The Solitary Twin

Harry Mathews. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2754-4
A psychologist and a publisher join forces to untangle the secret behind the “obstinate separation” between two identical twins in this jaunty novel from the lauded experimentalist Mathews (1930–2017). Berenice and Andreas fall in love immediately upon meeting in the “extenuated fishing village of immemorial origin” where they have each arrived, seeking to befriend the town’s most famous residents. Locals Geoffrey and Margot Hyde agree to help, introducing Berenice and Andreas to a woman who claims to be sleeping with both twins, but even her aid isn’t enough to convince the twins to agree to be interviewed. Thwarted, the couple settles into a routine of telling stories over dinner with the Hydes. The stories expose hidden ties between the participants, and Mathews joins in the fun, with the third-person narrator being unmasked as Berenice herself (what was first “a kind of journal” she explains, has “unexpectedly changing into a memoir”). As the novel circles closer to the grand reveal promised by its title, Mathews toys with the reader’s “desire to resolve the irresolute, to conclude the incomplete, to have the crooked made straight.” The result is an undeniably clever parting shot from one of contemporary literature’s most playfully challenging writers. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/15/2018
Release date: 03/27/2018
Genre: Fiction
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