Seven Years

Benjamin Lytal writes:

Seven Years grinds down the story of a ghastly and unsatisfying love triangle. Alex, an architecture student, is sitting through the pretentious jocularity of his friends’ end-of-term banter when one of them, as a prank, invites a young Polish woman to join their table. This is Ivona, and she will be the love of Alex’s life. He walks her home. He rubs in vain against her tightly belted skirt. It will be years before she lets him sleep with her. He goes long stretches without her, but always comes back. And in all that time he never revises his estimate of her: she is always pathetic. This has a sharper strangeness than most Stamm plots, and was inspired by Witold Gombrowicz, who wrote a play called Ivona, Princess of Burgundia in 1935. Less homage than retelling, Seven Yearsleaves out the mad Alfred Jarry energy of Gombrowicz’s original, but takes seriously the play’s main suggestion: not just that an ugly girl might prove sexually addictive, but that such an inexplicable passion would not only scandalise but actually derange established society, the farcical royal court of Gombrowicz’s play or the upper middle class of Stamm’s Munich.

(LRB 30 August 2012)