Internationally Oriented Novelist Re-Defines “Being an Outsider”

Claire Messud, author of the 2006 novel The Emperor’s Children, will read selections from her work at Tulane University on Monday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m., in the Kendall-Cram Room of the Lavin-Bernick Center. An interview with Ms. Messud will follow on Thursday, March 12 at 6:00 p.m., in Freeman Auditorium. Both events are free and open to the public.

Born in France, and raised in Australia, Canada, and the United States, Claire Messud derives great influence from her international background, which infuses her work. Setting The Emperor’s Children in New York, during the months immediately before and after 9/11, she draws upon all she has “invested in [her] background in being an outsider” to write from objective perspective; and it is this objectivism that prevents Messud’s novel from being “crushed by the falling idol” of grand-scale tragedy, a danger that so many narratives have encountered, and failed against. Her work transcends tragic observation, and presents the possibility for self re-invention, post-trauma. As the hero of the novel considers, “instincts for survival [are] much stronger, thank God, than voyeuristic impulses,” and provide “the precious opportunity to be again, not to be as [one] had been.” According to its review in the New York Times, The Emperor’s Children points to “the obdurate reality of the human imagination,” and serves “a penetrating testament to its power.”

Recently awarded the Strauss Living Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Claire Messud has also received the esteemed Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships. She is this year’s Zale Writer-in-Residence; administered by the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women, the Zale Program invites a female author to campus each spring for readings, workshops, and seminars. Past honorees include Edwidge Danticat, Ellen Gilchrist, and Elizabeth McCracken.


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