Scott Adelson's Reviews > You Deserve Nothing

You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik
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's review
Feb 16, 2012

really liked it

Alexander Maksik’s 21st century Paris is a flurry of multiculturalism, parties and protest. Politically reactive and morally ambiguous, certitude about anything – from relationships to cultural classes – is at best difficult to grasp. It is in this world that American William Silver teaches his small cadre of sheltered, private-high-school students. Cynical children of diplomats and international jet-setters, they are enamored by every word professed by the Great Man. Struggling with his own difficult past, Silver finds refuge in the classroom, offering his young tribe everything from Romanticism to Existentialism, from Keats to Camus, as a foundation for becoming brave and effectual in a challenging modern landscape.

You Deserve Nothing (Europa Editions/Tonga Books, 2011) looks at the struggle between courage and human failings, between dreams and life’s reality on the ground. As a teacher, Silver effortlessly and arrestingly presents ideal forms and noble questions – notably the great (and some say only) choice of “to be or not be.” As a damaged person, can Silver himself face that question and emerge to lead the struggling youth around him to honor and greatness, or are his own imperfections too deep to stand up to life’s desires and ambiguities (so well-embodied by his adopted city and its moral and political flux)? In You Deserve Nothing, Maksik presents a true and deep sense of dilemma in a way that will have you looking inward, posing fundamental questions of yourself and your value systems.

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