‘Sweet Days of Discipline’ by Fleur Jaeggy – At the Girls’ Boarding School in Switzerland

 

‘Sweet Days of Discipline’ by Fleur Jaeggy (1989) – 101 pages Translated from the Italian by Tim Parks

‘Sweet Days of Discipline’ starts out eerie and only gets eerier.  Here are the opening sentences:

At fourteen I was a boarder in a school in the Appenzell. 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. Photographs show his footprints and the position of his body in the snow.”

This girl’s boarding school is the Bausler Institute, in the Appenzell of Switzerland near Lake Constance. The time is the mid-1950s. Her parents have packed her off to various boarding schools since she was the age of eight so this is normal life for her although nothing approaches normal in this story. We don’t hear much about her father but she writes letters to her mother who is in Brazil and remarried.

This girl is dismissive of her German roommate Marion; instead she is obsessed with the new girl Frédérique and follows her around until Frédérique finally notices her. There is a shortage of males, so regimented school life is all about the girl crushes.

Of course we are experts when it comes to women, we who have spent our best years in boarding schools. And when we get out, since the world is divided in two, male and female, we’ll get to know the male side as well. But will it ever have the same intensity? Will conquering men, I wonder, ever be as difficult as conquering Frédérique?”

By the age of fourteen, most of these girls feel they have been stuck in the authoritarian setting of the boarding school way too long and are hanging out waiting for their actual lives to begin. After fourteen, this feeling of being in suspended animation at the school gets only worse for the girls. But when they finally do get out and experience the vexing freedom of the real world they may long for those sweet days of discipline at the boarding school.

Every sentence is loaded with a grotesque slant in this short novel. We learn little about attending classes or other activities at the school. There is an occasional glimpse of the headmistress Frau Hofstetter who seems nice enough, not at all the wicked headmistress of some boarding school novels. It is most all about the other girls.

 

 

Grade:   B

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Intriguing – that opening sentence certainly gets your interest! 🙂

    Like

    Reply

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