The son by Andrej Nikolaidis
Original title – Sin
Translator – Will Firth
Source – Review copy
I’ve reviewed the first book in this what is a lose trilogy of novels by Andrej Nikolaidis .He is a well-known figure in Montenegro where he is quite outspoken at times and is firmly a writer that likes to give his opinions over .He also kindly wrote a piece for this blog on his love of Thomas Bernhard .He said to his publisher this book was more influence by Bernhard than his first novel the coming .
April is the cruellest month , according to Eliot .But he never lived on the Montenegrin Riviera , and his fellow citizens didn’t rake in the wealth by renting out rooms .He never saw tourist arriving in his peaceful town like hordes of Huns and turning it into a giant barbarian amusement park
I loved this line ,as I want to go to Montenegro on holiday at some point and be one of the hordes .
Well given the fact that we know in part this is a book that is influenced by Bernhard ,we can see it straight away as we meet our narrator he is a writer and is unnamed .We meet him on one evening in his life as he wanders round Ulcinj partly the setting for Nikolaidis earlier novel .We follow him through this night as he wanders the city but also interacts with numerous folk along the way a piano student from Vienna ( another nod to Bernhard I think as his book about Glenn Gould the great Canadian pianist is set in Vienna ) this man has quit piano and become a Muslim . a preacher also crosses his path .Also refugees from Kosovo ,I loved this part I spent a summer in Germany in the mid 90’s working in a factory with a couple from Kosovo so this brought back memories of that time . Add to this the Son of the title is struggling in his real life and his father blames him for his mother’s death and we have a dark evening of guilt and the past of this city itself slaves that made the city initially and communist past echoes around the narrator .Also a good dose of drinking this is a novel that grabbed me as a reader .
My mother cursed the day she bore me .She was in hospital in Podgorica ,melting away before my eyes as uterine cancer ate her up from the inside , she literally de materialised as the emptiness of her womb spread like the expanding universe ,and disappeared into that void like light is devoured by a black hole
Powerful and touching lines here .
Well I loved this as much as I loved The coming for me Nikolaidis is the reason I read translation ,voices like his make reading books in translation a pleasure .Had I not loved Bernhard works and his unique narrators would I have been able to see his influence on Nikolaidis the narrator her could walk of the page of a Bernhard novel but this isn’t just an homage to Bernhard we see the last twenty years of modern Europe ,very much the balkans ,the refugees from Kosovo are a great example of the times their country and recent history sums up the history of the Balkan conflicts religion and Serbia at the heart of it .There is also a dose of almost dream like drifting into the past ,almost like you have had a few drinks as yoy read add to this Andrej has added a playlist to the book I include one song he listen to while writing this book Steve Earle John walker blues (I love Earle since hearing copperhead road as a kid )