The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, written by acclaimed author Michael Chabon, earned the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001 and garnered praise from critics and readers.

Set during World War II, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay follows the lives of cousins Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, whose lives in New York City are directly and indirectly affected by the stirrings of the war. After 19-year-old Kavalier’s arrival in Manhattan from his increasingly unstable home country of Prague, he and 17-year-old Clay begin writing and illustrating adventure stories that rapidly become popular and garner the attention of a publishing company. Kavalier and Clay become prominent figures in the burgeoning comic world of New York and help usher the industry into its golden age, even as the publishers attempt to exploit their artistic talents for profit.

Meanwhile, several tangential plots follow Kavalier’s attempts to help his family escape to America from a Nazi-occupied Prague, as well as his infatuation with the artistic and unconventional Rosa, while Clay attempts to overcome polio and come to terms with his sexual orientation. After learning that his family has gone missing in Prague, Kavalier enlists in the United States Navy, leaving behind his cousin and pregnant girlfriend. After years in exile, Kavalier returns home, only to find that everything has changed.

Michael Chabon explores themes of escapism, discrimination, and Judaism in America throughout The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. During the early and mid-20th century, Jewish visual artists were often denied entrance into reputable fields of illustration, thus creating a prominent presence of Jewish artists in the comics industry; in this way, Chabon theorizes that the common “outsider” theme that many comic book heroes share also represents the perspective of their creators. Kavalier and Clay experience oppression similar to what their pulp fiction characters endure. Their most beloved hero, The Escapist, also symbolizes Kavalier’s flee from Prague, as well as Clay’s attempts to battle polio and accept his true self.

In addition the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay received the 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.