Three Rings

May 14, 2021

Best-selling memoirist and critic Daniel Mendelsohn discusses his genre-defying book Three Rings.

Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate explores the mysterious links between the randomness of the lives we lead and the artfulness of the stories we tell.

Combining memoir, biography, history, and literary criticism, Daniel Mendelsohn weaves together the stories of three exiled writers who turned to the classics of the past to create masterpieces of their own – works that pondered the nature of narrative itself: Jewish philologist Erich Auerbach, 17th-century French archbishop Francois Fenelon, and the German novelist W.G. Sebald. As Three Rings moves to its startling conclusion, a climactic revelation about the way in which the lives of its three heroes were linked across borders, languages, and centuries forces the reader to reconsider the relationship between narrative and history, art and life. He will be joined in conversation by classicist Johanna Hanink.


Daniel Mendelsohn is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, where he is Editor-at-Large. His books include the memoirs An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic and The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million as well as three collections of essays and criticism, most recently Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones. He teaches literature at Bard College.

Johanna Hanink is associate professor of Classics at Brown University and a scholar of classical Athenian history, literature, and culture. She is also the author of The Classical Debt: Greek Antiquity in an Era of Austerity (Harvard 2017) and Lycurgan Athens and the Making of Classical Tragedy (Cambridge 2014). Her writing on antiquity and its intersections with modern life has appeared in the Atlantic, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times, and the Times Literary Supplement.

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Categories: Classics, Literature & Poetry