Agnes: A Novel
Originally published in 1998, Agnes is Peter Stamm’s debut novel. It is a short novel characterized by terse prose and a few translation hiccups, although hidden beneath the short, staccato sentences is a complex tale of relationships and power.
Agnes follows the tumultuous romance between an unnamed older author of bland nonfiction works and a PhD student half his age. The narrator becomes fixated on Agnes when he sees her at the Chicago Public Library, and a coffee date soon turns into romance. Agnes discovers that the narrator once had dreams of becoming a writer of fiction, so she begs him to write a love story…their love story.
At first, the story evolves in real time, but as the relationship hits a plateau, the narrator becomes more invested in playing out scenarios from his fictionalized story than in his relationship with Agnes. It seems that in an effort to save the relationship, Agnes begins to act out the scenarios he has written, and for a time it sustains the relationship. But in the end, the illusion of Agnes seems to be more valuable to the narrator than Agnes herself. Where can a love story go from there?
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