Guided Tours of Hell: Novellas

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The less-than-innocents abroad in these short novels are Americans in Europe, involved in what turn out to be pleasure tours of hell: shocking, bewildering trips that change forever their ideas about history, reality, politics, sex -- their entire lives.

In the title novella, a third-rate American playwright named Landau attends a literary conference in Prague, where an organized group excursion to a former concentration camp degenerates into a battle of wills and an exercise in egomania and public humiliation. Nina, the heroine of the second novella, "Three Pigs in Five Days," is sent to Paris to write an article for her lover's travel journal -- a dizzying, erotic pilgrimage that forces her to see how sex has distorted her view of the world.

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Review:

These two novellas about Americans abroad combine to create one wallop of a book. As they confront the legacy of history and their own shortcomings, Prose's characters are obsessively self-aware, even narcissistically petty--just like we are. In the title story, Landau, a struggling playwright, engages in a vanity-laden struggle of wills with a charismatic Holocaust-survivor in the cafeteria of a death camp-turned-tourist-attraction during a Kafka symposium. In the second novella "Three Pigs in Five Days," Nina is sent to Paris by her boss and ex-lover to write an article about a whorehouse-turned-hotel. While there, she is plagued by the demons of her erotic past as well as the romantic ghosts of the dysfunctional relationships of dead Parisian artists and their mistresses. Always harrowing, occasionally baroque, and tinged with hilarity, Guided Tours of Hell is an early candidate for the best fiction of the year.

About the Author:

Francine Prose is the author of twenty works of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director's Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her most recent book is Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. She lives in New York City.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780805048612: Guided Tours of Hell: Novellas

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0805048618 ISBN 13:  9780805048612
Publisher: Metropolitan Books, 1997
Hardcover

9781480445482: Guided Tours of Hell: Novellas

Open R..., 2013
Softcover

9780805055863: Guided Tours of Hell: Novellas

Henry ..., 1998
Softcover

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