It’s perhaps the oldest of plots, the love triangle, almost guaranteed to rouse a reader’s emotion. In Seven Years, Peter Stamm explores that most tragic of stories: a morally odious character who goes from good fortune to bad because of a flawed attraction. Successfully retelling age-old motifs requires brilliance, and in Stamm’s novel I found no such signs.
The components are all here, the narrative structure builds suspensefully through conflict, climax and falling action. Of course, the wife is ‘perfect,’ the older, artistic female character plays her intermediary role to perfection, and the plot resolves without surprise. The jarring note is the lover of the triad: a dreary, taciturn woman. As the main protagonist’s tragic flaw, this lover is intended to provide the conflict, forcing us to wonder why this near genius would throw away a ‘perfect’ marriage for this bovine woman. Perhaps she offers a coziness not available from his coldly intellectual wife?
I don’t recall what drew me to Stamm’s novel, perhaps that Michael Hofmann is the translator, and he rarely translates a dull book. The story carried me through, partly to see if the narrator, Alexander, displayed any redeeming features, and partly expecting the lover, Ivona, to turn violent. I was dissatisfied on both counts.
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