Austin Ratner

February 2, 2016

Irish playwright Seán O’Casey called him “the jesting poet with a radiant star in his coxcomb.” Eugene O’Neill asked him to name his children. James Joyce asked him to complete ‘Finnegans Wake’ should Joyce himself go blind. He published plays, novels, stories, and poems, including a series of them in The New Yorker in 1929, and his voice once pervaded the Irish airwaves like rainbows south of Skibbereen.

Read more at The Millions.

April 6, 2015

During the second-to-last spring of the 20th century, when heavy rains gorged the Zambezi River and hid Victoria Falls entirely in mist, I was not quite killed by my own stupidity. But almost.

Read more at Roads and Kingdoms.

February 18, 2015

Anny Katan learned psychoanalysis at Sigmund Freud’s knee — on his lap, in fact!

“I grew up often literally sitting on Freud’s lap when I was very little,” Katan explained in a 1986 interview, reminiscing about her childhood in Vienna.

Her personal history, intertwined as it was with the origins of psychoanalysis and with the Holocaust, transpired on a world stage. In my own personal history there was no sitting on Freud’s lap and no Nazis; there was, however, Anny Katan.

Read more at The Forward.

November 18, 2014

In the first installment of the BLP Conversations series, author Austin Ratner speaks to Joseph E. LeDoux, director of the Emotional Brain Institute at NYU, about the brain-mind and art-science divides….

Click here to read the conversation.

April 20, 2013

Aposiopesis is one of those literary tropes you learn while studying “The Aeneid” in high school Latin, and it stuck in my head better than many others over the intervening years. Little did I know that it would one day provide an organizing principle, and even the title, to my second novel, “In the Land of the Living.” Read More at The Wall Street Journal.

October 7, 2012

I’ll forever remember Gene Wilder in the 1979 movie “The Frisco Kid.” He plays a Polish rabbi newly arrived in America in the days of the Wild West. In the first scene, he sees some Mennonite farmers dressed as he is, in black hats, and, overjoyed and relieved, he mistakenly calls out: “Landsman!” The grown-ups laughed over this line, so I did too. Read more at The Forward.

March 7, 2012

They say geography is destiny. The hills of Greece, according to some historians, encouraged the locals to carve them into city-states. England, “bound in with the triumphant sea,” as Shakespeare put it, inherited the oceans. The Jews were born to a desert land besieged by mortal enemies and afflicted with drought and famine, and then they were exiled from it. Read more at The Forward.

June 17, 2009

I was so young when my father died that I don’t exactly remember him, but I do dream about him, and I wish for him to return, and I seem constantly to be in some sort of uncompleted dialogue with him in my head. I was having one of those inner dialogues a number of years ago when I sat down with my wife at the Sunshine Cinema on Houston Street in New York to watch “American Splendor.” Read more at The New York Times Magazine.

September 25, 2008

What if shadows were darker? But only by a little bit—almost the same as themselves, in fact, less one-billionth the brightness of a full moon. Maximilian Mandelbrot, aged thirty-six and a writer of naturalistic short stories, decided to write a story about just that. He wrote: One day the shadows grew darker by a value equal to one billionth the brightness of a full moon. Read the PDF at the

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