“Consolation”
by André Alexis
from the May 20, 2024 issue of The New Yorker

I haven’t read any of André Alexis’s work, but I do know his name since he won the Giller Prize for his 2015 novel Fifteen Dogs, the second in his Quincunx quintet. As a side note, I have next to know information about the Quincunx quintet, but I have been intrigued since Ring was published in 2021 as the third in the series, though numbers four and five were published in 2016 and 2019 respectively. I’m intrigued.

I’m also intrigued because the opening to this week’s story is quite direct and powerful.

Five years before my mother died, we had a violent argument—a thing that had never happened before. She was in her early eighties and still driving, and, because I am an inveterate back-seat driver, on one of our outings I suggested that she take a road she did not want to take. She resented it, and I could feel her anger growing.

When we got to her house, she came at me, all hundred and ten pounds of her, flailing, screaming, and cursing. It was like being assaulted by a very short scarecrow. I shouted back at her, pushed her away, and left the house, resolved never to see her again.

Alexis has published in the magazine before, in 2022. That story, “Houyhnhnm,” also starts with a paragraph about the narrator’s parent. I didn’t read this at the time, but I’m going to go back and see what that 2022 story was all about and whether it relates in any way to “Consolation.” Here’s how “Houyhnhnm” starts:

My dad, Robert auf der Horst, died seven years ago. He was a successful doctor, and for most of his life he divided the world into two categories: what he thought useful (science) and what he thought frivolous (almost everything else). It wasn’t that he disdained other things—art, for instance. It was that he couldn’t see the point of pretending that knowledge, the fruit of science, was comparable to entertainment.

Please feel welcome to comment below! I will post my thoughts when I’ve read the story later on in the week.

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