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These Possible Lives

by Fleur Jaeggy

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Small-scale, intense, and impeccably focused.

The New Yorker

Brief in the way a razor’s slice is brief: remarkable essays by a peerless stylist


These Possible Lives

Nonfiction by Fleur Jaeggy

translated from the Italian 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.

published July 25th, 2017