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In 1940, Varian Fry, an American classicist and journalist, arrived in Marseille, France under the auspices of the Emergency Rescue Committee. His portfolio: get 200 Jewish artists, writers and intellectuals out of Europe. A former Harvard classmate soon warned Fry that he was making both the Vichy Government and the US State Department nervous. Undaunted, Fry used stealth, forgery, an underground railroad, and some seemingly impossible schemes to save many “clients” including Marc Chagall, Hannah Arendt, Andre Breton, Max Ernst, and Marcel Duchamp. In a compelling novel filled with fascinating characters, Orringer brings us a complex love story and hair-raising adventures. —Elaine— From Elaine and Luisa's Picks: May - June 2019
“Bighearted, gorgeous, historical, suspenseful, everything you want a novel to be” (—Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Less), a new book inspired by the World War II story you've never heard—the real-life quest of an unlikely hero to save the lives and work of Europe’s great minds from the impending Holocaust
In 1940, Varian Fry traveled to Marseille carrying three thousand dollars and a list of imperiled artists and writers he hoped to help escape within a few weeks. Instead, he stayed more than a year, working to procure false documents, amass emergency funds, and arrange journeys across Spain and Portugal, where the refugees would embark for safer ports. His many clients included Hannah Arendt, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Marc Chagall, and the race against time to save them is a tale of forbidden love, high-stakes adventure, and unimaginable courage.
“Masterfully crafted and impossible to put down, The Flight Portfolio offers a testament to the enduring power of art, and love, in any form.” —Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
JULIE ORRINGER is the author of two award-winning books: The Invisible Bridge, a novel, and the short-story collection How to Breathe Underwater, both New York Times Notable Books. She is the winner of The Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize and the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She lives in Brooklyn.
One of The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly and The Observer's most anticipated books of 2019
“Sympathetic and prodigiously ambitious…scrupulous... Her landscapes regularly rise to a Keatsian sensuousness. Her Marseille breathes as a city breathes...a thriller.”
—New York Times Book Review, cover review
Gorgeous…lush…meticulously researched…classic storytelling through a transgressive lens…The Flight Portfolio offers a testament to the enduring power of art, and love, in any form.”
"Remarkable... [A] passionate and thoroughgoing tribute... Orringer's novel brings to light a truly inspiring episode in history."
—The Wall Street Journal
“The novel seeks a kind of redress: restoring, to history’s vast panorama, a granular sense of how life on the borderlines of fascism feels…. Orringer’s true subject, the moral peril of being alive, is a grandly timeless — and timely — one.”
"Magnificent... Gorgeous... Important... a deeply researched, almost unbearably tense, bruised-knuckle hybrid. Part real history and part love story, it’s also a deeply moral work, asking tough question about what matters most to us personally — and to the world."
"A story of lasting urgency — genuinely momentous... Orringer's genius is in bringing characters off the page, and she snares her readers into the conundrum of who is to make life-and-death decisions about people who are knowable, then known... A novel as suspense-driven as "The Flight Portfolio" might fly like a stealth bomber. The wonder of Orringer's is that it is hardly leisurely or prolix but nevertheless rich with telling details — not plush but deep. We're told every move of a chess game in a war zone. Orringer lavishes on the reader the sights, sounds, smells and weather of her locales, her characters' clothes (most particularly as they are serially removed at a surrealist party) and, most remarkably, their innermost thoughts and feelings, all without instructing you about them. The immersive reader is richly rewarded."
—The Bay Area Reporter
"Magnificent... As in 2010's superb The Invisible Bridge, Orringer seamlessly combines compelling inventions with complex fact... Brilliantly conceived, impeccably crafted, and showcasing Orringer’s extraordinary gifts, this is destined to become a classic."
—Publishers Weekly [starred review]
"An elegant, meditative novelistic reconstruction of critical years in the life of Varian Fry... The central point of intrigue, providing a fine plot twist, is also expertly handled, evidence of an accomplished storyteller at work. Altogether satisfying. Mix Alan Furst and André Aciman, and you’ll have a feel for the territory in which this well-plotted book falls."
—Kirkus Reviews [starred review]
"Gripping….Orringer is a beautiful prose stylist who captures depth of meaning about complex human issues, and she addresses head-on the moral dilemma of making value judgments on individual lives…. Vivid.”
“Varian Fry lit a small, bright lamp in a world of darkness, and in the deft hands of Julie Orringer—under the spell of her masterful prose, her feeling portraiture, her classic spy-thriller plotting and her vivid recreation of that beautiful and terrible world—I found the radiance of Fry’s courage, flawed humanity, and steadfast resistance shedding an inexhaustible light on our own ever-darkening time.”
"No book this year could possibly compare with The Flight Portfolio: ambitious, meticulous, big-hearted, gorgeous, historical, suspenseful, everything you want a novel to be."
—Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Less
"A historical novel absolutely relevant to our own time, The Flight Portfolio brings to life a hero as complex and engrossing as the agonizing ethical questions he faces. Orringer not only recreates the world of wartime Marseille, but seems to drop the reader there by way of a masterfully fashioned literary trapdoor--and anyone who picks up this spectacular novel risks a swift descent into its vivid and consuming swirl."