Photo credit: Lisa Ackerman
“I saw this as a novel about a deeply divided country, and how the tensions of living in a deeply divided country play out — in sexual relationships, in friendships, in power dynamics, in all the ways that people get pushed into silence. Who gets shamed? Who gets to leverage that shame?”
Idra Novey is a poet, translator and novelist, whose most recent novel, Those Who Knew, is an extraordinarily timely and deeply riveting exploration of the cost of staying silent and the mixed rewards of speaking up against a powerful man in a profoundly divided country. Those Who Knew unfolds on an unnamed island country, ten years after the collapse of a U.S.-supported regime. Lena, a college professor, suspects that the powerful senator she was involved with back in her activist days may be guilty of a crime. Novey renders a vivid portrait of the conflicts - both internal and external - surrounding Lena’s decision to speak out against a powerful man. “Over and over" Idra remarked, in a recent speech, “we have seen this scenario play out, of people choosing to dismiss and scrutinize a victim rather than take on the emotional work of sitting with the hard truth that someone capable of admirable actions is also capable of despicable ones.”
“Mesmerizing... Those Who Knew is an uncannily prescient novel that animates the #MeToo movement and speaks to the depth of the moral quagmire we currently find ourselves in...The novel’s exploration of how silence is weaponized by institutions, which permit those who commit horrible abuses to get away with them, feels tailor-made for our times...the rare novel that challenges its readers to consider what [that] silence is costing us. When historians write about this political moment, our collective willingness to speak out will go a long way in determining whether we are at the nadir of our democracy or if the Terrible Years are still to come.”-- The Los Angeles Times
Those Who Knew is inspiring in its creative and artistic achievements, but also a powerful tool in framing and examining a difficult current subject. Idra’s previous novel, Ways to Disappear, won the 2017 Sami Rohr Prize, 2016 Brooklyn Public Library Fiction Prize was and a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She’s written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, NPR’s All Things Considered, New York Magazine, and The Paris Review. She is the recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN Translation Fund, and the Poetry Foundation. She’s taught at Columbia, NYU, Fordham, and in the Bard Prison Initiative and currently teaches at Princeton University.