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Agnes
     

Agnes

by Peter Stamm, John Cullen (Translator)
 

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Peter Stamm's best-selling debut novel, Agnes, now available for the first time in the United States.
 
"Write a story about me," Agnes said to her lover, "so I know what you think of me." So he started to write the story of everything that had happened to them from the moment they met.
    
At first, he works

Overview

Peter Stamm's best-selling debut novel, Agnes, now available for the first time in the United States.
 
"Write a story about me," Agnes said to her lover, "so I know what you think of me." So he started to write the story of everything that had happened to them from the moment they met.
    
At first, he works with Agnes to create a narrative that is most true to life, but as time passes and he grows more enamored with the narrative he has begun, he continues writing on his own, imagining a future for them after he reaches the present. Happy couples do not necessarily make for compelling reading, and as Agnes sees the unexpected plot he has planned for her, the line between fiction and reality begins to blur.
    
In this unforgettable and haunting novel Stamm incisively examines the power of storytelling to influence thought and behavior, reaching a chilling conclusion.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/29/2016
The brief, lucid chapters in Stamm’s (All Days Are Night) short novel, first published in Germany in 1998, hint at something deeper roiling underneath. At the same time, there’s a wryness throughout, reminiscent of Beckett’s deadpan humor, precluding any pretentiousness. The first-person narrator, a writer, could be Stamm himself. The story’s opening is a puckish grabber. “Agnes is dead. Killed by a story. All that’s left of her now is this story.” So how literally is the reader to take this? Stamm blurs the line between the writer’s life and his creations, both for his protagonist and the reader. He meets Agnes in the reading room of the Chicago Public Library. They both have other lovers whom they freely talk about, as well as their writing. He in fact writes the story of Agnes even as he is living it. And she collaborates; writing her life becomes his obsession. Nevertheless, he begins an affair with an alluring Frenchwoman named Louise. When he is with her, he doesn’t think about Agnes, who meantime may be having his child, at least in his imagination. The real Agnes has a miscarriage; from there, the path to her demise is inevitable yet surprising. This is a provocative and mesmerizing book. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Agnes is a moody, unsettled and elusive little fable—and it’s always interesting.” —Wall Street Journal

"Starkly written novella...a haunting psychological study." -New Yorker

"[On author Peter Stamm] Wry, spare fiction I can’t recommend highly enough." —Tim Parks, New York Times Book Review

“Delightfully haunting.” —New York Journal of Books

“This short novel should appeal to readers enchanted by [Stamm’s] elliptical style… an extended meditation on the interrelationship between life and fiction.” —Kirkus
 
“A provocative and mesmerizing book.” —Publishers Weekly

“An urgent and unsettling read.” Library Journal

“Stamm is a minimalist, and this tale moves briskly and plausibly toward the dark conclusion it announces at the outset. Stamm manages to dramatize the truism that writers become caught up in the world their words create, that readers become enamored of characters in fiction, and both mourn when characters suffer, yet unhappiness makes for more gripping fiction. Agnes is Stamm’s seventh work to appear in English translation, and in Hofmann’s capable hands, it is unsettling: one feels it should be tragic, but it seems, instead, inevitable.” —Booklist

Kirkus Review
2016-08-03
A writer suspects the story he's writing can alter the story of his life.Since the 1998 publication of this debut novel, now receiving its first American publication, Swiss author Stamm (All Days Are Night, 2014, etc.) has received international acclaim for his parables and metafictional narratives. This short novel should appeal to readers enchanted by his elliptical style, but it also reads like very early work. A Swiss writer of nonfiction meets a much younger graduate student in the Chicago public library. Even before exchanging names, they sense an intuitive connection, an intimacy of strangers. Her name provides the book’s title, and her obsessions—with death, with having a story written about her—provide its plot. He had earlier dabbled in fiction, even made it 50 pages into a novel, but abandoned it, he tells her, because “I was never in control of my material. It was always artificial. I got so drunk on the sound of my own words.” Quickly and inevitably they become lovers, he more concerned with the age difference than she apparently is, and she keeps pressing him on the matter of fiction: " 'Write a story about me,' she said, 'so I know what you think of me.' " Though the novel is narrated in the first person by the writer, the reader isn’t quite sure what he thinks of Agnes, and neither is he. The results may well surprise all, particularly as he moves from writing what has happened between the two of them—and discovering that their impressions and recent memories differ significantly—and lets the story proceed “into the future. Now Agnes was my creation. I felt the new freedom lend wings to my imagination. I planned her future for her.” Will those plans for the future become reality? Will they include him? Can he edit fate? And what’s with all these forests where people venture and lose themselves, never to return? Less a fully fleshed novel than an extended meditation on the interrelationship between life and fiction.
Library Journal
10/01/2016
Award-winning Swiss author Stamm (All Days Are Night) here returns to his best-selling debut, which features a man writing an increasingly and dangerously embroidered narrative about his lover, Agnes. "'Write a story about me,…' she said, 'so I know what you think of me,' " the cheerfully open Agnes begs after meeting him at the public library, where he is doing research. His account of their love affair is initially true to life, but soon he is stage managing events and manipulating her ruthlessly for grander and riskier effect. Limpidly told, the plot rushes forward, reading like a domestic thriller while unearthing questions about power, relationships, and the trouble we have distinguishing truth from fiction. VERDICT Even though we know what will happen to Agnes—it's announced on the first page—this is an urgent and unsettling read.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590518113
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
10/25/2016
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
396,639
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.40(d)

Meet the Author

Peter Stamm is the author of the novels All Days Are Night, Seven Years, On a Day Like This, and Unformed Landscape, and the short-story collections We’re Flying and In Strange Gardens and Other Stories. His prize-winning books have been translated into more than thirty languages. For his entire body of work and his accomplishments in fiction, he was short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013, and in 2014 he won the prestigious Friedrich Hölderlin Prize. He lives in Switzerland.
 
Michael Hofmann has translated the work of Gottfried Benn, Hans Fallada, Franz Kafka, Joseph Roth, and many others. In 2012 he was awarded the Thornton Wilder Prize for Translation by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His Selected Poems was published in 2009, and Where Have You Been? Selected Essays in 2014. He lives in Florida and London.

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