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Paul La Farge, Inventive Novelist, Is Dead at 52

Paul La Farge, whose well-regarded novels played audaciously with history and narrative technique as they explored how the past can affect the present, died on Jan. 18 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 52. His wife, Sarah Stern, said the cause was cancer. Mr. La Farge's novels and short stories defied easy categorization, but they were all characterized by a sort of writer's derring-do. “With each novel, he would set out, and then it would become clear to him that he had set what seemed like an impossible formal challenge for himself,” Ms. Stern, the artistic director of the Vineyard Theater in Manhattan, said by email, “but he would keep on, wrestling forward and sideways and backward, and eventually the and its form would be inextricable in a way that was awe-inspiring and yet felt inevitable.” Mr. La Farge lived in Red Hook, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley and was a magnet for a group of writers in that area, among them the novelist and memoirist Gary Shteyngart, who was a fan. “A reader opening one of his books is gently lowered into a bath of perfect temperature, as ideas, revelations, universes float by,” Mr. Shteyngart said by email. “But he was by no means a cold novelist of ideas. His books are inhabited by some of the most real, conflicted, and lost people who have walked through 21st-century prose.” Mr. La Farge's debut novel, “The Artist of the Missing” (1999), tells the story of […]

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