ISBN 13: 9780316158725
Publisher: Little Brown & Co
Publication Date: 1998
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Matthias is a man of orderly ways, a librarian whose life rarely strays from its narrow channels. At the library where he works is an archive of letters from the poet T. S. Eliot to an American woman, written during the years Eliot was undertaking Four Quartets and wrestling with problems of marriage an of faith. When a young poet, Roberta, comes to the library wanting to see the letters--sealed from public view until the year 2020--she unsettles Matthias's composure and brings back long-buried memories of a disastrous relationship years earlier.Matthias's marriage to Judith in the years following World War II forms the core of this beautifully observed and emotionally charged novel. Despite their differences--Judith is unruly, an artist--their shared love of poetry and jazz at first lends strength to their bond. But their good intentions cannot bridge their essential divergences. A growing alienation is complicated by Judith's increasingly erratic behavior, which culminates in a severe breakdown and her incarceration in a mental hospital.Judith's own voice, in the form of a journal she kept in the hospital, is the transfixing middle passage of this novel. The journal opens onto the psyche of a woman haunted by questions about love's worth in a world filled with war's evils. Her preoccupation with revelations about the real nature not only of Europe's darkness but also of her family's brings her to the point of unraveling. As Matthias wrestles with of Roberta's wishes, his own reawakened longings, and his memories, he is forced to reconsider his role in his wife's death. After years of carefully tended caution, he realizes that he must acknowledge emotion as much as logic. This time, the result is an act of rebellion intended as reparation--and a provocative disruption of our own ideas about debts to the dead.Drawing richly upon the poems of T.S. Eliot and the intellectual and social climate of postwar New York City, this is an unforgettable novel about memory and desire. Written with an assurance and power only rarely seen in a first novel, it heralds the arrival of a new writer with a brilliant future.
"A superlative, serious, gripping literary treasure."
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The Archivist (ISBN: 0316158720 / 0-316-15872-0)
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The Archivist A Novel (ISBN: 9780316158725)
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