An instant New York Times bestseller!
A New York Times Notable Book of 2022
“Batuman has a gift for making the universe seem, somehow, like the benevolent and witty literary seminar you wish it were . . .This novel wins you over in a million micro-observations.” —The New York Times
From the acclaimed and bestselling author of The Idiot, the continuation of beloved protagonist Selin’s quest for self-knowledge, as she travels abroad and tests the limits of her newfound adulthood
Selin is the luckiest person in her family: the only one who was born in America and got to go to Harvard. Now it’s sophomore year, 1996, and Selin knows she has to make it count. The first order of business: to figure out the meaning of everything that happened over the summer. Why did Selin’s elusive crush, Ivan, find her that job in the Hungarian countryside? What was up with all those other people in the Hungarian countryside? Why is Ivan’s weird ex-girlfriend now trying to get in touch with Selin? On the plus side, it feels like the plot of an exciting novel. On the other hand, why do so many novels have crazy abandoned women in them? How does one live a life as interesting as a novel—a life worthy of becoming a novel—without becoming a crazy abandoned woman oneself?
Guided by her literature syllabus and by her more worldly and confident peers, Selin reaches certain conclusions about the universal importance of parties, alcohol, and sex, and resolves to execute them in practice—no matter what the cost. Next on the list: international travel.
Unfolding with the propulsive logic and intensity of youth, Either/Or is a landmark novel by one of our most brilliant writers. Hilarious, revelatory, and unforgettable, its gripping narrative will confront you with searching questions that persist long after the last page.
In this effervescent sequel to The Idiot, Batuman continues charting the sentimental education of Selin, a student of Russian literature at Harvard. As Selin begins her sophomore year in 1996, she's still nursing an unrequited crush on Ivan, a Hungarian graduate student. Meanwhile, her friends Svetlana and Riley begin dating boys on campus, causing Selin to lament their perceived loss of independence (after Svetlana hooks up with the guy she'll end up with, Selin predicts, "She would never again be what she had been, not in my life, and not in her own"). Observant, defiant, and newly on antidepressants, Selin approaches the mystery of human relations with a beginner's naivete and sharp intelligence. At parties, in dorm rooms, and through reading French, Russian, and German literature and philosophy, she reflects on the tragic asymmetry of connections between men and women, and wonders how, exactly, "a person could live an aesthetic life." Meanwhile, she recounts her frustrations with Proust and reverence for Fiona Apple and Lauryn Hill, and embarks on a messy series of email threads with Ivan and his ex-girlfriend. Batuman's light touch and humor are brought to bear on serious questions, enabling the novel to move quickly between set pieces like an S&M-themed student party, poignant recollections of Selin's parents' divorce, and a harrowing travelogue as Selin begins a summer job in Turkey. As accomplished as The Idiot was, this improves upon it, and Batuman's already sharp chops as a novelist come across as even more refined in these pages. Readers will be enraptured. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency.