Peter Stamm translated from the German by Michael Hofmann

Agnes


Publication Date: Oct 25, 2016

176 pp

Ebook

List Price US $8.99
ISBN: 9781590518120

Hardcover

List Price US $18.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5 x 7.5


For the first time in the United States, critically acclaimed writer Peter Stamm’s debut novel, Agnes

“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.



Excerpt from Agnes

I was sitting in the Public Library, leafing through bound volumes of the Chicago Tribune, as I’d been doing for days, when I first saw Agnes. It was last April. She took a seat opposite me in the big reading room, probably by chance, because it was pretty full. She had a little foam-rubber cushion with her. On the table in front of her, she laid out a pile of textbooks and a writing pad, two or three pencils, an eraser, and a pocket calculator. When I looked up from my work, our eyes met. She looked down, opened the first of her books, and started reading. I tried to read the titles of her books. She seemed to notice, and pulled them nearer, with the spines facing her.

I was working on a book about American luxury trains, and was just reading about the political debate on whether the army should be called in during the Pullman Strike. I’d got rather bogged down in this strike, it wasn’t relevant to my book, I was just fascinated by it. In the course of my work, I’ve always let myself be guided by curiosity, and in this case it had taken me miles away from my subject.

From when Agnes sat down opposite me, I hadn’t been able to concentrate. She wasn’t that striking looking, slim and not very tall, brown hair thick and down to her shoulders, a pale complexion and no make-up. Only her eyes had something unusual about them, an expressiveness I haven’t often seen.

I couldn’t claim it was love at first sight, but she interested me and took up my thoughts. I kept looking across at her, it was embarrassing almost, but I couldn’t help it.


“A kind of parable . . . simple and haunting.” —New York Review of Books

Agnes is a moody, unsettled and elusive little fable—and it’s always interesting.” —Wall Street Journal

“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

Praise for All Days Are Night:

“Stamm’s careful, pared-down narrative, translated from German with great suppleness by Michael Hofmann, stops to notice all mirrors, all reflective surfaces or cameras, anything and anyone involved in visually representing the world. How can you see, Stamm’s novel asks, when everyone is looking at you? How can you make art under that kind of pressure?” —New York Times Book Review

“[A] complex, psychological tale . . . riveting . . . intensely moving.” —Wall Street Journal

“[An] engrossing story of recovery.” —The New Yorker

Praise for Seven Years:

Seven Years is a novel to make you doubt your own dogma. What more can a novel do than that?” —Zadie Smith, Harper’s Magazine