I Am the Brother of XX

Fleur Jaeggy, trans. from the Italian by Gini Alhadeff. New Directions, $14.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2598-4
The stories in Jaeggy’s (Sweet Days of Discipline) collection are masterpieces of fury and restraint. Most are only a few pages, and the short, declarative sentences burrow into the deepest corners of the characters’ psyches, only to suddenly subvert expectations. In the title story, a brother feels his life is dominated by his sister’s influence: “When I talk my sister pays too much attention. She watches me. Maybe she is writing my story, as long as I am not dead yet like my parents. I’ve always wondered whether one of them might have died because of her.” In “Agnes,” a man reflects on his past relationship with a woman who has left him: “At that time I was still using words. Small gifts. Flowers. I courted her. She threw away the flowers. Laughed at the words. Had no use for the gifts.” The man offers the woman’s new husband “the wedding dress, the ring. And something I can’t say.” This trademark combination of directness and elusiveness is also apparent in “F.K.,” in which a woman searches for her friend who has deserted a psychiatric clinic. The woman meets her friend’s guardian, a “woman of the law” who “took care of her,” which dredges up the narrator’s guilt and fears about the worst outcome of the situation. These chilling, beguiling stories dig up reflections on solitude, regret, and sometimes even on love. It is thrilling to live in Jaeggy’s worlds, which are so intense they threaten to boil over, yet pull back just enough to keep their secrets. (July)
Reviewed on: 03/20/2017
Release date: 07/01/2017
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