Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” was one of the most-mentioned books on our most recent UPR Community Booklist. The book was published in May 2014 and in September of that year Anthony Doerr visited Utah for several events as a part of the Utah Humanities Book Festival. He dropped by the UPR studios for a fascinating conversation with Tom Williams about “All the Light We Cannot See” and related topics. We’ll revisit that conversation today.
The New York Times bestseller “All the Light We Cannot See” tells the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Doerr says the novel is about the magic of radio, propaganda, a cursed diamond, children in Nazi Germany, puzzles, snails, the Natural History Museum in Paris, courage, fear, bombs, the magical seaside town of Saint-Malo in France, and the ways in which people, against all odds, try to be kind to one another.
And he says, referring to the book’s title, that there are countless invisible stories still buried within World War II — that stories of ordinary children, for example, are a kind of light we do not typically see. And that, ultimately, the title is intended as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility.
Anthony Doerr was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the author of the story collections The Shell Collector and Memory Wall, the memoir Four Seasons in Rome, and the novels About Grace and All the Light We Cannot See, which was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for
fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.
Doerr’s short stories and essays have won four O. Henry Prizes and been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, New American Stories, The Best American Essays, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction, and lots of other places. His work has been translated into over forty languages and won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, an Alex Award from the American Library Association, the National Magazine Award for Fiction, four Pushcart Prizes, two Pacific Northwest Book Awards, four Ohioana Book Awards, the 2010 Story Prize, which is considered the most prestigious prize in the U.S. for a collection of short stories, and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, which is the largest prize in the world for a single short story. All the Light We Cannot See was a #1 New York Times bestseller, and remained on the hardcover fiction bestseller list for 134 consecutive weeks.