Sweet Days of Discipline

Fleur Jaeggy, Author, Tim Parks, Translator New Directions Publishing Corporation $10.95 (101p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1235-9
Jaeggy, a Swiss-born writer living in Italy, gives her narrator an abundance of memorable lines describing a boarding school set in idyllic Switzerland. Recalling the constant machinations and undercurrents there, she comments, ``A boarding school is like a harem.'' And she seems to be right: less time is spent studying than courting favored friends. The narrator is particularly intrigued by Frederique, a disdainful girl who claims that she has ``an old woman's hands,'' which the narrator hears as a compliment. But then a frivolous new student named Micheline--she has red hair and looks ``a bit like Gilda''--causes the narrator to abandon Frederique by promising that she will give a huge ball at which all the students will dance with her charming father. Tim Parks does an admirable job of keeping the ice-cold language flowing. But the novel leaves a sense that its story line is a metaphor for something else, although it is never completely clear what, and after a while this vague profundity starts to get tiring; the ambiguous ending does not improve matters. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/03/1993
Release date: 05/01/1993
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