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Asked in a recent interview whether his new book is a reaction to his own celebrity, Mr. Kehlmann said he thought not: “Yet the question of fame, of celebrity, and what it does to people, how it distorts their self-image, is a question that has always interested me. I don’t think that the questions of fame which most interest me in a literary way have anything to do with the kind of huge and surreal fame that can come to an actor or to a sports person. This kind of fame does not come to a writer, thank God.”

John Greenya is a Washington-area writer.