cover image Story of Love in Solitude

Story of Love in Solitude

Roger Lewinter, trans. from the French by Rachel Careau. New Directions, $10.95 trade paper (64p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2519-9

Comprising three stories of recurrence, death, and self-discovery, Lewinter’s collection is refreshing in its fundamental strangeness; his narrator’s road to realization dramatically eschews the linear and doubles back, many times, on itself. In “Story of Love in Solitude,” the narrator, living alone, welcomes the evening company of an unusually punctual spider, “the only animal, in practice, with whom it is possible to coexist within strictly defined, and respected, territories.” In “Passion,” the narrator grows attached to a camellia that he purchases for himself in 1986, 20 years after giving a similar flower to his parents for their anniversary. As he works on a translation of Rilke, the camellia grows “luxuriant... encircled with an armor of foliage that, under the low-angled rays of the afternoon sun, lit up... into which, often, in the evenings, with exultation, I would plunge my face.” Soon, however, the flower is attacked by insects, and the narrator must fight frantically for its survival. In “Nameless,” the narrator’s struggles with loneliness and desire—concurrent with the story of the camellia—are made explicit as he becomes enamored with a seller at the local market, with whom he fails to reach an understanding even as “the devourment of not knowing his name was exacerbated nearly to madness.” Lewinter’s prose—lengthy sentences, punctuated largely by commas, semicolons, and dashes—has hypnotic appeal when combined with his tendency toward meandering asides and lovely melancholy. (Nov.)