A handful of sand by Marinko Koščec


A handful of sand by Marinko Koščec

Croatian fiction

Original title To malo pijeska dianu

Translator Will Firth

Source – review copy

Every time a book from Istros books drop through my door ,I know for a fact I’m in for a treat so far this is my fourth books from every one as different as the one before but equally as brilliant as the one before so no to the book from Marinko Koščec ,He is a lecturer in French literature for the university in Zagreb .he works as an editor for the Sysprint publishing house and also teaches novel-writing .He has so far published five novel his novel someone else won a big prize in Croatia ,this book Handful of sand was nominated for the Jutarnji list award .

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a magnet for weirdos both for those who are kept at a safe distance with that label ,as well as people who live among us peacefully and pose no danger til something in them erupts, for no apparent reason and seem to need my proximity when it starts .

Haven’t we all felt like this at times ?


A handful of sand is a story of a romance between two people ,but is larger than that, it is  the story of two people ,but also living and growing up in the modern Croatia of the book  .The book is formed of interchanging chapters one from a male narrator the other a female narrator .The male narrator works in publishing  as a proofreader (we also see a number of mentions of translations into Croatian here ) we follow him from his  child hood through university to now working in publishing ,the ups and downs of a modern life loss, disappointments   ,his relationship with his parents ,the female narrative moves along a same path  to the male ,but it is the male story I associated with more ,what comes across is how do we get to where we are ? This book I said is a romance novel but instead of starting at the usual point we start a romance novel we start and the start and get to the starting point of the romance ,so as the book progresses we she the two unnamed narrators move closer in each others circles to each other .Til ?and then out again

Very soon ,perhaps while we were still standing there ,I knew I wasn’t imaging things ; although that couldn’t yet be true because truth still had to be woven ,weft for weft and warp for warp .I’D been irritated and disheartened so many times by those standard expectations that I just fulfil the stereotype and nourish it with my flesh

How often have you felt this upon meeting someone


I think the most important bit of information I discovered about Marinko Koščec  is that he teaches french Literature ,because at times this reminds me of existentialist writing the books is so much about detail as about why and who we are ,what makes us the person we are at a certain point which is of course the whole question behind existentialism . Marinko Koščec Has a dark wit as well a couple of times I even laughed out loud during this book .This book shows how precious and fragile love is between two people in Modern Croatia ,but this story is also a story every one can associate with even outside Croatia  .I not sure where the title comes from but I imagine sand draining out of a hand til you end up with two grains of sand left by chance and isn’t that what love is sometimes chance aren’t we all grains of sand waiting to end up together .I also wonder if it is an homage to the Waugh book a handful of dust,but as I read the book I just thought it was chance they had a similar titles .I must also mention that any one near london and book fairing it must see Istros books as they are running the Croatian book stand at the fair the first time a Balkan state has had a stand at the book fair

Have you a favourite book from the Balkans


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. parrish lantern
    Apr 07, 2013 @ 19:08:11

    Have this one to read soon as I finish my IFFP book. Totally agree about Istros, a fantastic advocate of poetry & translit.


  2. Lisa Hill
    Apr 08, 2013 @ 00:04:39

    I’ve got this one too, and am looking forward to reading it soon. I’ll come back here and read your review when I’ve written mine.


  3. Brian Joseph
    Apr 08, 2013 @ 10:16:50

    This does sound vet appealing to me as I love books that ruminate with thoughts concerning the human condition. I find existentialist views to be particularly fascinating.


  4. Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)
    Apr 08, 2013 @ 23:19:40

    Hi Stu,
    For a number of days I’ve wanted to reply that I borrowed a book by a Bosnian writer who now lives in Germany. He was born in 1978 and when he was 14 years old, he fled with this family to Germany. His name is Sasa Stanisic, and the novel, translated from the German by Anthea Bell, is How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone. I see from my library copy that the book was published simultaneously in the U.S. and Canada in 2009, after having been published in Germany in 2006.
    Have you read it, and do you know of this author? I’m just really curious, because it looks like a fascinating novel about the Bosnian War from the civilian point of view.

    Best wishes, Stu!


  5. Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)
    Apr 08, 2013 @ 23:22:38

    Oh, Stu!
    I forgot to mention. I’m very interested in this Croatian title. I’ll bet it’s not available here yet, but I’ll check it out.


  6. Trackback: A Handful of Sand, by Marinko Koscec, translated by Will Firth | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
  7. Lisa Hill
    Apr 19, 2013 @ 23:11:37

    Now that I’ve read the book, I’ve read your review – and am interested to see that you associated more with the male. But knowing you as I do, not with that (no spoilers) scene on page 299, I am sure! That changed my attitude towards him completely…
    My review is here http://wp.me/phTIP-5PE


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April 2013


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