Agathe is the sister of Ulrich, the restless and elusive “man without qualities” at the center of Robert Musil’s great, unfinished novel of the same name. For years Agathe and Ulrich have ignored each other, but when brother and sister find themselves reunited over the bier of their dead father, they are electrified.
Agathe is 350 pages, a respectable length, and yet it feels—especially against the perspective of the nihil alienum, all-singing, all-dancing Man Without Qualities—almost like a novella ... Edenic prose as beautiful as any poetry ... Agathe, or, The Forgotten Sister absolutely works as a book—a fractal fractal, an unfinished novel lifted from within another unfinished novel. It seems to have been reasonably straightforward to isolate this strand of the narrative from the others ... one of those books where writer and translator keep company. It reads like a book Agee was born to translate. I wonder if I have ever read a better translation. The book shines with pleasure, the complex sentences opening in front of you, balanced and sequential and easy to follow in all their twists and curlicues. Here, two writers have truly found each other, the intelligent slither of polysyllables, sometimes amusing, sometimes drily determined to make some vanishingly small distinction of vast implications, suddenly giving way to a line or two of dialogue, a small action, and some note of haiku-like compression ... A superlative translation, it is equally good over long distances (making it less susceptible to quotation), and in bravura passages timed to perfection[.]
... vividly contemporary and sensuous translation ... If Musil’s science of the soul doesn’t always convince, the atmosphere between the siblings does. The erotic charge is palpable ... Witty, sensuous and desiring, but shunning what Ulrich calls 'appetitive' striving, the siblings represent a particularly vibrant experiment in living at a time when few such options remain.
... [an] intriguing amendment to a towering work of modernism ... As a new approach to Musil’s masterpiece, it shouldn’t be read in place of the original text, but it does make for an interesting curio.