Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance

A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist (1985)

In the spring of 1914, renowned photographer August Sander took a photograph of three young men on their way to a country dance. This haunting image, capturing the last moments of innocence on the brink of World War I, provides the central focus of Powers’s brilliant and compelling novel. As the fate of the three farmers is chronicled, two contemporary stories unfold. The young narrator becomes obsessed with the photo, while Peter Mays, a computer writer in Boston, discovers he has a personal link with it. The three stories connect in a surprising way and provide the reader with a mystery that spans a century of brutality and progress.

Rosenthal Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1985
Special Citation, PEN Hemingway Award, 1985

Praise for Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance by Richard Powers

“A scintillating, high-octane intellectual flight of fancy.” Newsday

“An obsessive, witty, moving, often electrifying whale of a book about nothing less than the twentieth century.” Kirkus Reviews

“Bristlingly intelligent . . . Powers is a superb writer.” Chicago Tribune

“Dazzling and audacious . . . nothing short of astounding.” Philadelphia Inquirer

“Fiercely original, formally brilliant, deeply moving.” Illinois Times

“His writing engages . . . Sentence by sentence and page by page, the work shows Mr. Powers to good advantage.” New York Times Book Review

“One of the few younger American writers who can stake a claim to the legacy of Pynchon, Gaddis, and DeLillo.” —Gerald HowardThe Nation

“Richard Powers is America’s greatest living novelist.” —Tom BissellThe Boston Review

“What is most remarkable about the body of Powers’s work so far is how much life is in it, and how much intelligence . . . I can think of no American novelist of his generation who makes a stronger [case] that the writing of novels is a heroic enterprise, and perhaps, even a matter of life and death.” —A. O. Scott, New York Review of Books

“A writer of blistering intellect . . . [Powers is] a novelist of ideas and a novelist of witness, and in both respects, he has few American peers.” —Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times

“Powers is a genuine artist, a thinker of rare synthetic gifts, maybe the only writer working—Pynchon and DeLillo excepted—who can render the intricate dazzle of it all and at the same time plumb its philosophical implications…” —Sven Birkerts, Esquire

“Powers hovers impossibly between extremes with a tightrope walker’s perfect balance. He may be at once the smartest and the most warm-hearted novelist in America today.” —Melvin Jules Bukiet, The Chicago Tribune

“America’s most ambitious novelist . . . No one who becomes immersed in [his] poetry will walk out the way he or she came in.” —Kevin Berger, San Francisco Chronicle

1985 Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, HarperCollins ISBN 0-688-04201-5

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