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  • Published: 6 June 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448182282
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 400

The Flamethrowers

An extraordinarily ambitious big American novel about a young artist and the worlds she encounters in New York and Rome in the mid-1970s - by turns underground, elite, dangerous




Reno mounts her motorcycle and sets a collision course for New York.

In 1977 the city is alive with art, sensuality and danger. She falls in with a bohemian clique colonising downtown and the lines between reality and performance begin to bleed.

A passionate affair with the scion of an Italian tyre empire carries Reno to Milan, where she is swept along by the radical left and drawn into a spiral of violence and betrayal.

The Flamethrowers is an audacious novel that explores the perplexing allure of femininity, fakery and fear. In Reno we encounter a heroine like no other.

Best Books of the Year:
* Guardian * New York Times * The Times * Observer * Financial Times * New Yorker * Telegraph * Slate * Oprah * Vogue * Time * Scotsman * Evening Standard *

Shortlisted for the National Book Awards 2013

  • Published: 6 June 2013
  • ISBN: 9781448182282
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 400

About the author

Rachel Kushner

Rachel Kushner is the author of The Mars Room, which was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. Her previous novels, Telex from Cuba and The Flamethrowers, were both New York Times bestsellers and finalists for the National Book Award. Her fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s and the Paris Review. She lives in Los Angeles.

Also by Rachel Kushner

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Praise for The Flamethrowers

Scintillatingly alive... It ripples with stories, anecdotes, set-piece monologues, crafty egotistical tall tales, and hapless adventures

James Wood, New Yorker

One of the most thrilling and high-octane literary experiences I have had in ages

Colum McCann, Sunday Independent

It's so good, it's a little frightening. it makes any fretting over the state of the novel look plain silly


Unfolds on a bigger, brighter screen than nearly any recent American novel I can remember

New York Times

Kushner is rapidly emerging as a thrilling and prodigious novelist

Jonathan Franzen

An ambitious and serious American novel. The sentences are sharp and gorgeously made. The scope is wide. The political and the personal are locked in a deep and fascinating embrace

Colm Tóibín

An adrenalin-fuelled coming-of-age novel

Sunday Telegraph

Dazzling... The Flamethrowers is a virtuoso performance; a ride of ache and pleasure, handled with pinpoint command

The Times

This glittering novel is both carefully structured and exhilarating

Daily Telegraph

Rachel Kushner's fearless, blazing prose ignites the 70s New York art scene and Italian underground

Vanity Fair

A bright burning flame of a novel


The Flamethrowers is a strange, fascinating beast of a novel, brimming with ideas, and sustained by the muscular propulsion of Kushner's prose. Kushner emerges as a wildly gifted artist filling a sketchbook with thrilling, eye-catching scenes

Robert Collins, Sunday Times

There is an exhilarating freedom to Kushner's writing. Taut, vividly intelligent prose

David Wolf, Prospect

Sparky and inventive...a riot of a novel

Daily Mail

Ms Kushner's kaleidoscopic prose carries the novel's shifts in location and person, and the fast-paced rhythm harnesses the thrill of adventure


Swells with a daunting bravado

Irish Times

Oscillating between the hedonistic New York art world and Italy in the midst of the Years of Lead, The Flamethrowers is that rare thing, a novel that uses recent history not as a picturesque backdrop but as a way of interrogating the present. Kushner's urgent prose and psychological acuity make this one of the most compelling and enjoyable novels I've read this year

Hari Kunzru

The controlled intensity and perception in Rachel Kushner's novels mark her as one of the most brilliant writers of the new century. She's going to be one we turn to for our serious pleasures and for the insight and wisdom we'll be needing in hard times to come. Rachel Kushner is a novelist of the very first order. The Flamethrowers follows Telex from Cuba as a masterful work

Robert Stone

The Flamethrowers lives up to its incendiary title - it is a brilliant, startling truly revolutionary book about the New York art world of the seventies, Italian class warfare, and youth's blind acceleration into the unknown. Kushner is a genius prose stylist, and her Reno is one of the most fully realized protagonists I've ever encountered, moving fluidly from the fringe of the fringe movement to the center of the action. I want to recommend this stunning book to everyone I know

Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!

Rachel Kushner writes dazzling, sexy, glorious prose. She is as brilliant on men and motorcycles as she is on art and film. The Flamethrowers is an ambitious and powerful novel.

