People in the Room - Norah Lange

Staff Pick

If Borges had been a woman, would he have written like Norah Lange? A friend of Borges and often called his “muse,” Lange (1905-72) started as a poet and became a key figure in Argentina’s literary avant-garde. People in the Room (1950), considered her masterpiece and finally available in English, is reported by an unnamed seventeen-year-old as she “spies” on all her neighbors are doing and not doing. The three women never go out and never close their drapes; they’re not exhibitionists, they assume they’re “of no interest to anyone.” But framed in their windows they’re a portrait the narrator obsessively studies, describes, and reads—or a screen she projects her own unresolved ideas and self-images onto. When she insinuates her way into their house, the close observation continues, the emotional intensity heightens, and every detail of these conventional, constrained, and emphatically uneventful female lives grows mercurial and even surreal. “The doorbell looks…as if it were spying on me” the narrator notes. Hands feel gloved or crawling with ants. Palms reveal not life lines but “a suicide line.” The narrator sees her subjects as “three wayward women, three memory keepers”; as three cards of the same suit, as “blushing porcelain dolls.” Are they three witches or three wishes? She loves and hates them. Renounces them but is “addicted” to them. On the cusp of adulthood, she sees these older women—thirty! she decides—as a fearsome but ineluctable fate. They exist “on the edge of the storm” that’s her own turbulent coming of age. Lange deftly updates a classic fairy tale motif into this cryptic, telling, spellbinding piece of modernist writing.

People in the Room Cover Image
By Norah Lange, Charlotte Whittle (Translator)
$15.95
ISBN: 9781911508229
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: And Other Stories - August 2nd, 2018

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