First, the Raven: A Preface


“Seth Rogoff’s unconventional novel, First, the Raven: A Preface, proves highly innovative in its conceit and almost impossibly perfect in its execution. This is a tale of confined spaces and psychological discomfort—a rendezvous, after nearly twenty years, between translator Sy Kirschbaum and playwright Gabe Slatky inside a downscale Maine bar during a blizzard. Kirschbaum, who has devoted his adult life to translating an epic Czech novel, has been summoned back to his New England hometown by his former lover, Ida, who is also Slatky’s wife and muse. As the two men engage in a raw, emotional pas de deux, we are swept into a world of lost time and fleeting hope. If any literary endeavor could stand at the nexus of My Dinner With Andre and The Iceman Cometh, this is the work. Although the influences are Bellow and Roth—diluted with a chaser of Kafka—the final product is decidedly an American original. First, the Raven runs broad and deep; it is an intelligent and inventive introduction to a voice of extraordinary power and promise.”

—Jacob M. Appel, author of Einstein’s Beach House and The Mask of Sanity

“This dreamlike book, inspired by Kafka’s but also Havel’s city of Prague, creates a separate universe following its own laws, an enchanted island. The narrative is all at once intensely personal and historical, playfully esoteric and resolutely seducing.”

—Magdaléna Platzová, author of Aaron’s Leap and The Attempt

“A sad, wise novel about friends, foreign countries, and friends as foreign countries. I raise a glass to Rogoff’s First.

—Joshua Cohen, author of Book of Numbers and Moving Kings