"You'll see how beautiful it is in the morning-jungle all around us," says one of the characters in Anne Raeff's story collection, referring to the way that the jungle that threatens can also provide solace. The jungle in these stories is both metaphorical and real, taking the reader from war-torn Europe to Bolivia and from suburban New Jersey to Vietnam. Raeff examines how war and violence, like the jungle, seep into our lives, even when we are no longer in danger and long after the war is over.
While struggling with fear, danger, and displacement, the characters of The Jungle around Us form strange and powerful bonds in distant and unlikely places. A family that has escaped Vienna ends up on the edge of the Amazon, where the parents fight yellow fever and the daughter falls in love with a village boy. Two sisters learn lessons about race and war during the Columbia University riots of1968. A young girl confronts death when her former babysitter is mysteriously murdered. In Paraguay, two adult sisters confront their loneliness while their precocious young charge faces off with a monkey. Raeff 's stories are about embracing the world though the world contains everything we fear.
Anne Raeff is a keen cartographer of human distances. The refugees in her finely measured stories-exiled from their homelands, from love affairs, from their own happiness-find compelling routes toward intimacy and purpose. This wise, thought-provoking collection left me feeling full of wonder.
—Michael Lowenthal, author of Charity Girl and The Paternity Test
With understated power, The Jungle around Us
slips us deep into the lives of people displaced by circumstances, large and small, who are doing their earnest best in new territory. Observers at a remove (a student discovering a new way of seeing, a visitor suddenly alienated from her sister, a wandering lover, a researcher investigating the past in the Soviet Union), they peer through the scrim of everyday doings in a foreign land and foreign language to grapple with the mysteries we are to each other. The miracle of Raeff's stories is how the measured grace of her stripped-down prose clears the way for the richness of her characters' lived experience.
—Tracy Winn, author of Mrs. Somebody Somebody
This collection is destined to become a classic. Raeff illuminates without insisting, employing a delicate touch on the weightiest truths. Her characters, heartbreakingly real, navigate the aftermath of the terrible wrench of World War II, displacements of many sorts, and set out on quests for both place and a peace that arises all too rarely-displaying their humanity throughout. Elegant, compassionate, and blessedly wise, these stories are not only unforgettable, they are important for capturing lives we do not yet know.
—Robin Black, author of Crash Course: Essays From Where Writing and Life Collide
The stories in The Jungle around Us
do not try to make sense of the world-they are
the world. A world of uncanny sharpness that is as bold as it is striking in its uncompromising, haunting depictions of longing and uncertainty and grief and bliss. The jungle Anne Raeff proposes that we enter is, in reality, not around us, in the intricated destinations of displacement where this book takes place-from Bolivia to Austria, from Leningrad to Albuquerque, from Harlem to El Tambor-but within ourselves. The protagonists in these stories are commanded by loss and desire and uprootedness and the scalding need for human connection, but unlike those from any other work of fiction that might be too self-conscious of its own ambitions, they struggle handling these emotions. Raeff's characters are too complex, too fully fleshed out, too human to know what step to take next, and this is, perhaps, the biggest feat of many she has achieved with this ravishing collection. Her talent is rare and transfixing, and this book marks the arrival of a marvelous new voice.
—Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, author of Barefoot Dogs
This masterful collection records the long psychic toll of the twentieth century's traumas, offering portraits of people in various kinds of exile: displaced from their countries or uneasy in their hometowns or somehow alien in their own bodies and minds. Anne Raeff's exquisite stories are remarkable for their combination of intimacy and reverence for the mysteries and private griefs her characters fold their lives around. Seldom have I read work so confident in the power of what's left unspoken and in the deep eloquence of gesture. The Jungle around Us
is a haunting and breathtakingly beautiful book.
—Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You
Stirring in its subdued depiction of sexual longing and the desire to start over, Raeff's collection finds hope amid life's tangled vines.
—Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist
The Jungle Around Us
unspools more conventionally, with clean, digestible prose and stories that ambush the reader, stealthy in their impact. It follows numerous characters, primarily women (with a few men scattered throughout), and finds literal and metaphorical jungles in places as disparate as New York City and Mexico. . . . The unruly spaces in which these stories are set are a direct reflection of the characters' inner lives, the turmoil and tranquility, the known and unknown. To be a woman is to arrive at a wilderness with a destination in mind but no map, the sprawling vagueness before you both a challenge and a threat. When there are so many ways to be, and so many pitfalls to encounter, women learn the topography by stumbling over it, step by step, the foibles as necessary and inevitable as the ascent.
—Linnie Greene, The Millions
This ability to fit unfortunate truth and acknowledgment of privilege in one line is typical of Raeff's work. Her stories emerge from what is clearly a socially conscious place, but it is never spoon-fed to readers. These are truly good stories, full of emotion and energy. Her style is uniform, quietly lush, with a distance between narration and story where atmosphere lives. . . . Raeff's [stories] will let you watch them through binoculars, peering in close enough to read their lips but not always their hearts, giving them a private, appealing inner life.
—Ilana Masad, Los Angeles Times