Ekaterini by Marija Knežević,

ekaterinfrontcover_50b7770928f02

Ekaterini by Marija Knežević,

Serbian fiction

Original title –  Ekaterini

Translator – Will Firth

Source – review copy

Well another book from last years backlog of read and unreviewed books as I try to clear the backlog, so  I get to another of the Istros books Best Balkan book 2013 ,this time it is the Serbian writer Marija Knežević she studied at Belgrade university and the in the US ,worked in Serbian radio ,she has published a number of books in various styles of writing poetry ,essay ,short fiction and novels .She was included in the best european fiction 2012 for Serbia .She has also won a number of book prizes in Serbia .

Where is he ? Why is he late ? All right , I always come a little early just in case , but he should have passed by already ,like every other day .How did he look ? Is he going to come ? Is he going to give me a piece of chocolate today too ?

The start of a chapter grandmother when Ekaterini was waiting for her fathers return from the great war .

Well Ekaterini is a novel about women in the Balkans ,about moving through places ,about longing ,about a quest to return home .As you see a complex book that deals with one women journey from Greece to Yugoslavia as it was then and the history of the 20th century she saw .The woman is Ekaterini the title of the book she is as Greek women that falls in love with a man from what is now Serbia and follows him home to Belgrade and she makes a life with him this is before the second world war ,the we see how her and her two young daughters cope during the second world war .The change fortunes as the war goes one way and the another the two leaders Hitler and Stalin ,the post war period of Socialism and of course the great leader of Yugoslavia Tito then post Tito to the falling apart of Yugoslavia .Ekaterini always dreams through out her life of returning to her home in Thessalonike .The story is told by her granddaughter who greatly admired her grandmother .

Visiting her grave is like going for a walk for me .They say Lesce cemetery is a real “fresh air -spa” .Sure enough ,I alway come back from the cemetery feeling refreshed ,in a mood such as only intoxication with oxygen can bring

Ekaterini granddaughter the unnamed narrator of the book visiting the grandmothers grave .

Well the book is described as the reverse  story of the myth  Odysseus of course instead of Odysseus going and fighting in the wars it is a female Ekaterini a modern-day take on Penelope  that takes the journey not to fight but to show the other side of a conflict and that is the home life ,what is it like to bring up a family against this backdrop ? what is it like to be a women instead of a man and miss your homeland .I love the fact that Susan the publisher of Istros books keeps turning up gems like this one .Yet another book that for me shows the importance of books in translation .They take you to another place ,see the world through another eyes and like this can twist what we known as Greek myth into a greater myth of the Balkans and switching what was the male narrative of the original to a modern female narrative .

Have you a book you’ve enjoyed that is a modern  retelling of a  myth ?

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16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Jan 30, 2014 @ 13:11:24

    I couldn’t agree more about books in translation, Stu – you get a reading experience from them you wouldn’t get from other books.

    Reply

  2. MarinaSofia
    Jan 30, 2014 @ 14:30:41

    Beautifully put, Stu!

    Reply

  3. Michelle
    Jan 30, 2014 @ 19:52:08

    I have this to read soon, really looking forward to it.

    Reply

  4. Parrishh
    Jan 30, 2014 @ 20:47:44

    Sounds like another winner from Istros

    Reply

  5. Messy Tony
    Jan 30, 2014 @ 21:27:51

    I loved this one too Stu, a very strong female story with real characters of depth, their struggles and longings. Istros Books with only winners for me so far.

    Reply

  6. Tony
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 10:50:07

    I’m hoping to get to this soon – but my pile is high, and time before the IFFP reading gets underway is short… It does sound good though :)

    Reply

  7. Bina
    Feb 01, 2014 @ 12:43:34

    A wonderful and important book to be translated! I’m curious now whether it’s been translated into German as well.

    Reply

  8. Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)
    Feb 01, 2014 @ 23:59:40

    Hello, Stu!
    Serbian lit is high on my list and, because there are relatively few titles available, I’ll definitely put this one on my list, and especially so, because it sounds so interesting!
    I’m interested in learning about other Serbian novels in translation.
    Best to you!
    Judith

    Reply

  9. Trackback: Women in translation | Winstonsdad's Blog

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