City Lights in conjunction with Fern Books present
Eduardo Berti reading from his new novel
An Ideal Presence
Translated by Daniel Levin Becker
published by Fern Books
In 2015, the Argentinian novelist Eduardo Berti spent several weeks in a “medico-literary” residency at the University Hospital Centre in Rouen, France, observing and conversing with the staff and volunteers of its palliative care department. From that experience he created this series of lightly fictionalized testimonials from nurses, nursing aides, doctors, administrators, porters, volunteer musicians, and the other people who make the unit tick. The result is a distinctly intimate and often poignant portrait of sickness and care, and unflinching look at death through the eyes of the people who work with it every day—but also a profound reflection on what it means to be alive.
Praise for An Ideal Presence
An Ideal Presence is about death, yes, but more than that, it’s a meditation on the complicated business of living. A funny, tender book.
-Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties & In the Dream House
One of the most outstanding writers of his generation, Eduardo Berti has dared to explore the darkest chasms of the truth of fiction and emerge not only victorious but with a cautionary, joyful, profoundly intelligent guide for our anguished times. An Ideal Presence is mandatory reading.
-Alberto Manguel, author of Curiosity & A History of Reading
I loved Eduardo Berti’s beautifully and carefully constructed meditation on the notion of presence at death. This book left me gasping.
-Amy Fusselman, author of Idiophone & Savage Park
Eduardo Berti’s resonant homage to caretakers offers us a rare glimpse at the small moments that fill out the days of hospitals, from the humorous and warming to the unsettling and devastating. Not a word is wasted in Berti’s book, nor in Daniel Levin Becker’s ideal translation.
-Emma Ramadan, translator and co-owner of Riffraff
It’s a tour de force to offer such emotion from such fleeting characters, and it’s the opposite of a tour de force the way Berti refrains from any visible virtuosity, the apparent simplicity with which he gives body and soul to all these lives, those departing and those remaining. It’s as if the reader is looked after by the hospital workers and the author at once, held in the arms of each and all.
-Mathieu Lindon, Libération
Each of these deaths is an unspeakable drama in itself, a little complete world snuffed out. Eduardo Berti’s talent consists in making us feel the drama without adding any, by the simple multiplication of points of view, the discreet power of the short play.
-Bernard Quiriny, L’Opinion
Curious at first, we become complicit, touched by the emotions that well up from such particular instants, from these moments that form the foundations of philosophies, beliefs, fears, religions. It’s often awful, but quite beautiful sometimes too. Powerful, always. It’s not macabre. It’s profound.
-PLM, La Voix du Nord
This event is sponsored by the City Lights Foundation