‘I am the Brother of XX’ by Fleur Jaeggy, translated by Gini Alhadeff

Both sister (XX) and brother (the brother of XX) seem to want to become writers. XX seems to wish to turn her brother, who is also our narrator, into a fictional character, exaggerating his experiences in what may be the germs of stories. Meanwhile she urges him not to write but instead to find a job in a bank or some such place so that he might ‘succeed in life.’ The brother of XX is obedient but spends his life regretting it, is in fact obsessed with regret, consumed by resentment for the sister who made him betray his true calling. It’s as if he’s forgotten his own name; he sees himself as nothing but the tool of XX, and he redacts her name too in double strokes of rebellion and revenge, canceling her out twice over. But it’s as if his words are stuck. His descriptions are precise, he identifies novel and unexpected connections—”There is a kinship in the clothes”—he sees, in short, like the poet he should have been. But his narrative voice is stuck, his sentences are repetitive and broken. Stumbling as if struggling to articulate how it feels to be the lifelong prisoner of a lie. Such sentences make the reader stop. They stop you. I wonder if the brother of XX realizes his insistence on unfamiliar, unflowing, unconventional constructions—in other words, expressions which are entirely his own—also constitute resistance.

“I myself felt apparent.”

Collected in I am the Brother of XX, New Directions, 2017

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