Farewell , Cowboy by Olja Savičević

Farewell , cowboy by  Olja Savičević

Croatian fiction

Original title – Adio  kauboju

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source review copy

 

I seem to recognize your face
haunting, familiar, yet i can’t seem to place it
cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
lifetimes are catching up with me
all these changes taking place, i wish i’d seen the place
but no one’s ever taken me
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…
i swear i recognize your breath
memories like fingerprints are slowly raising
me, you wouldn’t recall, for i’m not my former
it’s hard when, you’re stuck upon the shelf
i changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate
perhaps that’s what no one wants to see
i just want to scream…hello…Now

I think the lyrics in this old pearl Jam song elderly woman behind echo Dada return to the town .

 

I have met both the writer and translator of this book earlier this year at London book fair and had intend to blog about it then as things are and rather like this book family happens and things go astray .Olja Savičević is an award-winning poet and novelist , she has six collection of poetry this was her debut novel and was a huge hit in Croatia already been made into a stage play over there . A part of this was used in the Dalkey archive best of european fiction collection in 2014 .

This business with the cowboys was my father’s doing . He started it , and somehow it was his story . Everyone else in Yugoslavia liked Indians best , apparently because our most popular TV series , which had Winnetou , the indian boy as the hero . It was only much later that cowboys came into their own .

Why everyone liked Indians in the Old Yugoslavia

 

Farewell , cowboy is the story of a brother and sister Dada and Daniel . Dada has returned to her hometown to find out what has happened to her beloved brother .This small seaside town in post war Croatia is seeing the first signs of  people from outside the country starting to buy property in this town , add to this a film crew is making a western Dada needs to find out why her brother killed himself by throwing himself under a train . She meets a band of eccentric characters as she starts to piece together her brothers last few months  whilst seeing the broken town see grew up in and mixing her memories with the broken and changing childhood town so badly scared by the war .

Daniel , my brother , died in his eighteenth year , by jumping from a concrete bridge over the railway under a speeding Osijek -Zagreb – Split intercity train .

He hadn’t appeared at school that morning , he had turned off towards the highway , beside the dry stream , then under it through the secret tunnel beneath the road and along the well know gravel path to the railway . I can imagine it clearly

Dada recalls how Daniel lost his life .

Lost men is a theme in this book the siblings own father has disappeared many years ago , he was a fan of Cowboys when a strange thing in Croatia most people who watch western films connected with the Indians in the films not the Cowboys . Of course the film industry paid a huge part in pre civil war Yugoslavia with TITO attracting and encouraging  film crews many of the great western films of the sixties and seventies were filmed in Yugoslavia .I would recommend the film Cineman Komunisto , which Susan from Istros books suggest I watch , so I did it shows how Tito used films  control people but also the great filmmakers from Yugoslavia that appeared  . Anyway back to the book Daniel seems to be in some ways an everyman for the lost innocence of a generation that was involved with the war and the way many men where missing from this generation brother fathers and husbands .Dada is like an old fashion private investigator trying to find out the clues to her brother’s death , in fact in some ways I was reminded of Twin peaks with some of the odd characters she meets along the way . A novel about a country on the cusp of what is to come just after the last bombs and deaths , the new money just coming and old wounds waiting to heal Olja captures what it is like to be a Woman in a country where the men have gone .

Have you a favourite Croatian Novel ?

 

 

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. roughghosts
    Jun 14, 2015 @ 15:42:28

    Great review Stu. It must have been super to meet the author. I was struck by how bright and funny this was despite the gloomy undercurrents. I especially loved her observations about technology and her search for someone to read a floppy disk! Priceless! I hope more people discover this terrific book.

    Reply

    • winstonsdad
      Jun 14, 2015 @ 15:44:32

      It was she is quite shy in real life was nice to share a few words and see her read the book in the original Croatian get a sense of the rhythm of the book

      Reply

  2. Susan
    Jun 14, 2015 @ 16:08:23

    Thanks for the review, Stu, and for sharing your memories of meeting the author at the book fair. She is indeed a little shy in English:) Did you see the mention of her and Avdic today in Kapka Kassabova’s review in The Guardian? http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/11/girl-at-war-sara-novic-review

    Reply

  3. Mytwostotinki
    Jun 16, 2015 @ 08:03:48

    Since I am a great fan of South-East European literature, this is on my TBR list now. Favorite Croatian novels include The Museum of Unconditional Surrender by Dubravka Ugrešić and The Return of Filip Latinowicz by Miroslav Krleža.

    Reply

  4. Max Cairnduff
    Jun 17, 2015 @ 16:41:10

    I’m quite interested in this one, so it’s good to see your review. It does sound rather good.

    Reply

  5. Trackback: Winstonsdad’s Books of the year | Winstonsdad's Blog

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