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Nick Dybek Presents: The Verdun Affair

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Join us in welcoming author Nick Dybek back to Kalamazoo for the release of his new novel, "The Verdun Affair"

THE VERDUN AFFAIR (Scribner, June 26, 2018), is Nick Dybek’s deeply moving and evocative new novel set in the surreal aftermath of World War I.
Nearly three quarters of a million men died or disappeared at Verdun in the largest and longest battle on the Western front. In 1921, Tom, an American and former ambulance driver, spends his days gathering remains from the battlefield. When Sarah Hagen arrives from Boston by way of Paris in search of her husband—missing, presumed dead—she is one in a long succession of family members searching for answers. Bound up in their own recollections, Tom and Sarah begin a tangled affair as they seek to make sense of the trauma and confusion of war. Months later, in a hospital in Bologna, an amnesiac soldier turns up, drawing Tom, Sarah, and Paul, a journalist with his own interest in the case, to his side. Each of the three believes the patient, known only as “Douglas Fairbanks,” holds answers for them. Decades later in Los Angeles, Tom, now a screenwriter, encounters Paul again, and they look back together at the experience that changed their lives.

Nick Dybek is a recipient of a Granta New Voices selection, a Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award, and a Maytag Fellowship. He received a BA from the University of Michigan and an MFA from The Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He teaches at Oregon State University.

On the centenary of the end of the First World War, Dybek presents a monumental human experience through a fresh, personal story that deftly captures the impulse to create narrative order and human connection from chaos. Calling to mind sweepingly romantic war novels like The English Patient and Atonement, THE VERDUN AFFAIR is a cinematic, masterful, and deeply engaging exploration of love, war, and how we find and lose ourselves.


“Love, war, the mysteries of who we are — it's all in The Verdun Affair. A masterful novel that will fizz your brain and enchant your heart.”

—David Ebershoff, author of The Danish Girl and The 19th Wife

“Sometimes the true battle begins only after the fighting is over. In this case, it’s the struggle to regain feeling, memory, and love in a landscape where verdancy can flourish again over graves and trenches and bones, but not over the craters of a wounded spirit. In the end, only a story can do that, but it must be as rich and poignant and compelling as Nick Dybek’s immersive and atmospheric The Verdun Affair. The meaning in life often goes AWOL, and we look to our great writers—writers like Nick Dybek—to bring it back.”

—Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master’s Son and Fortune Smiles

“The Verdun Affair is ravishingly beautiful, and as much about love as about war. Nick Dybek is a storyteller of great power. I found myself drawn in immediately, believing the place, the characters, everything in his magnificently woven story. If there’s any justice, this novel will be widely read and recognized. I absolutely adored it.”
—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

“I am still haunted by the images of war so deftly conjured in the midst of an elegiac

love story. Dybek writes with a commanding sense of story and language.

This novel will not let you go.”

—Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Summer Before the War

“A haunting, beautiful, and wholly absorbing book that is at once a gripping story of war, a poignant coming of age, and a bittersweet romance. Dybek conjures the time period with elegance and visceral detail. I didn’t want it to end!”

—Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles and Circe

“The Verdun Affair is an intensely gripping story set in the immediate aftermath of war. From a still-smoldering battlefield, Nick Dybek conjures a sweeping saga of secrets, lies, mistaken identity, love and betrayal. This is the kind of book you can’t put down.”

—Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus and Battleborn

“The Verdun Affair is a masterful, sweeping novel of love and war and the way we reconstruct ourselves and our stories after everything has come apart. Nick Dybek is a vivid storyteller, and this is a beautiful and exciting book.”

—Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and No One is Here Except all of Us