Winner of the 2020 Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, France’s best foreign book of the year.
‘Astounding’ Sebastian Barry
‘A masterpiece’ Ayad Akhtar
‘This little book is ruminative, humane, and gorgeously precise’
In this genre-defying book, best-selling memoirist and critic Daniel Mendelsohn explores the mysterious links between the randomness of the lives we lead and the artfulness of the stories we tell.
Combining memoir, biography, history, and literary criticism, Three Rings weaves together the stories of three exiled writers who turned to the classics of the past to create masterpieces of their own-works that pondered the nature of narrative itself.
Erich Auerbach, the Jewish philologist who fled Hitler’s Germany and wrote his classic study of Western literature, Mimesis, in Istanbul.
Francois Fenelon, the seventeenth-century French archbishop whose ingenious sequel to the Odyssey,The Adventures of Telemachus – a veiled critique of the Sun King and the best-selling book in Europe for one hundred years – resulted in his banishment.
And the German novelist W. G. Sebald, self-exiled to England, whose distinctively meandering narratives explore Odyssean themes of displacement, nostalgia, and separation from home.
Intertwined with these tales of exile and artistic crisis is an account of Mendelsohn’s struggles to write two of his own books-a family saga of the Holocaust and a memoir about reading the Odyssey with his elderly father-that are haunted by tales of oppression and wandering. As Three Rings moves to its startling conclusion, a climactic revelation about the way in which the lives of its three heroes were linked across borders, languages, and centuries forces the reader to reconsider the relationship between narrative and history, art and life.
'Exquisite ... Ornate and oneiric, the results are well worth circling and circling back to' New York Times Book Review 'As always, the author's voice blends authority with considerable warmth and charm, luring readers into his complex intellectual enthusiasms ... Three Rings, a short but profoundly moving work, clings with tenacity to a belief in the regenerative power of literature' Wall Street Journal 'Spectacular ... The reader feels the flow of a strong narrative, trusts the author's seafaring skills and embarks on a brilliant journey ... Three Rings is a glorious celebration of multiplicity, diversity, journeys, transformations and our common humanity' Times Literary Supplement 'Contained in the interwoven circles of this slim, labyrinthine book is a vision that encompasses the world. Part dirge, part memoir, part exegesis, all rhapsody Mendelsohn's anatomy of literature's subtlest pleasures is itself that subtlest of literary pleasures: a masterpiece' Ayad Akhtar, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Homeland Elegies 'An astounding Borgesian document of clarity and brilliance. A book about telling stories that wanders down the seeming two roads of the Hebrew tradition and the classical, which, like Proust's two ways, might turn out to be one way after all. Three Rings has the keeled force of a long poem' Sebastian Barry 'Classicist, historian, memoirist, cultural critic, with consummate skill and the sharp, sympathetic eye of the poet, Daniel Mendelsohn brilliantly combines these roles. Three Rings is a masterly exegesis and demonstration of digression as a high art' Joyce Carol Oates 'Daniel Mendelsohn's Three Rings is erudition, essayism, and memoir ... This little book is ruminative, humane, and gorgeously precise' Jonathan Lethem
Book experts at your service
What are you looking for?