Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes

( 4 )

Overview

Imagine being famous. Being recognized on the street, adored by people who have never even met you, known the world over. Wouldn’t that be great?
 
But what if, one day, you got stuck in a country where celebrity means nothing, where no one spoke your language and you didn’t speak theirs, where no one knew your face (no book jackets, no TV) and you had no way of calling ...

See more details below
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (21) from $1.99   
  • New (5) from $7.25   
  • Used (16) from $1.99   
Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price

Overview

Imagine being famous. Being recognized on the street, adored by people who have never even met you, known the world over. Wouldn’t that be great?
 
But what if, one day, you got stuck in a country where celebrity means nothing, where no one spoke your language and you didn’t speak theirs, where no one knew your face (no book jackets, no TV) and you had no way of calling home? How would your fame help you then?
 
What if someone got hold of your cell phone? What if they spoke to your girlfriends, your agent, your director, and started making decisions for you? And worse, what if no one believed you were you anymore? When you saw a look-alike acting your roles for you, what would you do?
 
And what if one day you realized your magnum opus, like everything else you’d ever written, was a total waste of time, empty nonsense? What would you do next? Would your audience of seven million people keep you going? Or would you lose the capacity to keep on doing it?
 
Fame and facelessness, truth and deception, spin their way through all nine episodes of this captivating, wickedly funny, and perpetually surprising novel as paths cross and plots thicken, as characters become real people and real people morph into characters. The result is a dazzling tour de force by one of Europe’s finest young writers.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this brilliant study of the fragility and interconnectedness of life, Kehlmann (Measuring the World) probes issues of identity in nine overlapping narratives, with each pivoting on a moment where a commonplace event becomes a crack and then a flood gate for existential horror. It begins as computer technician Ebling buys a cellphone, only to discover the number he is assigned belongs to movie star Ralf Tanner; at first resistant, Ebling is soon making decisions that alter Ralf's life. Later, after his phone has abruptly stopped ringing, Ralf finds his life taken over by an impersonator. Meanwhile, the telecommunications executive whose negligence led to the phone number switch cracks from the pressures of having an affair. In a parallel plot, Elisabeth, a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders, keeps her work secret from her famous boyfriend, the writer Leo Richter, out of fear he will steal her experiences for future adventures of his most popular character. Layers of connection, irony, despair, and humor distinguish this masterful work and announce Kehlman as a worthy heir to Bowles and Camus. (Sept.)
Library Journal
This short novel by German/Austrian author Kehlmann (Measuring the World) is a literary polyptych, a collection of stories that could be appreciated independently but actually are centered on the main episode, "Replying to the Abbess." In this story, the world's most famous self-help writer, who hasn't seen his children from his second marriage in more than a year, is amused that the United Nations wants to give him a prestigious award; he writes a truly offensive letter to a nun, contradicting everything he's published and denying all hope, goodness, and beauty. Reviewing the slums outside of Rio de Janeiro from his penthouse, arms outstretched like the nearby Christ the Redeemer statue, he imagines that he could become a truly great man if he dashes the hopes of his followers by shooting himself in the head with the pistol he regularly points at himself. VERDICT The characters in all of these stories wrestle with fame: some have it but don't want it or don't appreciate it, while others who don't have it desperately want it. The result is an engrossing, complex, and humorous work that reminds us we're all connected, even though we often don't notice it. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/10.]—K.H. Cumiskey, Duke Univ Libs., Durham, NC
Kirkus Reviews

From German author Kehlmann (Me and Kaminski, 2008, etc.), nine interconnected stories that cleverly explore the seductive nature of fame—and fiction's role in creating it.

Notoriety as both a blessing and (more often) a curse is the thread holding together the disparate episodes in this darkly comic tour de force, beginning with the opener, "Voices." In it, a middle-aged technician buys a cell phone and is secretly thrilled to intercept the calls intended for another man, one leading a considerably more exciting life. German movie star Ralf Tanner, on the other hand, longs for obscurity, and finds giving up his identity far easier than he would have expected, by becoming his own impersonator. Gutsy Elisabeth, a physician for Doctors Without Borders, is dismayed at the thought that her new lover, the neurotic writer Leo Richter, will use her experiences in his work. Leo, an apparent stand-in for the author himself, is in turn accosted in a hotel by an unkempt young man desperate to be a story subject. The fan later posts the details of their awkward encounter on a celebrity blog. A popular mystery writer who fills in for Richter on a press junket becomes trapped in a Kafka-esque nightmare in a Central Asian post-Soviet hellhole where no one knows her. And in "Rosalie Goes Off to Die," an elderly woman en route to a Swiss euthanasia clinic bargains not with God, but with her actual creator, the writer, to intercede on her behalf. The wheels-within-wheels keep spinning as more implausible connections are made, culminating in a surprise ending that we should have seen all along. Although there is a certain gleeful cruelty to the way Kehlmann treats many of his characters, he never spares himself. But when he describes Richter's talent as "empty virtuosity," one wonders who the joke is really on. Empty, he's not.

