FEATURE

Inventive Fiction

brutt, or The Sighing Gardens (Avant-Garde & Moderism Collection) BY Friederike Mayrocker. Northwestern University Press. Paperback, 280 pages. $24.

The book I most want to celebrate for its formal innovations and its gorgeous weirdness is the Austrian poet Friederike Mayröcker’s torrential novel brütt, or The Sighing Gardens (translated by Roslyn Theobald, 2008). I can’t really call it a novel. It’s a sequence of rapid-fire love-struck cabalettas, strung together with minimal punctuation (just comma, colon, comma), in the ranting, cloacal mode of Thomas Bernhard. Pierre Guyotat’s Eden Eden Eden may be more obscene, but it is not more relentlessly concentrated than Mayröcker’s brütt, a transcript of reverie as microscopically devoted to domestic dailiness as Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman. Nothing happens in brütt; the only action is the writer-narrator’s almost Petrarchan wish to coincide with her own alienated majesty. Wanting to make prose itself a heroic adventure in time-and-space travel, Mayröcker treats the sentence as a breakable, expandable, diastolic (or systolic?) auditorium, in which the writer is the epistle’s recipient as well as the courier, the scribe, the dictator, and the meteorologist. It keeps going, this novel that isn’t a novel, this catastrophically engorged postcard, this pileup accident of lyric vehicles that tried to play bumper cars with narrative conventions and then realized that they were playing Liebestod.


Wayne Koestenbaum is the author of My 1980s and Other Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013).