The Blazing World, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2014The artist Harriet Burden, furious at the lack of attention paid her by the New York art world, conducts an experiment: she hides her identity behind three male fronts in a series of exhibitions.

Their success seems to prove her point, but there's a sting in the tail - when she unmasks herself, not everyone believes her.

Then her last collaborator meets a bizarre end. In this mesmerising tour de force, Burden's story emerges after her death through a variety of sources, including her (not entirely reliable) journals and the testimonies of her children, lover and a dear friend.

Each account is different, however, and the mysteries multiply.


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A very clever book about the art world, feminism, philosophy and neuroscience. The core story is about an artist, a rich widow who wants to prove that the artistic establishment discriminates against women, and particularly older women, and devises a scheme to exhibit her work presented as the work of younger males. The book presents itself as an academic treatise, a mixture of interviews, the artist's notebooks and the accounts of her friends, family and various other players. The notebooks in particular allow Hustvedt to explore her own interests and provide her own footnotes explaining the ideas and historys of artists, scientists and philosophers. If that sounds dry and difficult, that would convey a false impression - Hustvedt is a lively literary ventriloquist, and the narrative weaves its way through the various contradictory accounts and delivers some surprising conclusions.