A trio of sketches, first published in 1989, about the nature of affection by the veteran Swiss experimentalist (The Attraction of Things, 1985, etc.).
Each story in this brief collection is a study of a particular incident. In “Story of Love in Solitude,” the narrator repeatedly spots a spider in his apartment and attempts to remove it. In “Passion,” he contemplates the frailty of a pair of camellia plants in his apartment, paired with his discovery of a mass of moths and maggots in his kitchen. In “Nameless,” the longest piece, he recalls his affection for a man he meets at a street market, rhapsodizing on the “density of his body in its unbearable splendor.” Lewinter means to link the three stories—the book is subtitled “Eros, Orpheus, Eurydice”—and share a narrator who’s a writer like Lewinter himself. But what connects a romantic fixation with a couple of bug infestations? In part, language. Lewinter approaches each subject with the same billowing, recursive sentences, thick with em-dashed digressions; he’s prone to riffs on writers he translates, such as Karl Kraus and Rainer Maria Rilke. But the stories are more broadly unified by his interest in the line between living and dying. The spider’s return speaks to our natures as creatures of habit; he watches the fate of the intertwined flowers, draining energy from each other, as if it were a relationship; his attraction to a man he can’t approach at the market speaks to our disconnection. The overall tone recalls stiffer existentialist and experimental fare by Camus and Robbe-Grillet—Lewinter hardly bats an eye when he discovers those maggots—and the recursive prose can be wearying. But his imaginative energies are easy to appreciate in these small doses. (This edition includes the original French text.)
A daunting but well-crafted and original look at relationships.