You can’t get there from here

Benjamin Markovits

  • What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
    Sceptre, 370 pp, £14.99, January 2003, ISBN 0 340 68237 X

In Siri Hustvedt’s first novel, The Blindfold, a young woman is hospitalised by the combined forces of an unhappy love affair, an artist’s photograph of her, and her translation of an early 20th-century German novella – this is plausible enough, to Hustvedt’s credit. Her plots depend on the occult power of art and the frailty of our ordinary healthy relation to the world. Sex plays its part in both. What I Loved deals in the lives of critics, painters, academics, writers: people who possess what has been called the leisure of the theory classes. It’s also a book about a couple of couples who together have children, grow old and become unhappy. The worries about art and about life inevitably overlap, and Hustvedt asks two simple and serious questions: can art help us to understand our lives? And can it change them for the better?

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