There have been many teenage, female protagonists in literature. We’ve witnessed the sexualization and abuse of girls like Dolores Haze, the not-so-dark Vanessa Wye or the tragic Sadie. We’ve seen them as damsels in distress and drawn to abusive men (looking at you, Bella Swan). We’ve scoffed at and scolded them in our minds for being thoughtless and vain like Emma Woodhouse. And, like Starr Carter or Katniss Everdeen, they’ve impressed us with their bravery and strength in very dire circumstances.
Now meet Eve from Fleur Jaeggy’s “Sweet Days of Discipline”. In some ways, she possesses all of the before-mentioned qualities and, as such, arouses the appropriate responses. However, she is much more contradictory than that. Eve’s terse narration reeks of contempt towards banality and the bourgeoisie mentality that she describes in her peers, teachers and parents. All the while she obviously misses her own inadvertent ventures into both. It is, at once, amusing and frustrating but never boring to witness her.
Jaeggy’s prose is like an unexpectedly sharp butter knife. The location, a rural boarding school, creates a lazy, almost lulling backdrop to Eve’s growing disdain and venomous observations. Much is left unsaid, allowing the cuts to fester. A lot is implied – like a light sprinkle of salt on the wounds. And this reader rather enjoyed the pain.
And Other Stories, 2018
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Head of the Department of Literature in Foreign Languages