A brazen take on the modern yearning for recognition. Kehlmann is a writer worth reading.

From the Publisher
“A darkly comic masterpiece, a rare and thrilling example of a philosophical novel as pleasurable as it is thought-provoking.” —San Francisco Chronicle 
 
“Who would have thought contemporary Central European literature could be so fun and so funny?. . . A real beauty of a book, farcical, satiric, melancholic, and humane.” —Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom 
 
“Dazzling. . . . Has satirical bite and technical sparkle.” —The Wall Street Journal
 
“Combines the geeky adventure of Stephenson with the icy wit that Paul Auster was once known for. . . . Engaging, provocative entertainment.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“Kafka for the Facebook-famous generation.” —Time Out New York  

“This slim, funny, provocative book justifies its structure brilliantly. . . . The stories in Fame make a terrific case for the way fiction enables us to lead double lives—and then, at the stories’ end, to go home.” —The Boston Globe
 
“[A] brilliant study of the fragility and interconnectedness of life. . . . Layers of conection, irony, despair, and humor distinguish this masterful work.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“The real subject of Kehlmann’s book is language: its fiery possibilities of granting us a name, its humiliating shortcomings in telling who we are, its ignominious deceits and false promises, its ingenious devices to help us translate the experience of ourselves into the experience of another. . . . An extraordinary feat.” —The Guardian (London)
 
Fame is a Nabokovian puzzle, a game of hide-and-seek, and a playful reflection on cultural renown and the lack thereof. . . . Kehlmann has Nabokov’s and Barth’s love of false leads, false bottoms, and, perhaps, false dichotomies.” —Bookforum
 
“In Kehlmann’s wickedly clever novel, fame is something his cast of widely disparate characters seek, avoid, flirt with, and succumb to. . . . [They are] luminous creations, and the coincidental devices that link them are brilliant gambits. Kehlmann showcases a flair for devious satire.” —Booklist (starred review)
 
“We were so hooked by the intriguing, interwoven stories, we couldn’t put it down.” —Gawker
 
“[A] darkly comic tour de force. . . . A brazen take on the modern yearning for recognition. Kehlmann is a writer worth reading.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) 

 

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307378712
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.94 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

DANIEL KEHLMANN’s Measuring the World was translated into more than forty languages. Awards his work has received include the Candide Prize, the Literature Prize of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Doderer Prize, The Kleist Prize, the WELT Literature Prize, and the Thomas Mann Prize. He divides his time between Vienna and Berlin.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Voices

Even before Ebling reached home, his cell phone rang. For years he had refused to buy one, because he was a technician and didn’t trust the thing. Why did nobody wonder about whether it was a good idea to clutch a power­ful source of radiation to your head? But Ebling had a wife, two children, and a handful of acquaintances, and one of them was always complaining that he was unreachable. So finally he’d given in and bought a phone, which he asked the guy he bought it from to activate immediately. In spite of himself, he was impressed: it was absolutely perfect, beauti­fully designed, smooth lines, elegant. And now, without warning, it was ringing.
 
Very hesitantly, he picked up.
 
A woman asked for someone called Raff, Ralf, or Rauff, he couldn’t figure out the name. A mistake, he said, wrong number. She apologized and hung up.
 
That evening, the next call. “Ralf!” The man’s voice was loud and hoarse. “What gives, what are you up to, you old bastard?”
 
“Wrong number!” Ebling sat up in bed. It was already past ten o’clock and his wife was looking at him reproachfully.
 
The man apologized, and Ebling switched off the phone.
 
Next morning there were three messages. He listened to them in the subway on the way to work. A giggling woman asked him to call her back. A man yelled that he should come over right away, they weren’t going to wait for him much longer; you could hear music and the clink of glasses in the background. And then the same woman again: “Ralf, come on, where are you?”
 
Ebling sighed and called Customer Service.
 
Strange, said the representative, sounding bored. Simply couldn’t happen. Nobody was given a number already assigned to somebody else. There were all sorts of security measures to prevent it.
 
“But that’s what’s happened.”
 
