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Alexander Maksik Discusses His First Novel, You Deserve Nothing


Alexander Maksik

This week on The Lit Show, Writers’ Workshop graduate Alexander Maksik discusses his debut novel, You Deserve Nothing.

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Set at an international school in Paris, the novel focuses on 33-year-old star teacher, Will Silver. His senior seminar in English not only introduces students to the best, fiercest writing of Shakespeare, Faulkner, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sarte—it challenges them to define, then defend, their personal values. With the verve and tenacity of a French philosopher, Silver attacks his pupils’ assumptions about literature and living; and under his guidance they become better readers, wiser thinkers, more civically engaged citizens. At school, he’s beloved for his unorthodox and passionate teaching—and whispered about for his charm and good looks.

Outside the classroom, however, Silver is tormented by personal failures, and he struggles with disenchantment and ennui. He starts a secret affair with a student—beautiful, troubled Marie—and as his duplicity becomes more severe, the tensions in his private life threaten to endanger the well-being of his entire community.

As it builds to its tragic conclusion, You Deserve Nothing explores the murky boundary between how we live and what we say. In the English classroom, and again on the dusky, romantic streets of Paris, the characters grapple with persistent human questions: How should we live? Should it matter who our best and wisest beacons are when no one’s watching? And if we’re betrayed by the models citizens we revere—if we end up disappointed by the heroes we strive to emulate—what does that mean for our values?

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