‘Trust’: a novel about money, power, intimacy, and perception in 1920’s New York
In his new novel, Pulitzer finalist Hernan Diaz explores how wealth and money are so essential in the American identity.
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Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top of a world of seemingly endless wealth—all as a decade of excess and speculation draws to an end. But at what cost have they acquired their immense fortune?
This is the mystery at the center of Bonds, a successful 1937 novel that all of New York seems to have read. Yet there are other versions of this tale of privilege and deceit.
In his latest novel, “Trust” (Riverhead, 2022), the Buenos Aires-born, Stockholm-raised author Hernan Diaz elegantly puts these competing narratives into conversation with one another—and in tension with the perspective of one woman bent on disentangling fact from fiction. The result is a novel that spans over a century and becomes more exhilarating with each new revelation.
At once an immersive story and a brilliant literary puzzle, “Trust” engages the reader in a quest for the truth while confronting the deceptions that often live at the heart of personal relationships, the reality-warping force of capital, and the ease with which power can manipulate facts.
“As a voluntary American, I’m very interested in this nation’s ideas about itself. For ‘Trust’, I was interested in the role that wealth plays in the American national identity, this myth of the self-made man who pulls himself up by his bootstraps through hard labor and ingenuity,” the author said to Interview magazine, a literary media.
Born in Buenos Aires, his parents fled to Sweden as political refugees when he was two. His mother was a psychoanalyst and his father was a photographer, filmmaker, and active member of a Trotskyist political group. Both were committed leftists, and together they ran a bookstore selling texts that would be banned after the right-wing coup of 1976.
As reported in Vanity Fair, when the military overthrew Isabel Perón’s government, friends and family of Diaz’s parents started disappearing. When they started receiving suspicious phone calls themselves, his parents knew it was time to go. They sold everything they could and moved to Sweden.
When the situation in Argentina was safer, his family returned, but Diaz felt an international itch he needed to scratch.
“At some point in my life I made the decision that I wanted to live in English,” he told Vanity Fair. He has lived in London and Brooklyn, NY, where he took graduate seminars at New York University before embarking on an academic career. He now leads Revista Hispánica Moderna, a distinguished journal from Columbia University.
Hernan Diaz is the author of two novels translated into more than twenty languages. His first novel, In the Distance, a story of immigrant triumph and family ties, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. He has also written a book of essays, ‘Borges, between History and Eternity’, and his work has appeared in The Paris Review, Granta, Playboy, The Yale Review, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and a fellowship from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. He holds a PhD from NYU, edits an academic journal at Columbia University, and is also the author of Borges, between History and Eternity.