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My Red Heaven

dzanc, 2020

Set on a single day in 1927, My Red Heaven imagines a host of characters––some historic, some invented––crossing paths on the streets of Berlin.

The subjects include Robert Musil, Otto Dix, Werner Heisenberg, Anita Berber, Vladimir Nabokov, Käthe Kollwitz, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Rosa Luxemburg––as well as others history has forgotten: a sommelier, a murderer, a prostitute, a pick-pocket, and several ghosts.

Drawing inspiration from Otto Freundlich’s painting by the same name, My Red Heaven explores a complex moment in history: the rise of deadly populism at a time when everything seemed possible and the future unimaginable.

“Rarely is genuine innovation this heartfelt. Through erudition and capacious prose, Olsen achieves a kind of cultural autopsy of an inflamed space and time. The result is a privileged view of naked humanity, consoled by art, science, and the rest, but ultimately unable to escape its baseness. A powerful work.

Sergio de la Pava, author of Lost Empress and Personae

“Lance Olsen’s My Red Heaven is a superb evocation of a specific time and place — Berlin, 10 June 1927 — that captures the intellectual ferment, the descent into decadence, and rise of Nazism during the Weimar Republic. With historically precise detailing and grimly gorgeous imagery, Olsen portrays a number of notable people traversing the day, conveyed from a variety of points-of-view — even a dog’s — and in a variety of 1920s forms: Joycean interior monologue, Dos Passosian newsreel, UFA film script, Benjaminian notes, and more. My Red Heaven is an intellectual and stylistic tour de force from one of America’s most consistently innovative writers.”

Steven Moore, author of The Novel, An Alternative History

“Lance Olsen locates his porous, alluring, heartbreaking, and haunted narrative in Berlin on a day in 1927. Poised at a moment of such hope and doom, it is a ravishing meditation on history, on time, and on what is it to be alive.”

Carole Maso, author of Ava and Mother and Child

“Sparked by the exuberant energy of his own multivalent perception, ignited by the brilliance of his wildly playful imagination and unfathomably expansive compassion, Lance Olsen has translated My Red Heaven, Otto Freundlich’s abstract cubist painting, into a novel full of dissonant shocks and thrilling confusions, a library of loss revealing the perilous ecstasies of life in Berlin between the wars. Layer by layer, he unpeels a palimpsest of paint, turning his fiercely attentive, unbounded love to every being in every moment, exposing infinite unknown dimensions, delivering us to exhilaration and terror as we watch the future and the past irradiate our present moment.”

Melanie Rae Thon, author of The Voice of the RiverSilence & Song

“In this 24-hour novel, Olsen explores new subjectivities and new histories both after and before the moments directly written about. It’s fascinating and wonderfully readable. Kafka, Nabokov, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe all make their appearances…and strange lists of newsworthy events cascade down before us now and again. It’s a fitting follow-up to Calendar of Regrets and beautifully written.”

Samuel R. Delany, author of Dhalgren and Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders

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my red heaven
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