The Per­fec­tion of Things

Peter Nash

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction -

Fomite (SEPTEM­BER) Soft­cover $15 (208pp) 978-1-944388-33-1

In his at­mo­spheric, evoca­tive The Per­fec­tion of Things, Peter Nash uses a small can­vas to frame far larger themes.

Neuras­thenic Amer­i­can pro­fes­sor Adam Re­beira has come to Petrópo­lis, Brazil, in hopes of fin­ish­ing a nine­teen-years-over­due bi­og­ra­phy of Ste­fan Zweig. It was to Petrópo­lis that Zweig and his wife fled in 1942 to es­cape the Holo­caust; there, they com­mit­ted sui­cide to­gether.

Re­beira sub­lets an apart­ment over­look­ing the Zweig house. Un­in­hab­ited since the sui­cides, the house be­comes Re­beira’s ob­ses­sion. He con­ducts mid­night tres­passes to wal­low in the aban­doned space.

The story is told as an ex­tended reverie, de­lib­er­ately slow and of­ten dream­like. Petrópo­lis, sur­rounded by moun­tains, jun­gle hu­mid­ity, and colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture, seems as mag­i­cally re­deem­ing as Zweig be­lieved it to be. Grace­fully drawn metaphors abound, as when the nar­ra­tor con­fesses to try­ing to cap­ture Zweig’s past as his own, say­ing, “Of that I stuff my pock­ets full; each night I cram it like soft, sweet pas­try down my throat.”

There are also riskier pas­sages: para­graphs that run for pages, sin­gle sen­tences that oc­cupy most of a page. Nu­mer­ous quotes from Zweig’s work ap­pear, in­clud­ing sev­eral pages from Zweig’s bi­og­ra­phy of Marie An­toinette. These un­con­ven­tional choices build the book’s emo­tional at­mos­phere and il­lu­mi­nate themes of dis­lo­ca­tion, lone­li­ness, and de­spair.

As the book un­folds, the nar­ra­tor’s back­story slowly comes to light; each rev­e­la­tion is a tiny bomb­shell. Other char­ac­ters are also tan­ta­liz­ingly re­vealed. Be­sides Re­beira, the only phys­i­cally present main char­ac­ter is Lur­des, the land­lady whose deep na­ture and deeper per­cep­tion don’t come com­pletely into view un­til the end. Other char­ac­ters are ghosts or mem­o­ries, but nonethe­less fully present.

The Per­fec­tion of Things is a beau­ti­fully braided story, si­mul­ta­ne­ously lush, melan­choly, and mov­ing. SUSAN WAGGONER

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