emotionally intense, intellectually rigorous, ironic and playful, The Blazing World is as gripping as it is thought-provoking.
One from the Man Booker long list this year, this book is about an artist, Harriet, who feels that her work is underexposed because she is a woman. She therefore decides to take on three male pseudonyms, using real artists to pretend that her work is theirs. All of this goes terribly wrong, as very few people believe her when she comes to reveal herself. The whole thing comes to a head with a man’s bizarre death. The whole story is told through letters, and interviews of people who knew the artists, and also from Harriet’s own diaries which were discovered posthumously. In this way it feels more like a non-fiction book. My guess is that this academic tone is why it wasn’t shortlisted for the Man Booker. If you don’t know a lot about contemporary art then this could be a little alienating, or it could be a great opportunity to learn some new things (I certainly did). At its core though, there is a very human story and a fight for justice that transcends gender. - Holly
The intricate, devilishly playful, intellectually inspiring, emotionally involving new novel by the author of What I Loved.
Man Booker Longlist 2014
Readers of Hustvedt's essay collections ... will recognize the writer's long-standing interest in questions of perception, and her searching intellect is also evident here. But as the story of Harry's life coheres ... it's the emotional content that seizes the reader ... As in her previous masterpiece, What I Loved (2003), Hustvedt paints a scathing portrait of the art world, obsessed with money and the latest trend, but superb descriptions of Harry's work - installations expressing her turbulence and neediness - remind us that the beauty and power of art transcend such trivialities ... Blazing indeed: not just with Harry's fury, but with agonizing compassion for all of wounded humanity. Kirkus (starred review) Hustvedt dissects the art world with ironic insight. Footnotes and academic references, a large cast of characters, a wide range of narrative voices, intellectual digressions, and occasional one-liners enrich this novel of the New York art scene. This is a funny, sad, thought-provoking, and touching portrait of a woman who is blazing with postfeminist fury and propelled by artistic audacity. Publishers Weekly
Siri Hustvedt's first novel, THE BLINDFOLD, was published by Sceptre in 1993 and part of it was subsequently made into the film Of Women and Magic, directed by Claude Miller. Since then she has published THE ENCHANTMENT OF LILY DAHL, WHAT I LOVED - a huge international bestseller - , THE SORROWS OF AN AMERICAN and THE SUMMER WITHOUT MEN. She is also the author of READING TO YOU, a poetry collection, and four collections of essays; YONDER, MYSTERIES OF THE RECTANGLE: Essays on Painting, A PLEA FOR EROS and LIVING, THINKING, LOOKING, as well as THE SHAKING WOMAN: A HISTORY OF MY NERVES. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.