Fleur Jaeggy’s pen is an engraver’s needle depicting roots, twigs, and branches of the tree of madness—extraordinary.—Joseph Brodsky on Fleur Jaeggy's I Am the Brother of XX
Nonfiction by Fleur Jaeggy
translated by Minna Zallman Proctor
In these strange and hypnotic pieces—brief in a way a razor's slice is brief—on three writers, Fleur Jaeggy, a renowned stylist of hyperbrevity in fiction, proves herself an even more concise master of the essay form. In De Quincey’s early nineteenth-century world we hear of the habits of writers: Charles Lamb “spoke of ‘Lilliputian rabbits’ when eating frog fricassee,” Henry Fuseli “ate a diet of raw meat in order to obtain splendid dreams,” “Hazlitt was perceptive about musculature and boxers,” and “Wordsworth used a buttery knife to cut the pages of a first-edition Burke.” In a book of “blue devils” and night visions, the Keats essay opens: “In 1803, the guillotine was a common child’s toy.” And when poor Marcel Schwob’s end comes as he feels “like a ‘dog cut open alive’”... “His face colored slightly, turning into a mask of gold. His eyes stayed open imperiously. No one could shut his eyelids. The room smoked of grief.” Fleur Jaeggy’s essays—or are they prose poems?—smoke of necessity: the pages are on fire.
Fiction by Fleur Jaeggy
translated by Gini Alhadeff
Fleur Jaeggy is often noted for her terse and telegraphic style, which brews up a haunting paradox: despite a zero-at-the-bone baseline, her fiction is intensely moving. As April Bernard commented in Newsday, how work “could be so chilly and so passionate at the same time is a puzzle, but that icy-hot quality is only one of its distinctions.” Here, in her newest collection, I Am the Brother of XX —whether the stories involve famous writers (Calvino, Ingeborg Bachmann, Joseph Brodsky) or baronesses, thirteenth-century visionaries or tormented siblings raised in elite Swiss boarding schools—Jaeggy contrives to somehow stealthily possess your mind. Her champagne gothic worlds are seething with quiet violence—and unforgettable.
Poetry by Nathaniel Tarn
Gondwana: an ancient supercontinent long dispersed into fragments. Contemplating the ethereal blue is of Antartica, once part of it, Nathaniel Tarn writes in the opening section of his magnificent collection: "They said back then/ there was a frozen continent/ in those high latitudes encircling globe:/ are you moving toward it?"From there, the rising and falling stairs at Fez in Morocco meld into a cantata on marriage, empire, and the meditational nature of climbing. In a series of beautiful, short poems "Il Piccolo Paradiso," Tarn creates a haven of home, bird flight, and innvervating fligh. In another section, the heroic WWII fighter Pilot Lydia Litvyak is personified as Eurydice speaking to her lover captain, Orpheus. The book concludes with the powerful poems of "Exitus Generis Humani," its polyphonic lines slowly pouring over the reader in a mournful, yet often humorous, reverie that reveals allegiance to Earth as the essential divinity, while calling for radical change if we want to prevent a definitive ending.