No, said the woman. Absolutely impossible.
 
“And what are you going to do about it?”
 
She said she had no idea. Because the whole thing was impossible.
 
Ebling opened his mouth, then shut it again. He knew that someone else in his shoes would have lost it—but that wasn’t his sort of thing, he was no good at it. He hit the off button.
 
Seconds later, it rang again. “Ralf?” said a man.
 
“No.”
 
“What?”
 
“This number is . . . There’s been a mistake—you’ve mis­dialed.”
 
“This is Ralf’s number!”
 
Ebling hung up and stuck the phone in the pocket of his jacket. The subway was jammed again, so he was having to stand today as well. On one side a man with a big moustache was glaring at him as if he were his sworn enemy. There were a lot of things about his life that Ebling didn’t like. It both­ered him that his wife’s mind was always somewhere else, that she read such stupid books, and that she was such a lousy cook. It bothered him that he didn’t have a smart son, and that he didn’t understand his daughter at all. It bothered him that he could always hear his neighbors snoring through the party walls, which were way too thin. But what bothered him most of all was being on the subway at rush hour. Always packed in, always jammed full, and always the same stink.
 
But he liked his work. He and dozens of his coworkers sat under very bright lamps examining defective computers sent in by dealers from all over the country. He knew how fragile the brains of the little disks were, how complex and mysteri­ous. No one fully understood how they functioned; no one could say for sure why they suddenly broke down or went haywire. For a long time now nobody had attempted to establish the root causes, they simply substituted one compo­nent or another until the whole thing started working again. He often thought about just how much in the world depended on these machines, bearing in mind what an excep­tion, even a miracle, it was if they actually did the things they were supposed to. In the evenings, half asleep, he was so trou­bled by this idea—all the airplanes, all the electronically guided weaponry, the entire banking system—that his heart began to race. That’s when Elke snapped at him, saying why couldn’t he just lie there quietly, she might as well be sharing her bed with a cement mixer, and he would apologize, think­ing that his mother had long since been the one to tell him that he was too sensitive.
 
As he was getting out of the subway car, the phone rang. It was Elke, telling him to buy cucumbers on the way home tonight: the supermarket in their street was offering a special on them.
 
Ebling said he would and hung up fast. It rang again and a woman asked him if he’d thought it over, only an idiot would give up someone like her. Or did he see it differently?
 
No, he said without thinking, that’s how he saw it too.
 
“Ralf!” She laughed.
 
Ebling’s heart thumped, and his throat was dry. He hung up.
 
He was confused and nervous the whole way to the office. Obviously an original owner of this number had a voice simi­lar to his own. He called Customer Service again.
 
No, said a woman, they couldn’t just give him another number unless he paid for it.
 
“But this number already belongs to someone else!”
 
Impossible, she said. There were—
 
“Security measures, I know! But I keep getting calls for . . . You know, I’m a technician myself. I know you’re inundated with calls from people who are absolutely clueless. But this is my area. I know how—”
 
Nothing she could do, she said. She would pass on his request.
 
“And then? What happens next?”
 
Then, she said, they’d see. But that wasn’t part of her job.
 
That morning he couldn’t concentrate on his work. His hands trembled and he had no appetite during his lunch break, even though there was Wiener schnitzel on the menu. The canteen didn’t have it very often, and normally he was already looking forward to it the day before. But this time he put his tray back on the rack with his plate still half full, went off to a quiet corner of the dining room, and switched on his phone.
 
Three messages. His daughter, wanting to be picked up from her ballet class. This was a surprise to him because he hadn’t even known she was taking dancing. A man, saying please call back. There was nothing in his message to suggest which one of them he meant: Ebling or the other one. And then a woman, wanting to know why he was making himself scarce. This voice, deep and caressing, was one he hadn’t heard before. Just as he was about to disconnect, the phone rang again. The number on the screen began with a plus sign and 22. Ebling didn’t know which country code that was. He knew almost nobody in other countries, just his cousin in Sweden and a huge old woman in Minneapolis who sent a photograph of herself every year at Christmas, raising a glass with a big grin. To all the dear Eblings it said on the back, and neither he nor Elke had a clue which one of them she was related to. He picked up.
 
“Are we seeing each other next month?” a man asked loudly. “You’re going to the Lucerne festival, aren’t you? They’re not going to make it without you, not the way things are, Ralf, you know?”
 
“I’ll be there,” said Ebling.
 
“That guy Lohmann. Should have expected it. Have you spoken to Degetel’s people?”
 
