First Person

First Person

Book - 2018
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"From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, the hypnotic tale of a ghost writer writing the memoir of a notorious con man, and the chilling events that unfold as their lives become increasingly intertwined. Kif Kehlmann, a young, penniless writer, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl offers Kehlmann the job of ghost-writing his memoir. He has six weeks to write the book, for which he'll be paid $10,000. But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghost writing a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him--his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: who is Siegfried Heidl--and who is Kif Kehlmann? As time runs out, as Kehlmann's world feels it is hurtling towards a catharsis, one question looms above all others: what is the truth? By turns compelling, comic, and chilling, this is a haunting journey into the heart of our age"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2018
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780525520023
Call Number: F FLANAGAN
Characteristics: 351 pages ; 25 cm


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Feb 20, 2019

A frustrated and frustrating autobiographical novel about a writer's frustrated collaboration with an infamous Australian con man on the fraudster's autobiography. Very frustrating to read, too.

Sep 13, 2018

This book is a wry, knowing riff on the act of writing and the literary imagination. It is written in the form of a memoir penned by the writer Kif Kehlmann who was employed to ghost-write the memoir of a con-man Siegfried Heidl.
If Siegfried Heidl sounds familiar, it's because he is. He is based on John Friedrich, who became the director of the National Safety Council of Australia (Victorian division) which collapsed with debts of a quarter of a billion dollars. He wrote, with Richard Flanagan (i.e. the author of this book) himself as ghost writer, Codename Iago: The Story of John Friedrich. And so, this book which appears to be a novel framed as a memoir, is probably more memoir than it appears, although it is not true.
The real pleasure of this book was knowing its tortured relationship with 'truth', and I had a little chuckle out loud when Kif referred to his ultimately-rejected first novel about a drowning river guide, knowing full well that this is Death of a River Guide, Flanagan's debut novel now viewed as a classic. I wondered how a reader unfamiliar with Flanagan and his work would read this book. For those of us who have followed Flanagan's work, it's a little nod and wink in our direction.

For my complete review, see

May 23, 2018

The author took about 2/3 of the book to repeatedly discuss that the two main characters are somehow intertwined. I skipped multiple pages as I was reading to find sections that actually had plot progression. I don't recommend this book.

May 07, 2018

First Person, a perplexing fabrication of meaningless drivel, neither amusing nor edifying, providing not even a morsel of reading satisfaction. Maybe there's a sublime, ulterior motive for publishing the novel only the literati are privy to. Perhaps it's a vehicle for repressed emotions on the part of Mr Flanagan, or an inside joke. The book does rate as a first-class time dissipater.

Nicr Apr 30, 2018

Kif Kehlmann, in the midst of trying to write a literary novel and desperate for money, has been tasked with ghostwriting--in six weeks--the memoir of celebrity con artist Siegfried Heidl: "I would meet myself writing Heidl." A little repetitive, as Kif continually battles Heidl's obfuscation (his "heidling"). A rumination on corruption and mortality. Derived from Flanagan's own experience as a ghost writer.

multcolib_susannel Apr 09, 2018

Even though writing a great novel is Kif's dream, when offered the chance to ghost write the autobiography of famous criminal/con man, Seigfried Heidle, he takes it.


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