by Daphne Kalotay
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Pub Date 15 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 27 Mar 2023
Northwestern University Press, TriQuarterly
The characters in The Archivists are everyday people, but when private losses or the shocks of history set their worlds reeling, they find connection and liberation in surprising, buoyant ways. Winner of the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, this vibrant collection brings transcendence, wry humor, and a touch of the uncanny to life’s absurdities and catastrophes—whether the 2008 economic crash, fallout after the 2016 presidential election, gentrification, pandemic lockdown, illness, or the intergenerational impacts of the Holocaust and Communist occupation of Eastern Europe.
A hardheaded realist is confronted by both her mortality and a would-be wizard. A thirteen-year-old girl in 1950s Toronto infiltrates the ranks of Bell Canada. A ninety-nine-year-old woman appears to be invincible. A group hikes in Germany, and a solitary woman is pursued on a walk in New Mexico. These deeply moving stories ingeniously consider issues of identity, history, and memory and our shared search for meaning in an off-kilter world.
"The Archivists coheres around both loss and its flip side, survival—and the willful acts of remembering and forgetting that stir those forces into our lives. These twelve stories are revelatory, unsettling, and yet somehow deeply familiar. As I began each piece, I had the feeling of sinking into something rich and real, a world that became more urgent than the one I was sitting in. That urgency always led me somewhere vital—and what more can we ask of great fiction?" —Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers
"Kalotay is one of our great writers, and these stories—intimately detailed with grief, hope, longing, joy—are small miracles. More than once I was brought to tears. Reading them is like magically entering a set of photographs, and feeling as the characters feel. Or no—of mirrors, because we recognize ourselves. The Archivists, with its empathy and precision, is what reading is about." —Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less
"This is a wonderful book from a remarkably versatile writer—one never knows if a given story in it will turn out to be historical fiction, social realism, psychological horror, or something else entirely, and the adroit, unpredictable shifts from one genre to another are one of the greatest pleasures of this collection." —Dexter Palmer, author of Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen and Version Control
"The Archivists centers on the fragility of relationships and life. It is remarkable in its breath and depth, covering a wide range of characters, premises, and social and cultural issues without ever seeming performative or didactic. This is a compelling collection of short stories with elegant prose, vivid and visceral details, complex characterization, excellent tension, and suspenseful arcs." —Ethel Rohan, author of In the Event of Contact and The Weight of Him