The English Understand Wool


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About the Author

Helen DeWitt was born in a suburb of Washington, DC. Daughter of American diplomats, she grew up mainly in Latin America, living in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador. She went to Oxford to study classics for a BA and D.Phil. She left academia to try to write a novel, moving eventually to London and acquiring UK citizenship. She had some 100 fragments of novels when she began work in 1995 on the novel that was published as The Last Samurai in 2000. The book caused a sensation at the Frankfurt Bookfair 1999, going on to be translated in 20 languages (DeWitt reads some 15 languages to various degrees of fluency). On the reissue of The Last Samurai by New Directions in 2016 it was hailed by Vulture Magazine as The Best Book of the Century. She is also the author of Lightning Rods, a Mel Brooksian satire on sexual harassment, and Some Trick, a collection of stories. She has been based in Berlin since 2004, but also spends time at a cottage in the woods of Vermont improving her chainsaw skills.


"A staggeringly intelligent examination into the nature of truth, love, respect, beauty and trust...This is that rare thing, or merle blanc, as maman might say: a perfect book. I've read it four times, which you can do between breakfast and lunch."
*Nicola Shulman - The Times Literary Supplement*

"Weighing in at just 64 pages, Helen DeWitt’s The English Understand Wool is a delight."
*Mia Levitin - The Irish Times*

"This is a short, sharp sliver of a story—only 64 pages—but every single word is pitch perfect… Think of it as the literary equivalent of a shot of ice-cold vodka—Belvedere or Grey Goose only, of course."
*Lucy Scholes - Prospect*

"For a wonderfully sideways take on the complex intersections between class, wealth and power—intersections that invariably favour those who have most of them already—I recommend reading The English Understand Wool, by the American writer Helen DeWitt."
*Alex Clark - The Observer*

"The English Understand Wool is Helen DeWitt’s best and funniest book so far – quite a feat given the standards set by the rest of her work… Its pages are rife with wicked pleasures. It incites and rewards re-reading."
*Heather Cass White - The Times Literary Supplement*

"Readers of Helen DeWitt’s limited previous output—two novels and a collection of stories in twenty-two years—will fall greedily on anything new. Her novella The English Understand Wool exceeds expectations."
*John Self - The Critic*

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