A novel about obsessive love and madness set in postwar Switzerland, Fleur Jaeggy’s eerily beautiful novel begins innocently enough: “At fourteen I was a boarder in a school in the Appenzell.” But there is nothing innocent here. With the offhanded remorselessness of a young Eve, the narrator describes her potentially lethal designs to win the affections of Frédérique, the apparently perfect new girl. In Tim Parks’s consummate translation with its “spare, haunting quality of a prose poem” (TLS), Sweet Days of Discipline is a peerless, terrifying, and gorgeous work.
Clocking in at a sharp 101 pages, you’re finished before you can lodge a complaint, its contents going down as smoothly as a martini served in an ice-cold glass.
—Kaitlin Phillips, 4Columns
Violence dredged from the depths of consciousness is the most darkly glittering seam running through this world. Exhilarating.
—Laura McLean-Ferris, Bookforum
Glorious, acerbic, and sad. I have never gasped so much in sheer literary joy as while reading this novel; just trust me. It’s exceptional.
—Emily Temple, LitHub
Jaeggy’s astute compression of narrative detail is at once serene and startling. Beneath a placid, opalescent surface lurks a threat of violence that may or may not be realized, but which contributes to the profound impression that people and their lives are unpredictable, coursing with icy, barren wildness.
—Emily LaBarge, Los Angeles Review of Books
This short work is packed with violent premonitions, sudden deaths, stabbings, hangings and the language of insanity. There are metaphors drawn from shrouds, altar cloths, coffins, corpses, funeral marches, gallows, guillotines, nooses, cults of the dead and, most affecting of all, stone tablets set in churchyard walls. We are all dying, even as children: as Rilke believed, we carry our deaths within us. Frédérique tells the narrator she has an old woman’s hands; the schoolgirls inhabit ‘a sort of senile childhood’ and they have ‘a mortuary look.’
—Margaret Drabble, The New Statesman
Jaeggy seems to have crushed a glass in her palm and tweezed out a few shards for the page. Her prose is indeed extraordinary–it is also frightening.
This novella is filled with conflicted, often dark, emotion. The tension lies not so much in what happens, as in the sombre frostiness of the prose… A tale—captured so deftly in this translation by Tim Parks—of stark, poetic beauty.
It is thrilling to live in Jaeggy’s worlds, which are so intense they threaten to boil over.
Reading Jaeggy is not unlike diving naked and headlong into a bramble of black rosebushes, so intrigued you are by their beauty: it’s a swift, prickly undertaking, and you emerge the other end bloodied all over.
—Daniel Johnson, The Paris Review
Like all great books, it’s really like nothing else. It’s like itself.
—Gabe Habash, Publishers Weekly
Dipped in the blue ink of adolescence, Fleur Jaeggy’s pen is an engraver’s needle depicting roots, twigs, and branches of the tree of madness: Extraordinary prose. Reading time is approximately four hours. Remembering time, as for its author: the rest of one’s life.