The Stone World (Hardcover)

The Stone World By Joel Agee Cover Image

The Stone World (Hardcover)


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From the son of acclaimed author James Agee, a haunting novel depicting an American boy’s childhood in Mexico, ensconced in a world comprised of communist European exiles, local union activists, street children, and avant-garde artists like Frida Kahlo.
Joel Agee’s hallucinatory first novel begins in a house with a large garden in an unnamed Mexican town in the late 1940s, where six-and-a-half-year-old Peter reads, dreams, and plays with his friends. He is a nascent explorer, artist, philosopher, mystic, and scientist. His world is still new, not yet papered over with received knowledge.
And the actual world around him is a unique one in history: a community of leftist emigrés who have found refuge in Mexico from the Nazi and fascist regimes of Europe, rubbing shoulders with Mexican labor activists and leftists such as Frida Kahlo.  
But the emigrés long for home — including Peter’s step-father, who wants to return to his native Germany. Going back to Europe may not be safe for any of them yet, however, which gives rise to anguished arguments among Peter’s parents’s and their tight group of friends.
And slowly, Peter begins to comprehend that his world may be turned upside down – that he might be forced to take leave of everyone he knows: his best friend, Arón; his father’s friend Sándor, who talks about revolution and performs magic tricks; and Zita, the family’s live-in-maid, who has taught him the consoling mysteries of prayer . . .
Steeped in the magic and myths of childhood — yet haunted by a harsh adult world bedeviled by instability and political turmoil — Joel Agee’s The Stone World is an unforgettable portrait of a family that will inevitably invite comparison with another classic family story, that of his father James Agee’s A Death in the Family.
Joel Agee is a writer and translator. He has won numerous awards for his translation work, including the Berlin Prize of the American Academy in Berlin; the Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize; and the ALTA National Translation Award, as well as fellowships form the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. His essays have appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, The Yale Review, and other magazines, and he is the author of two acclaimed memoirs: Twelve Years: An American Boyhood in East Germany and In the House of My Fear. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Product Details ISBN: 9781612199542
ISBN-10: 1612199542
Publisher: Melville House
Publication Date: February 22nd, 2022
Pages: 240
Language: English
"A supremely beautiful novel . . . masterful . . . An exquisite meditation upon language, meaning, human longing and consciousness itself, The Stone World will fill readers with wonder." The Washington Post

"[A] lyrical first novel." The New York Times

"This is a quietly profound study of boyhood...In the hands of such a skilled and nuanced writer, this material exudes both beauty and menace." -- Shelf Awareness, STARRED REVIEW

"The story swings between the resonances of languorous, carefree summer days and the nervous energy of the big and small questions that cloud a child’s mind. He [Peter] is naïve and unpretentious, and it is easy to move into his world and get lost — and find ourselves — in its magic." -- The Houston Chronicle

"Agee’s novel is a work of wonder... [The Stone World] reminds us that our world is far larger and deeper than we tend to experience it at any given moment." -- The Christian Century

"A tender and potent saga of an American boy who grows up in mid-20th-century Mexico...Agee’s lyrical prose glides the reader through defining moments of love, friendship, and maturity as Peter comes to cherish his foreign cultural surroundings." - Publishers Weekly

""The unpretentiousness of the story carries a certain magic . . . An earnest and mystical evocation of childhood memory." - Kirkus

"Leave it to Joel Agee to breathe new life into this old conceit. The central question of The Stone World, Joel Agee’s debut novel, is elegant and simple: What really goes on in a 6-year-old’s mind?" -- Chapter16

“Joel Agee’s astonishing new novel is one of the purest, most penetrating explorations of childhood I have ever read. Driven by a prose almost transparent in its clarity, the book takes us so deep into the inner life of its six-year-old protagonist that the customary boundaries between writer and reader, reader and text, text and truth dissolve. We are inside the inside and therefore outside ourselves—at one with the book. The Stone World is more than a great literary achievement, it is a remarkable human achievement as well.” — Paul Auster

“In The Stone World, a child’s particular experiences are rendered with such radiant lucidity, exquisite nuance, and honest feeling they become universal. It is childhood itself that Joel Agee returns to his reader. We all were short people once, puzzling out the strange ways and often opaque language of the grownups, as well as our own fears, loves, pains, and wonders, but the specificity of these realities recedes with time. In this brilliant novel, the lost world of childhood is resurrected with a force and clarity that is nothing less than astounding.” — Siri Hustvedt

“I love how the language in The Stone World captures the wonder and the courage of its young protagonist as he navigates his changing world with a trust that never falters. This is an extraordinary, incandescent novel, stirring with deep inner movement yet timelessly still like the sea.” — Fae Myenne Ng, author of Bone,  Steer Toward Rock, and the forthcoming Orphan Bachelors

“This is one of those delicious novels that shimmers with its own intense reality, a tang of the actual. I felt I was there, in Mexico in the forties, with Peter and his friends, with this émigré family and their passionate and gifted friends.” — Jay Parini, author of The Last Station

“Young Pira, Joel Agee’s deep boy hero, asks the meaning of words, and the answers lead us to reflect on our own thinking and loving, on the ways in which friendship can be betrayed and repaired, on the history we are living, on the power of the imagination to go where thinking stops.” Lore Segal, author of The Journal I Did Not Keep

Praise for Joel Agee’s previous books . . .

"A wonderfully evocative memoir. . . . Agee evoked for me the atmosphere of postwar Berlin more vividly than the actual experience of it—and I was there." — Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

"One of those rare personal memoirs that brings to life a whole country and an epoch." —Christopher Isherwood

"By turns poetic and picturesque, Agee energetically catalogues his expatriate passage to manhood with a pinpoint eye and a healthy American distaste for pretension. . . . Huckleberry Finn would have . . . welcomed [him] as a soulmate on the raft." — J. D. Reed, Time

“This voluptuously rendered account of a life lived with unbounded curiosity's among the most wonderful of memoirs I've ever read." — Jamaica Kincaid, author of Lucy