Posted 350 days ago
Wow! I hadn't read a story that threw me into an entirely new way to look at the world in awhile. I was off-put by its tagline in the beginning, "Nicole Krauss on the drama of desire," and pushed out reading it until I could muster up enough energy. I'm very glad that I did. Krauss's writing is really engaging; something that starts of as "drama" dives into a serious look of the human condition and how we see ourselves in society.
The contrast between Switzerland and the desire that Soraya has to break free from convention is great. I appreciated the setting of the story:
The whole country had, back then, the atmosphere of a sanatorium or an asylum. Instead of padded walls it had the snow, which muffled and softened everything, until after so many centuries the Swiss just went about instinctively muffling themselves.
This, of course, contrasts greatly with how Soraya acts (as a foreigner nonetheless) and the girls' relationship with the men around them. The narrator mentions various times that she was assaulted in public, even as only a late teenager.
...a European man in a beautiful suit came up behind me. He leaned in, his face touching my hair, and in faintly accented English whispered, "I could break you in two with one hand." Then he continued on his way, very calmly, as if he were a boat sailing on still water.
This is a terrifying interaction to read as a male, but it's something that women (and even more sadly, girls) experience throughout their lives. But this is also what Krauss's story is about: Soraya standing up to this harmful culture by participating in it herself, trying to dominate it, but ultimately falling into its clutches.
...I don't know if what I saw in her eyes when the flame illuminated them was perversity or recklessness or fear, or its opposite: the unyielding nature of her will.
This was a great story, certainly one of the best in recent months.