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The Blazing World

The Blazing World

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Longlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize and hailed by The Washington Post as “Siri Hustvedt’s best novel yet, an electrifying work,” The Blazing World is a masterful novel about perception, prejudice, desire, and one woman’s struggle to be seen.

In a new novel called “searingly fresh... A Nabokovian cat’s cradle” on the cover of The New York Times Book Review, the internationally bestselling author tells the provocative story of artist Harriet Burden, who, after years of having her work ignored, ignites an explosive scandal in New York’s art world when she recruits three young men to present her creations as their own. Yet when the shows succeed and Burden steps forward for her triumphant reveal, she is betrayed by the third man, Rune. Many critics side with him, and Burden and Rune find themselves in a charged and dangerous game, one that ends in his bizarre death.

An intricately conceived, diabolical puzzle presented as a collection of texts, including Harriet’s journals, assembled after her death, this “glorious mashup of storytelling and scholarship” (San Francisco Chronicle) unfolds from multiple perspectives as Harriet’s critics, fans, family, and others offer their own conflicting opinions of where the truth lies. Writing in Slate, Katie Roiphe declared it “a spectacularly good read...feminism in the tradition of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex or Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: richly complex, densely psychological, dazzlingly nuanced.”

“Astonishing, harrowing, and utterly, completely engrossing” (NPR), Hustvedt’s new novel is “Blazing indeed:...with agonizing compassion for all of wounded humanity”(Kirkus Reviews, starred review). It is a masterpiece that will be remembered for years to come.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476747231 | 
  • March 2014
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Blazing World includes discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Siri Hustvedt. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.



Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss Harry’s partnerships with Anton Tish, Phineas Q. Eldridge, and Rune in relation to the artwork she created for each of them. How did each partnership differ from the other two? Why did Harry choose these three men?

2. How did the novel’s multi-voiced, fragmentary style affect your reading experience? In the introduction, I.V. Hess writes, “All of Burden’s notebooks may be read as forms of dialogue” (p. 6). Did this comment help you navigate the novel’s structure? What role does dialogue play in the novel as a whole?

3. Harry tells stories of other artists who used pseudonyms or false identities to present their work to the world. Alice Sheldon had two personas: James Tiptree and Racoona Sheldon (pp. 186–188). Why did Ursula Le Guin prefer the works of one pen name over the other? What does Harry mean when she tells Maisie that by assuming a male identity, “You get to be the father”(p. 187)? Find and discuss other stories of see more

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About the Author

Siri Hustvedt
Marion Ettlinger

Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt has a PhD in English literature from Columbia University and is the internationally acclaimed author of five novels, and a growing body of nonfiction. In 2012 she was the recipient of the Gabarron International Award for Thought and Humanities. She lives in Brooklyn.

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