The Water Statues
Family, obsession, and privilege boiled down by the icy-hot Swiss-Italian master stylist Fleur Jaeggy
Even among Fleur Jaeggy’s singular and intricate works, The Water Statues is a shiningly peculiar book. Concerned with loneliness and wealth’s odd emotional poverty, this early novel is in part structured as a play: the dramatis personae include the various relatives, friends, and servants of a man named Beeklam, a wealthy recluse who keeps statues in his villa’s flooded basement, where memories shiver in uncertain light and the waters run off to the sea.
Dedicated to Ingeborg Bachmann and fleshed out with Jaeggy’s austere yet voluptuous style, The Water Statues—with its band of deracinated, loosely related souls (milling about as often in the distant past as in the mansion’s garden full of intoxicated snails)—delivers like a slap an indelible picture of the swampiness of family life.
Praise for The Water Statues
Stark, surprising prose. It’s hard to capture in a line or two the strange precision of Jaeggy’s prose. Darkness seems never far away.
— Martin Riker - New York Times Book Review
It is hard not to be impressed by Jaeggy’s own spiritual and aesthetic grandeur, which casts her stories in such a compellingly cool light. She, too, has a startling ability to go beyond: beyond the sentimental heart, the writerly niceties, the conventions that bind us, and the messy effusions of contemporary life. She once said, in an interview, ‘One should be in one’s own void. Void is silence. Solitude. An absence of relationships. . . . The void is a plant that must continually be watered.’ It is our good fortune that she sits at her swamp-green typewriter, watering it.
— Sheila Heti - The New Yorker
Jaeggy’s astute compression of narrative detail is at once serene and startling. Beneath a placid, opalescent surface lurks a threat of violence that may or may not be realized, but which contributes to the profound impression that people and their lives are unpredictable, coursing with icy, barren wildness.
— Emily Labarge - Los Angeles Review of Books
Jaeggy seems to have crushed a glass in her palm and tweezed out a few shards for the page. Her prose is indeed extraordinary—it is also frightening.
— The Rumpus
Reading Jaeggy is not unlike diving naked and headlong into a bramble of black rose bushes, so intrigued you are by their beauty: it’s a swift, prickly undertaking, and you emerge the other end bloodied all over.
— Daniel Johnson - The Paris Review
It is thrilling to live in Jaeggy’s worlds, which are so intense they threaten to boil over.
— Publishers Weekly
A beautiful but inscrutable book about disconnection and the passage of time.
In this strange and shimmering nonlinear text from Swiss writer Jaeggy, the lonely children of the wealthy and their eccentric employees negotiate the boundary between companionship and solitude...In short, enjoyably expressionistic sections, Jaeggy sketches the emotional lives of people marooned but not content to remain entirely alone. What emerges is a fascinating and memorable portrait of a milieu obsessed with the passing of time.
— Publishers Weekly
Those used to the gorgeously pared sentences of the later Jaeggy will be surprised to find a comparative surplus of language. This voluptuousness lends the proceedings a languid quality. All is submersion, iridescence, intoxication.
— Dustin Illingworth - New Left Review
Jaeggy writes sentences that are at once tense, opulent, and visionary, carefully attuned to the ways that even unaltered perception can approach the hallucinatory.
— Bailey Trela - Baffler
If the book’s binding element is the villa, then each sentence feels like a room; in texture and in dimension, Jaeggy’s sentences are capacious and opulent…And lurking underneath it all is the sense of something ominous—you almost expect it to erupt and splash across the page, but it never does. Instead, it pulls you along toward the end, and entices you to start again from the beginning.
— Snigdha Koirala - Lit Hub
Jaeggy’s books are brief as being plunged deep underwater and pushing back to the surface is brief, or kissing someone you shouldn’t, just once, or a gunshot.
— Audrey Wollen - The New York Review of Books