“Not yet.”
 
“C’mon, it’s time! Lucerne can really help, like Venice three years ago.” The man laughed. “Apart from that? Clara?”
 
“Yes, yes,” said Ebling.
 
“You old dog,” said the man. “Unbelievable.”
 
“I think so too,” said Ebling.
 
“D’you have a cold? You sound funny.”
 
“I have to . . . go do something. I’ll call you back.”
 
“Okay. You never change, do you?”
 
The man hung up. Ebling leaned against the wall and rubbed his forehead. He needed a moment to get ahold of himself: this was the canteen, he was surrounded by cowork­ers eating schnitzel. At that moment Rogler was going past, carrying his tray.
 
“Hello, Ebling,” said Rogler. “Everything okay?”
 
“Sure.” Ebling switched off the phone.
 
The whole afternoon, he couldn’t focus. The question of which part in a particular computer was defective, and how anyone could have arrived at the errors described in the deal­ers’ cryptic reports—customer says re-set activ. imm. bef. display but indic. zero—just didn’t interest him today. It was the same feeling you got when something was making you happy.
 
He prolonged the moment. The phone stayed silent dur­ing the subway ride home, it stayed silent while he shopped for cucumbers in the supermarket, and all during dinner with Elke and the two children, who kept kicking each other under the table, it slumbered in his pocket, but he couldn’t stop thinking about it.
 
Then he went down to the cellar. It smelled of mildew, there was a pile of beer crates in one corner, and the compo­nent parts of a temporarily disassembled IKEA wardrobe in another. Ebling switched on the phone. Two messages. Just as he was going to listen to them, the gadget vibrated in his hand: someone was calling.
 
“Yes?”
 
“Ralf?”
 
“Yes?”
 
“Now what?” She laughed. “Are you playing games with me?”
 
“I’d never do that.”
 
“Pity!”
 
His hand shook. “You’re right. In fact, I’d . . . like to . . .”
 
“Yes?”
 
“. . . play with you.”
 
“When?”
 
Ebling looked around. He knew this cellar better than any place in the world. He had put every object in it there him­self. “Tomorrow. You say when and where. I’ll be there.”
 
“You mean it?”
 
“Up to you to find out.”
 
He heard her take a deep breath. “Pantagruel. Nine o’clock. You make the reservation.”
 
“Will do.”
 
“You know this is crazy?”
 
“Who’s to care?”
 
She laughed and hung up.
 
That night he reached for his wife for the first time in a very long time. At first she was simply incredulous, then she asked what had come over him and had he been drinking, then she gave in. It was quick, and even as he felt her still underneath him, it seemed to him that they were doing something transgressive. A hand tapped his shoulder: she couldn’t breathe! He apologized, but it was another few min­utes before he pulled away and rolled over on his side. Elke switched on the light, gave him a disapproving look, and retreated to the bathroom.
 
Of course he didn’t go to Pantagruel. He left the phone switched off all day, and at nine o’clock he was sitting in front of the TV with his son watching a second division soccer match. He felt an electrical prickling, it was as if he had a doppelgänger, his representative in a parallel universe, who was entering an expensive restaurant at this very moment to meet a tall, beautiful woman who hung on his words, who laughed when he said something witty, and who brushed her hand against his, now and again, as if by accident.
 
At half time he went down to the cellar and switched on the phone. No message. He waited. No one called. After half an hour he switched it off again and went to bed; he couldn’t go on pretending that soccer interested him.
 
He couldn’t get to sleep, and shortly after midnight he got up and groped his way back into the cellar, barefoot and in his nightshirt. He switched on the phone. Four messages. Before he could listen to them, the phone rang.
 
“Ralf,” said a man. “Sorry I’m calling so late . . . but it’s important! Malzacher is insisting that the two of you meet tomorrow. The whole project may be on the skids. Morgen­heim will be there too. You know what’s at stake!”
 
“I don’t care,” said Ebling.
 
“Are you nuts?”
 
“We’ll see.”
 
“You really are nuts!”
 
“Morgenheim’s bluffing,” said Ebling.
 
“You’ve certainly got balls.”
 
“Yes,” said Ebling. “I do.”

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Voices 3

In Danger 18

Rosalie Goes Off to Die 42

The Way Out 66

The East 80

Replying to the Abbess 102

A Contribution to the Debate 112

How I Lied and Died 135

In Danger 164

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(1)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2013

    Alec

    Sigsphs i knew it was too good to be true

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2013

    Blake

    Hy lol im that random person nowon kniws that ruins all the fun

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)