Monique Schwitter’s poignantly poetic treatment of love, desire and grief is admirable for its immediacy and authenticity.
When the narrator, a writer and actress, learns that her first lover committed suicide five years ago, it unleashes a stream of memories about twelve men she has loved in the course of her life. Each chapter puts a different man at its centre and describes a crucial moment or encounter. One is a fellow student, one a stranger, one a teacher, one a pupil, one a friend, one a daydream, one a husband, one a lover, one an imagined son, one a brother. The twelve experiences each bring different insights into the nature of love and desire. Her love for these men takes different forms and brings her into tragic, exciting and comical situations. The narrator’s memories are interspersed with short scenes from the present in which we see her as a wife and mother of two young children.
Schwitter’s multi-layered text is enriched with frequent allusions to the Bible and literary writings. This depiction of the trials and tribulations of love and desire gives a contemporary twist to timeless themes.