Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, trans. by Michele Hutchison
MixedCleveland Review of BooksThe nebulous nature of trauma is...the trouble with The Discomfort of Evening, an astonishing chronicle of grief that occasionally seems lost in the myopia of its own misery. The book is harsh, joyless; every scene of Jas’s life dimmed by a steady drum of suffering ... the novel is frank about its obsessions, evincing a craftedness so fragile and deliberate one wonders how anything in this novel might be accidental. Images resurface so compulsively that I had the occasional sense I was reading a distended poem. I do not mean formally; the writing is clearly prose ... If the action of the novel can feel aimless, its language is studied, latent with meaning. In its finest moments, these motifs combine for an effect both gutting and sublime ... Most of the novel’s fever pitch derives from its balance between forces: Jas’s emotions combine with the assiduousness of the book’s construction to drive the novel, even as the sense of meaninglessness, of entrapment in an aloof world, grounds the narrative. Occasionally, though, this unrelenting grimness can seem to outweigh the elements that push the book forward, can feel so vast and undirected as to sap the book of momentum ... What to make of this novel which seems to insist that nothing derives from anything, causality is fake, and nothing matters; that everything is bleak, was bleak, will remain inescapably bleak, while also infusing a divine sense of craftedness into every line? Perhaps this is the point. A refutation of the idea that Jas’s character can be interpreted, that there is meaning or explanation in tragedy. But an acknowledgment that meaning comes anyhow, somehow; that meaning comes a with terrifying, ugly, word-perfect force.