Lee Siegel Portrait
© Hartwig Klappert

Guest 2003.


Sacred and Profane Dimensions of Love in Indian Traditions
Oxford University Press
Delhi, New York, 1978

Fires of Love, Waters of Peace. Passions and Renunciation in Indian Culture
University of Hawaii Press
Honolulu, 1983

Laughing Matters. Comic Tradition in India
University of Chicago Press
Chicago, 1987

Net of Magic. Wonders and Deceptions in India
University of Chicago Press
Chicago, 1991

City of Dreadful Night. A Story about Horror & the Macabre in India
University of Chicago Press
Chicago, 1995

Love in a Dead Language
University of Chicago Press
Chicago, 1999

Love and Other Games of Chance
New York, 2003

Who Wrote the Book of Love?
University of Chicago Press
Chicago, 2005

Falling Upwards: Essays in Defense of Imagination
Basic Books
New York, 2006

Love and the incredibly old man: A novel
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago, 2008

Against the machine: Being human in the age of the electronic mob
Spiegel & Grau
New York, 2008

Are you serious? How to be true and get real in the age of silly
New York, 2011

Lee Siegel [ USA ]

Lee Siegel was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1945. He studied Comparative Literature at the University of California in Berkeley and fine arts at Columbia University in New York.  After completing his doctoral dissertation in the field of Sanskrit at Oxford University, he was hired by the University of Hawaii, where he has since worked as a Professor of Religious Studies.

Siegel's scholarly examinations of Indian love poetry, comedy, horror, and magic have won many awards. His interest in, knowledge of, and fascination with the culture of India influence and inform his fiction.  Siegel's first novel 'Love in a Dead Language' (1999), a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, is the story of a professor of Indology who, imagining that he will only be able to fully understand Indian culture when he has had an affair with an Indian woman, falls obsessively and disastrously in love with a young American student of Indian descent. The book is a satire of the American academy, a parody of Western fantasies about Oriental understandings of sexual passion, and a burlesque of the many ways of writing about erotic love.

Siegel's novel, 'Love and Other Games of Chance' (2003), beginning on the shores of the Dead Sea and ending on the summit of Mt. Everest, maps an allegorical journey from the lowest place on earth to the highest.  This comic tale is flamboyantly spun by a vagrant showman, Isaac Schlossberg, as he waits in Hawaii for World War II to end so that he can attempt to become the first person to conquer Everest.  The entertainer organizes his memories into one hundred squares on a childhood game of Snakes and Ladders, one hundred narrative blocks that form a patchwork picaresque.  The son of Jewish immigrants to America at the beginning of the 20th century, Isaac's first recollection is of himself as Samoo the Amazing Snake Boy in his father's traveling sideshow. Starting as Wild West performers, the Schlossbergs work their way up the game through circus, vaudeville, and early films. From California, Isaac travels to Calcutta and there assembles a troupe, to take on tour to England. Via the Soviet Union and Paris he finally returns to the United States.

As Isaac travels geographically around the world and up and down the board, he moves sentimentally from the beginnings of love, through many of its most painful and joyous, noble and ridiculous, manifestations, to finally almost achieve its realization.  "It is a story", Isaac insists, "about love and death and trying to have a good time anyway.”

© international literature festival berlin