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Orpheus and Eurydice

Lament for Agnes

Marnix Gijsen

The story takes place at the end of World War I and a few years afterwards. An introvert scholar, a bookworm, slowly discovers the outside world. His relationship with his mother is poor and he has little sense of reality. His work environment (a boring office), the compulsory military service and, above all, the encounter with the sober Agnes and her impoverished surroundings allow him to taste the ‘real’ world. With Agnes, he enters into an ardent platonic love affair. It is short-lived, though, as Agnes is suffering from TB and, despite being nursed in sanatoria, she dies. His lament is not only for the lost Agnes but for the love that he never demonstrated.

An unusually accomplished book

Coming of age and a predilection for the pure are the primary themes of this book. Meanwhile, in an almost pragmatic, but ironic manner, Gijsen also criticises bureaucracy, church and military service in his story.

‘Lament for Agnes’ is essentially an autobiographical novel. The character of Agnes is in many respects that of Gijsen’s own fiancé who died of TB, while the narrator has much in common with the authors as a young man. ‘Lament for Agnes’ is a novel that is once deeply personal and a fully independent work of art.

Superior style
NBD Biblion