Four old friends — two married couples — reunite after a long separation. They spend the afternoon swapping stories and getting drunk, then high. Nothing much happens, really . . . until one of them suggests they play a little game of “what if.”
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank is a collection of eight stories from a master of the form. Inspired by Raymond Carver’s masterpiece, the title story is a provocative portrait of two marriages. “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” “Peep Show,” and “How We Avenged the Blums” return to the author’s classic themes of sexual longing and ingenuity in the face of adversity. Other stories question the ways we cope with the past (both near and distant), as well as the constantly shifting alliances we form with friends, lovers, family members, and even writers we admire.
These are powerful stories that show a celebrated writer grappling with some of the great questions of modern life: What happens to faith in times of crisis? What happens when the stories we’ve been telling ourselves turn out to be lies? What happens when some senior citizens at a Jewish bridge camp turn on a fellow camper they suspect of being a Nazi war criminal?
A resident of Toronto who is also Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University, Nathan Englander is the author of two story collections, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges and What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, as well as three novels: Dinner at the Center of the Earth, The Ministry of Special Cases, and kaddish.com. He is the recipient of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and has been a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. The New Yorker named him one of its “20 Writers for the 21st Century.”
“If I write every day for the rest of my life and nobody reads a word, is it that as a writer I die?” Nathan Englander asks, hypothetically, in his three-question Living Writers interview about What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.
Meet Nathan Englander at Colgate on Oct. 27
We’re sorry that you missed Nathan Englander’s visit. If you’d like to see an archived copy of his presentation, please join the Living Writers mailing list.
Tell Us What You Think
We're sorry that you missed our Oct. 24 faculty roundtable and discussion about What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. Guests included Lesleigh Cushing, Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Murray W. and Mildred K. Finard Professor in Jewish studies, and professor of religion and Alice Nakhimovsky, Distinguished Chair in Jewish studies, professor of Jewish studies and Russian & Eurasian studies. You can listen to a recording of the first 30 minutes below.
Follow the discussion on Twitter @ColgateLW using the hashtag #ColgateLivingWriters
Go Beyond the Book
- “Mr. Englander manages to delineate extreme behavior with a combination of psychological insight, allegorical gravity and sometimes uproarious comedy,” writes Michiko Kakutani in this New York Times review of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.
- “What Englander is saying is that we know ourselves, or don’t, on different levels, that we exist individually and as part of a heritage,” writes the Los Angeles Times in its review of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.
- The Guardian calls “Camp Sundown,” one of the stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, “the kind of high-risk story that depends on a very adroit control of tone to keep it from capsizing into tasteless silliness or kitschy solemnity.”
- Read the Raymond Carver short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” that inspired Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.
- What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank has been adapted for the stage!
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Living Writers is organized by the Department of English at Colgate University with generous support from the Olive B. O’Connor Fund as well as the President and Provost/Dean of the Faculty. Support from the Jewish Studies Program helped make this event possible.