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Sweet Days of Discipline

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  2,173 ratings  ·  300 reviews

On the heels of I Am the Brother of XX and These Possible Lives, here is Jaeggy's fabulously witchy first book in English, with a new Peter Mendelsund cover

A novel about obsessive love and madness set in postwar Switzerland, Fleur Jaeggy’s eerily beautiful novel begins innocently enough: “At fourteen I was a boarder in a school in the Appenzell.” But there is nothing i
Kindle Edition, 112 pages
Published October 29th 2019 by New Directions (first published September 1st 1989)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kris by: Declan
"Farewells have distant ancestors and the hills and fields cover them with chaff and dust."

In crystalline prose, Fleur Jaeggy presents the story of a narrator looking back on her life as a 14-year-old girl living in a school in the Appenzell. This is no standard bildungsroman, however, as Jaeggy shows in her opening paragraph,

"This was the area where Robert Walser used to take his many walks when he was in the mental hospital in Herisau, not far from our college. He died in the snow. Photograph
An inscrutable little novel. This is one of those books that begins, goes along for a while, and then ends, and you think…okay. That happened. There's not much of what you might call plot, but Jaeggy's clean prose, gnomic aphorisms, and increasingly turbulent atmosphere combine to make it all feel intense, powerful.

‘At fourteen I was a boarder at a school in the Appenzell,’ the book begins simply. On the next page, a new girl arrives at the school, for whom the narrator feels a conflicted attrac
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: european-novels
A fairly short novella set in Switzerland in the 1950s, it begins in a straightforward way: “At fourteen I was a boarder in a school in the Appenzell.” The reader may be tempted to think this is going to be yet another analysis of teenage adolescence and in some ways it is as Jaeggy writes this in a semi-autobiographical way. Brodsky makes the point that:
“Dipped in the blue ink of adolescence, Fleur Jaeggy’s pen is an engraver’s needle depicting roots, twigs, and branches of the tree of madness,
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 4.25🍌

Despite not being widely read in the US, the Swiss writer Robert Walser was an enormous influence on major literary figures such as Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, and WG Sebald. Walser suffered from mental illness throughout his life; he spent most of the last three decades of his life in Swiss mental institutions, where he wrote and took long walks through the mountains. In 1956 he was found dead after suffering a heart attack on one of these walks in the canton of Appenzell, leavin
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Several years ago I walked around the grounds and gardens of Kylmore Abbey which at the time was a boarding school.

 photo 0040_kylemore-abbey_zpsa79c4c9d.jpg

At one point, at a spot close to the lake I found a 5 euro note. As there was nobody else around, except my companion, I pocketed the money and said to the same companion that when we went to my favorite bookshop, the inestimably wonderful Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, I would buy a book set in a boarding school. There is never any knowing what will turn up in Charlie's and yet I wa
For starters: let it be clear that the title of this booklet (“Sweet days”) is meant to be sarcastic. A woman looks back on her childhood, which she spent in different boarding schools in Switserland, a chilling story of suppressed feelings, coldness and gloom. On the surface, this seems like a rather classic coming-of-age novel, with all the usual ingredients of the stifling, over-disciplined life at a boarding school in Switzerland in the 1950s. But the reference, at the very beginning to Robe ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unnamed narrator of at least forty years of age looks back on her life as a boarder at several different schools post-WWII. She’s been a boarder from the ages of eight (an age when time seems never-ending, the narrator says) through seventeen. There’s particular emphasis on the year she’s fifteen, a year she’s kept with the younger girls at the instruction of her unseen mother.

Not much happens in the novella. The narrator’s focus is on a few of the other boarders, girls of different national
Nate D
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nostalgic delinquents
Recommended to Nate D by: Jeff Jackson
Bracing, crisp, austere as alpine air. All boarding schools echo totalitarian regimes in some way, but here the time -- the immediate postwar period -- and location -- Switzerland, where students of recently-warring nations converge, speaking French as often as German -- make the shadow of fascism especially palpable, even if rarely referenced in any direct way. Jaeggy doesn't need to, her slim, rigorously ascetic novel breaths control and release, pent-up sexuality and societal constraint, buil ...more
Sweet Days of Discipline is an inscrutable narrative – 'story' seems a completely unsuitable word – told by a teenage girl at boarding school. It seems impossible to say what it is really about. The girl describes her infatuation with a classmate named Frédérique, but there is no obvious resolution to this relationship, nor any of the others in the story. Everyone is isolated and distant and sad, even as passions among the girls rise and crash like waves. The students seem to crave death as much ...more
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lovely. Crisp, evocative and beautifully controlled prose. Set aside a couple of hours, make a cup of tea, cover your legs in a blanket, put on the fire and devour this in a single bite.
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well! Now if that wasn’t a depressing read I do not what else it could have been. I do not believe there is a positive sentence in the whole book. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the book, as I very much liked it. This is the second book I have read by Jaeggy (the first being the excellent but almost just-as-depressing SS Proleterka) and I think it will take me some getting used to her style. Fleur Jaeggy (born 31 July 1940) is a Swiss author, who writes in Italian.