Dana Spiotta, author of Eat the Document and Stone Arabia

A high-wire performance worthy of Philippe Petit... Hang on: this is a trip you don't want to miss

Ron Charles, Washington Post

Wow! What a book! I'm eager for everyone I know to read it. It's an example of the very best in contemporary fiction.a contemporary masterpiece, and it wants you all to read it

Josh Ferris

A dazzlingly exciting novel... This is a deeply intelligent and engaging novel that uses all the virtues of old-fashioned storytelling to celebrate the triumphs and absurdities of new-fangled art

Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express

The Flamethrowers has gained praise from Jonathan Franzen and drawn comparisons with Patti Smith's Just Kids as it epically leaps between the New York art scene of the late 1970s and Italy in the midst of revolution... An essential summer read


Exhilirating, psychologically complex, and perfectly intense, this is a thrilling contemporary novel likely to become a cultural touchstone


A brilliant lightning bolt of a novel

Maud Newton, NPR

In this extremely bold, swashbuckling novel, romantic and disillusioned at once, intellectually daring and even subversive, Rachel Kushner has created the most beguiling American ingénue abroad, well, maybe ever: Daisy Miller as a sharply observant yet vulnerable Reno-raised motorcycle racer and aspiring artist, set loose in gritty 70s New York and the Italy of the Red Brigades

Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name



Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers is remarkable for its expansiveness and for its exhilarating succession of ideas

Mark West, The List

National Book Award finalist Rachel Kushner brings NYC's art scene to life so well in The Flamethrowers you could get high off the paint

Entertainment Weekly

Fast-paced, sexy and smart


Electric...addictive...smart and satisfying

Oprah Magazine

Captivating and compelling

The Bookbag

This is a work of ferocious energy and imaginative verve, straining at the seams with ideas, riffs, jokes, set-pieces, belly-laughs, horror and heartbreak


Kushner writes with authority, passion and humour, her characters richly drawn and her story packed with delicious anecdotes and side lines from a wide array of memorable characters

Tracy Eynon, We Love This Book

Sexy and brilliant

Sunday Times Style



Kushner's second novel comes loaded with recommendations and it's easy to see why.highly unusual and written with great seriousness and potency


Kushner's writing is a kind of marvel

Richard Fitzpatrick, Irish Examiner

A self-consciously cool mash-up of motorbikes, art and unpleasant Italian politics

Nick Curtis, Evening Standard

In fiction I enjoyed Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers for its style and its daring

Colm Toibin, Observer

This novel has undeniable force and power. it's beautifully written

Tim Martin, Telegraph

It manages to relate the art scene in 1970s New York to the Red Brigades in Italy, with lots of motorbikes thrown in

Nick Barley, Herald

Kushner's take on 1970s radicalism, art and politics is a big, absorbing read

Financial Times

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner manages to connect the art scene in New York in the 1970s with the Red Brigades in Italy, through the medium of motorcycles and drag car racing. Ambitious and beautifully written, it is one of the more surprising books I have read this year

Gordon Brewer, Scotsman

Introducing a fresh new voice

Justine Jordan, Guardian Online

You can feel the wind whipping through your hair, your pulse racing, as Kushner's daring heroine, Reno, motorcycles across salt flats and down city streets, on the prowl for art, for love, for a cause

The Oprah Magazine

A left-field and potentially ludicrous literary concept - a multigenerational transcontinental historical epic built around a speed-freak biker heroine - is executed with élan by American novelist Rachel Kushner . Genius

Kevin Maher, The Times

The novel, Kushner's second, deploys mordant observations and chiseled sentences to explore how individuals are swept along by implacable social forces

New York Times

A Bildungsroman set against the violence of the 20th century, The Flamethrowers is less a litmus test for misogyny than a standard for the recent historical novel

Hannah Rosefield, Literary Review

It should've won the National Book Award... It is second to none

New York Magazine

Some of the prose is as thrilling as riding a motorbike on a mountain road with no lights

Nicky Dunne, Evening Standard

Has the kind of poise, wariness and moral graininess that puts you in mind of weary-souled visionaries like Robert Stone or Joan Didion

Dwight Garner, New York Times

For a while last spring it seemed like every single person I knew in New York was reading The Flamethrowers, which is normally enough to put me off a book, but in this case I did read it and found that its ubiquity was more than justified. Then in September I happened to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, where one of its most memorable set-pieces takes place, and I wanted to read it all over again. If I say it captures a young woman's experience of the downtown art world in the 1970s, I'm going to make it sound boring, but in fact it's superbly enjoyable

Ned Beauman, Esquire

Much of what makes this book so magnificent is Kushner's astonishing observational powers; she seems to work with a muse and a nail gun, so surprisingly yet forcefully do her sentences pin reality to the page. I was pinned there too -- BEST BOOK OF 2013

Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine

A terrific, gripping, poetic book... Kushner's meandering plot and pacy pose has completely won me over

Thomas Quinn, Big Issue

Kushner's prose dazzles with invention

Emily Rhodes, Spectator

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