Even among Fleur Jaeggy’s singular and intricate works, The Water Statues is a shiningly peculiar book. Concerned with wealth’s loneliness and odd emotional poverty, this early novel is in part structured as a play: the dramatis personae include the various relatives, friends, and servants of a man named Beeklam, a wealthy recluse who keeps statues in his villa’s flooded basement, where memories shiver in uncertain light and the waters run off to the sea.
Dedicated to Ingeborg Bachmann and fleshed out with Jaeggy’s austere yet voluptuous style, The Water Statues—with its band of deracinated, loosely related souls (milling about as often in the distant past as in the mansion’s garden full of intoxicated snails)—delivers like a slap an indelible picture of the swampiness of family life.
A beautiful but inscrutable book about disconnection and the passage of time.
In this strange and shimmering nonlinear text from Swiss writer Jaeggy, the lonely children of the wealthy and their eccentric employees negotiate the boundary between companionship and solitude…In short, enjoyably expressionistic sections, Jaeggy sketches the emotional lives of people marooned but not content to remain entirely alone. What emerges is a fascinating and memorable portrait of a milieu obsessed with the passing of time.
Reading Jaeggy is not unlike diving naked and headlong into a bramble of black rose bushes, 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 Daily
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
Such a compellingly cool light—she has a startling ability to go beyond: beyond the sentimental heart, the writerly niceties, the conventions that bind us, and the messy effusions of contemporary life.