This is a novella (101 p
Bill Kupersmith
I don’t usually read fiction in translation any more, except from French where I feel somewhat comfortable with the original, as with The Kindly Ones. Fortunately, the edu.lib had a copy of the Italian original, and as Italian is mostly just Latin with incredibly bad pronunciation and spelling, I could cross check Tim Parks translation. It was amusing to find “in plus fours and long socks” translates “alla zuava”—what on earth can that mean, I wondered? And then a mental picture of a flashily un ...more
Jun 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was given to me by The Enigmatic Amy Poe with The Raven Hair. And God knows I love the darkness, but the gravity on this one is the kind that grabs your ankles and won't let you go. Some darkness, say like early songs of Leonard Cohen, give me a masochistic energy, or maybe it's comfort of sharing, which is energizing. But this book, which is well written and kept me going, ended up making me feel like the universe was an empty place. Do not read in February or after a breakup or while quit ...more
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very intriguing lilt to the rhythm. Reminds me of Suicide’s first album: bare bones, but haunting bones they be.
Adam Dalva
Interesting, hazy novella of a girlhood spent in boarding schools, of a crush that travels in surprising directions. Jaeggy is a great writer and I flew through this, taking special joy in the moments outside the lean narrative of the year in the Appenzell. One moment in particular, a scene in a cold room toward the end of the book, will stick with me. It is an oddly repetitive book for something so short (one recurring description of nighttime dancing became frustrating), and the moments of sur ...more
3.5. Some very nice writing. Drifts along like flotsam on a still pond, then takes a turn for the dark and surreal (a la Duras) near the end. Main themes are malady, death, isolation, order and desire. Makes me want to read The Confusions of Young Törless by way of contrast.
Sep 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel has the flavor of Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground combined with the clipped sentences of Robert Walser's Jakob von Gunten. Not un-coincidentally, the novel names Robert Walser in its first lines: "At fourteen I was a boarder in a school in the Appenzell. This is where Robert Walser used to take his many walks when he was in the mental hospital in Herisau, not far from our college. He died in the snow. Photographs show his footprints and the position of his body in the snow. We did ...more
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well Fleur Jaeggy (brilliant name) just seems fascinating. And this short novel was, in its lack of novelistic devices and weird flatness, unlike anything I've read. Apparently this tale of adolescent infatuation in boarding school was pretty much autobiographical, and it does have that messy dreamlike flow of memory, which I guess explains why it doesn't feel very novelly. The tone is dark, cool, nihilistic, tres European, and you gotta love that. I feel like seeking out her other work now, the ...more
Joseph Schreiber
Spare, beautiful and disturbing. Poetic, it tells a story much deeper, and darker, than what appears on the surface. It talks of the damage of neglect and boarding school life, not so much in the action, but in the narrative voice and the fate the girl she admires so. My full review is here: ...more
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I approached this short (101 pages) novel with trepidation bordering on alarm. I knew it was set in a Swiss boarding school during the 1950s. I read a jacket blurb by the poet Joseph Brodsky, who said the book takes four hours to read and the rest of one’s life to remember. I interpreted this to mean something rather ominous. I had a vague sense that the story centered around a girls’ school crush and, based on the title, was afraid I would be introduced to some sort of mistress-slave relationsh ...more
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fleur Jaeggy writes sober, concise prose of a crystalline consistency, and though it is never ornamental, showy, or flamboyant, her writing at its best is essentially doing poetry by other means (and better than poetry itself might be expected to). Jaeggy is very much grounded in the world and impressions of the world, but she is at all times in close contact with the ineffable. The particular, yes, but always in relation to the outrageously distant, to the infinite, to that which can only be ge ...more
Joey Shapiro
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An adolescent lesbian love story (obsession story? very intense unhealthy fascination story?) recalled through a fog of memory. Reminded me a lot of Marguerite Duras in the very sharp, very internal narration about memories and the passage of time, but where Duras is very tuned into her characters’ emotions, Jaeggy’s writing is all iciness and total lack of affect. The kind of book in which very little happens in terms of story, but with so so much to offer in terms of hazy, haunting atmosphere. ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recs
“this is what makes us girls” – lana del rey
Karen Witzler
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: italian, kindle
A cold hard gem.
Emily M
Jan 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In boarding schools, or at least the ones where I went, a sort of senile childhood was protracted almost to insanity.

A short, austere, perplexingly gripping account of an adolescent infatuation in an all-girl Swiss boarding school. Jaeggy’s novel is a demonstration that voice – here cold, reserved, passionate, cynical, enamoured – can overcome all seeming obstacles in fiction, including lack of plot, lack of clarity, perhaps even lack of characterization.

The nameless narrator is a long-term boar
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This novella takes place in a boarding school in postwar Switzerland. The narrator is an obsessive nihilist, describing her fellow boarders as smelling of the morgue, and who jump off the rooftops in order to have a moment of feeling alive. She seems to be suffering from a sterile hangover from childhood. Until she fixates her peculiar desire upon Frederique, a new girl, who she alternately adores and scorns for no particular reason. She locates her falling out, break up if you will, with Freder
Nov 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the end it turns into a Duras novel, which, needless to say, was excellent.
Jeff Jackson
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This story of Eve, a girl in a Swiss boarding school and her oblique, frustrated desire for another boarder, Frederique, is somewhat reminiscent of Robert Walser's Jakob von Gunten, both in its descriptions of a cloistered, pressurized dormitory full of confusing rules and its consistently surprising sentences. But unlike Walser, who uses his school for servants to play with the relationship between passivity and command, Jaeggy is more interested in a kind of crystalline, repressed erotic tensi ...more
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-stories
Novella set in a Swiss boarding school in the fifties. Deals primarily with a friendship between the narrator and a girl called Frederique, though also covers the narrator's impressions of boarding school life in general. Boarding school life still seems to be life for the narrator, writing years later. Restlessly longing to be out in the world in her schooldays, in her adulthood she is haunted by Frederique and her many schools in general. The confines of institutional life are represented as c ...more
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Fleur Jaeggy is a Swiss writer, of Italian mother tongue.

After completing her studies in Switzerland, Jaeggy went to live in Rome, where she met Ingeborg Bachmann and Thomas Bernhard.

In 1968 she went to Milan to work for the publisher Adelphi Edizioni. Her first masterpiece was the novel I beati anni del castigo (1989). The Times Literary Supplement accounted her novel Proleterka as the best book

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