About Allen

The author Allen Kurzweil

The son of Viennese émigrés, novelist Allen Kurzweil was raised in Europe and the United States. Educated at Yale and the University of Rome, he worked for ten years as a freelance journalist in France, Italy, and Australia before settling in the United States and turning his attention to fiction.

His first novel, A Case of Curiosities, (Harcourt, 1992) the chronicle of an eighteenth-century mechanical genius, received international critical acclaim. Translated into twelve languages, it earned literary honors in England, Ireland, Italy, and France. The novel was reissued by Harvest Books in 2001.

Allen’s next novel, The Grand Complication (Hyperion/Theia Books 2001) redirected the author’s love of invention to twentieth-century New York. As with the first book, The Grand Complication is steeped in the world of watches and watchmaking; indeed, the “grand complication” of the title is a 200-year-old timepiece commissioned for Marie Antoinette and stolen from a Jerusalem museum in 1983. To research the circumstances of the theft, Allen spent nearly five years crisscrossing Europe and the Middle East, interviewing detectives, curators, horologists and watch dealers.

Devotion to the complicated passions of his characters has led Allen to take courses in pop-up book design, study the repair of player-pianos and work behind the reference desk of a public library. He regularly constructs the contraptions “invented” by his characters. To date these devices have included roll-players, potato cannons, and color wheels designed to distinguish different brands of potato chips.

Despite a lacklustre performance in grade school, Allen, since 2002, has been writing children’s books. He has published two novels in the bestselling “Leon” series: Leon and the Spitting Image (2003) followed by Leon and the Champion Chip (2005).

Allen has received fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the New York Public Library Center for Scholars & Writers. He currently sits on the board of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and is a fellow at the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Study of American Civilization at Brown University. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his wife and son.