CIRCE'S MOUNTAIN: Stories by Marie Luise Kaschnitz


Email this review


Kaschnitz, a prolific German writer in the 50's and 60's who died in 1974, wrote 54 stories--and here, in a first US collection, are 12: magical and resonant, set in Germany and southern Italy, and mainly about varieties of grief and loss. ""The Landslide"" is a poetic epistle to an escape, without foreknowledge, from a natural disaster: ""There are those of us who are alive, who have seen many places, known good and bad people. . .because the unlived life is light, so light."" That quote is representative of the tone in most of these stories, where ""the future weighs less than the past, and dreams weigh less than experience. . ."" Though Kundera comes to mind, Kaschnitz's fiction has a life of its own. Two tales deal with a widow's grief and recovery: ""One Day in the Middle of June,"" in which a widow returns from a trip to discover that a strange woman has announced the widow's death; and the title story, which purports to be a series of journal entries (""I don't want to abandon you in your loneliness, your powerlessness, your muteness, which I cannot share""). Interior vision predominates, and often in these mostly first-person pieces, there is a fantastic or fatalistic element: in ""A Tambourine, a Horse,"" a woman loses her foster parents in a sort of anti-fairy-tale: ""Because she is alone with the horse among the still black trees, the horse becomes the horror of horrors among all living creatures."" Of the others, ""X Day"" is a haunting meditation on nuclear anxiety; and ""The Fat Girl"" a moving account of ""Fatty,"" who faces ""a long struggle, a terrible wrestling for liberation and transformation. . ."" Stories that marvelously and evocatively interweave psychological and natural detail. A notable introduction to a writer little known here.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1990
Publisher: Milkweed Editions