These Possible Lives

Fleur Jaeggy (Author) Minna Proctor (Translator)
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New Directions is proud to present Fleur Jaeggy's strange and mesmerizing essays about the writers Thomas De Quincey, John Keats, and Marcel Schwob. A renowned stylist of hyper-brevity in fiction, Fleur Jaeggy proves herself an even more concise master of the essay form, albeit in a most peculiar and lapidary poetic vein. Of De Quincey's early nineteenth-century world we hear of the habits of writers: Charles Lamb "spoke of 'Lilliputian rabbits' when eating frog fricassse"; Henry Fuseli "ate a diet of raw meat in order to obtain splendid dreams"; "Hazlitt was perceptive about musculature and boxers"; and "Wordsworth used a buttery knife to cut the pages of a first-edition Burke." In a book of "blue devils" and night visions, the Keats essay opens: "In 1803, the guillotine was a common child's toy." And poor Schwob's end comes as he feels "like a 'dog cut open alive'" "His face colored slightly, turning into a mask of gold. His eyes stayed open imperiously. No one could shut his eyelids. The room smoked of grief." Fleur Jaeggy's essays--or are they prose poems?--smoke of necessity: the pages are on fire.

Product Details

$12.95  $11.91
New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publish Date
July 25, 2017
5.0 X 0.3 X 6.9 inches | 0.1 pounds
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About the Author

Fleur Jaeggy-- "a wonderful, brilliant, savage writer" (Susan Sontag) --was born in 1940 in Zurich and lives in Milan. Her work has been acclaimed as "small-scale, intense, and impeccably focused "(The New Yorker) and "addictive" (Kirkus).
The author of Do You Hear What I Hear? Religious Calling, the Priesthood, and My Father, and the editor of The Literary Review, Minna Proctor won the PEN/Renato Poggioli Award for her translation of Federigo Tozzi's Love in Vain.


Terse beauties falling on the reader like a chaste gray rain.--Robert Byers
Small-scale, intense, and impeccably focused.
She has the enviable first glance for people and things, she harbors a mixture of distracted levity and authoritative wisdom.--Ingeborg Bachmann
Delicious--such monstrous control and insight that at moments while reading you experience a distinct feeling of levitation.--Carole Maso
Enjoy these short, meditative pieces slowly; Jaeggy is addictive.
Three spare and telegraphic essays about Thomas De Quincey, John Keats, and Marcel Schwob, in which each account is self-contained and exquisitely precise, capture the arc of a whole life with filigreed economy.
Brilliant, associative and short, Jaeggy's essays have the beauty and economy of poems but the souls of portraits, discovering 'human characteristics amidst the chaos' -- which fairly describes her project overall.--Martin Riker"Fleur Jaeggy's Portraits of Past Lives" (11/03/2017)
Jaeggy's book is poetical-biographical, fictional-critical, essayistic-historical--a book unlimited.-- (01/25/2019)