Searching for (and finding) the ultimate niche experience, R.O. Kwon’s first novel The Incendiaries has made its way into contemporary mainstream sensitivities beset by the need to conform and stand out. Set on a fictional Ivy League campus (niche 1), new student Phoebe is recruited into a religious cult by John Leals, a soft-talking barefoot guru (niche 2), all the while observed by ex-boyfriend Will, himself busy fudging the details of his working-class, scholarship background (niche 3). That’s a lot of niches and Kwon juggles perspectives with aplomb, making her a shoo-in for this year’s festival both in terms of talent and context. Kwon, who was born in South Korea but has lived most of her life in the US, is a Yale graduate and holds an MFA in fiction from Brooklyn College. Now a non-believer, she’s distrustful of religious certainties while understanding their lure and, in particular, the social processes that underpin their attraction. She should be a must-read in pre-electoral America and is definitely a must-hear at Collegium Hungaricum Berlin, Sep 14, 21:00.
R.O. Kwon | Sep 14, 21:00, Collegium Hungaricum Berlin