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Agathe, or the Forgotten Sister

Agathe, or the Forgotten Sister

By Robert Musil
Translated by Joel Agee

Shortlisted for the 2020 Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize

Agathe represents a kind of concentrate of the quests and questions of its monumental source material: in it, as George Steiner once wrote about part three of the original novel, ‘what was previous a kaleidoscope narrows to a laser’. . . . Musil’s sentences are never less than elegant (a handsome precision reflected in Joel Agee’s translation).” —Julian Evans, The Daily Telegraph

“Musil’s writing is so disciplined, his word choice so exact, that sentence follows sentence with a pointedness that seems to come naturally.”—J.M. Coetzee, The New York Review of Books

“[A] valuable addition to modernist European literature.” —Kirkus

Agathe is the sister of Ulrich, the restless and elusive “man without qualities” at the center of Robert Musil’s great, unfinished novel of the same name. For years Agathe and Ulrich have ignored each other, but when brother and sister find themselves reunited over the bier of their dead father, they are electrified. Each is the other’s spitting image, and Agathe, who has just separated from her husband, is even more defiant and inquiring than Ulrich. Beginning with a series of increasingly intense “holy conversations,” the two gradually enlarge the boundaries of sexuality, sensuality, identity, and understanding in pursuit of a new, true form of being that they are seeking to discover.

Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities is perhaps the most profoundly exploratory and unsettling masterpiece of twentieth-century fiction. Agathe, or, The Forgotten Sister reveals with new clarity a particular dimension of this multidimensional book—the dimension that meant the most to Musil himself and that inspired some of his most searching writing. The outstanding translator Joel Agee captures the acuity, audacity, and unsettling poetry of a book that is meant to be nothing short of life-changing.

Paperback
400 pages
NYRB, 2019
5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
ISBN 9781681373836
Fiction

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