Agathe, Or the Forgotten Sister
From the author of ‘A Man without Qualities,’ a novel about spirituality in the modern world.
Agathe is the sister of Ulrich, the so-called man without qualities who is the major character in Robert Musil’s great, unfinished novel of the same name. Ulrich is intellectual and sceptical and rebellious and yet for all that rule-bound, held hostage by his attraction to the systematic, even if every existing system, political, ethical, metaphysical, strikes this one-time mathematician as fundamentally. When, however, after many years Ulrich reencounters his younger sister, Agathe, over the bier of their dead father, a celebrated lawyer, both siblings are electrified. They are, for one thing, almost (though crucially not quite) each other’s spitting image, while Agathe, who has just separated from her husband, as celebrated as an educator as the father was as a legal theorist, is even more resistant to any kind of status quothan her brother is. Engaging in a series of ever more intense and questioning “holy conversations,” brother and sister progressively enlarge the boundaries of sexuality, sensuality, and identity, seeking to arrive at a new conception of reality that lies, they are sure, within each other to discover. Musil’s Agathe, or the Forgotten Sister is one of the most unexpected and breathtaking adventures of twentieth-century fiction, while Joel Agee’s new English translation captures all the nuance of Musil’s famously acute and penetrating style.