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Story of Love in Solitude
     

Story of Love in Solitude

by Roger Lewinter, Rachel Careau (Translator)
 

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A notable discovery of a truly original voiceSeveral stories inhabit Roger Lewinter’s first small book to appear in English, Story of Love in Solitude. Each story takes the form of a loop: a spider who won’t stop returning; camellias that flourish and then die; dying parents whose presence is always yet felt; turning again and again to work on Rilke

Overview

A notable discovery of a truly original voiceSeveral stories inhabit Roger Lewinter’s first small book to appear in English, Story of Love in Solitude. Each story takes the form of a loop: a spider who won’t stop returning; camellias that flourish and then die; dying parents whose presence is always yet felt; turning again and again to work on Rilke translations; a younger man whom the narrator sees each week at the Geneva street markets. All the tales touch on the possibility, the open possibility of love—a loop without end.Lewinter’s short fictional works are at once prose poems and a form of dreaming; they are akin to the great French tradition of things sparking emotions and emotions sparking things—part Sarraute, part Robbe-Grillet, part Perec. Plot is not really the point of his meditative works. Lewinter concerns himself more with perception, apperception, and sudden inflections of grace: loss and beauty meet in an explosion of joy, which becomes, “in its brilliance, a means of transmittal.”

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 09/19/2016
Comprising three stories of recurrence, death, and self-discovery, Lewinter’s collection is refreshing in its fundamental strangeness; his narrator’s road to realization dramatically eschews the linear and doubles back, many times, on itself. In “Story of Love in Solitude,” the narrator, living alone, welcomes the evening company of an unusually punctual spider, “the only animal, in practice, with whom it is possible to coexist within strictly defined, and respected, territories.” In “Passion,” the narrator grows attached to a camellia that he purchases for himself in 1986, 20 years after giving a similar flower to his parents for their anniversary. As he works on a translation of Rilke, the camellia grows “luxuriant... encircled with an armor of foliage that, under the low-angled rays of the afternoon sun, lit up... into which, often, in the evenings, with exultation, I would plunge my face.” Soon, however, the flower is attacked by insects, and the narrator must fight frantically for its survival. In “Nameless,” the narrator’s struggles with loneliness and desire—concurrent with the story of the camellia—are made explicit as he becomes enamored with a seller at the local market, with whom he fails to reach an understanding even as “the devourment of not knowing his name was exacerbated nearly to madness.” Lewinter’s prose—lengthy sentences, punctuated largely by commas, semicolons, and dashes—has hypnotic appeal when combined with his tendency toward meandering asides and lovely melancholy. (Nov.)
Thea Hawlin - Asymptote Journal
“Lewinter perfectly captures the strangeness of infatuation and the way in which it becomes all too easy to project one’s own narrative onto the bodies of those aroundus.”
Monica Carter - Best Translated Book Award
“Lewinter’s uncanny gift for dissecting the abstract and unspoken aspects of attraction and self-awareness raises fiction to a higher level.”
Lorenzo Valentin
“The work of Roger Lewinter is essentially a work of reflection on meaning, on units of meaning and the logical problems posed by their ordering in the sentence: each word, each sense, leading to a calling into question of the text as a whole. This sentence, which can be compared to a Kashmir shawl in its infinite interlacing, woven in one piece and from a single thread, raises, beyond the simple syntactic difficulties, logical problems of thought that no writing had up to now approached.”
Kirkus Reviews
2016-08-22
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780811225199
Publisher:
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
10/25/2016
Edition description:
Bilingual
Pages:
64
Sales rank:
461,479
Product dimensions:
4.30(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.40(d)

Meet the Author

Roger Lewinter was born in Montauban, France, in 1941, to Austrian Jewish parents. The family moved to Switzerland during the war, and he has lived much of his life in Geneva. For more than forty years he has worked as a writer (of both literary and scholarly works), an editor, and a translator (of Georg Groddeck, Karl Kraus, Elias Canetti, Robert Walser, and Rilke, among others). Among his dozen books are three works of fiction.

Rachel Careau is a writer and translator and the author of one book of prose poems, Itineraries. She is working on a translation of Roger Lewinter’s L’Apparat de l’âme.

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