Leica Format by Daše Drndić



Leica Format

Leica Format by Daše Drndić

Croatian fiction

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Original title – Leica Format

Source review copy

Sixteen years
Sixteen banners united over the field
Where the good shepherd grieves
Desperate men, desperate women divided
Spreading their wings ‘neath falling leaves.

Fortune calls
I stepped forth from the shadows to the marketplace
Merchants and thieves, hungry for power, my last deal gone down
She’s smelling sweet like the meadows where she was born
On midsummer’s eve near the tower.

The cold-blooded moon
The captain waits above the celebration
Sending his thoughts to a beloved maid
Whose ebony face is beyond communication
The captain is down but still believing that his love will be repaid.

Dylans changing of the guard is about his journey as this book is a journey for a place

Well I promised you all a second Croatian novel this week and another from a female Croatian writer , that I have met . I was lucky met and spoke quite a bit too Dasa at the IFFP when he first book in english was up for the prize  .She is quite a character and had a lot to say about lit around europe . So when the chance has come to read a second book by her . I am excited as she is considered one of the leading lights of modern Croatian fiction a real heavyweight writer .This is her second title she has written more than 11 books so we have a lot more to come .

This town has many constricted parts , lots of small organs  , it has an appendix .

When I think about this town , that is , about life in this town , my stomach begins to churn , my jaws clicks like a padlock , it closes up , I turn my eyes away although they never rest on anything  anymore , I shake my head , I don’t yet rock backwards or forwards , I don’t sway , cowering in the corner of my empty white room like people in films , not yet . I don’t yet hum , that’s the current situation

I love Dasa passages like this that drift off

I wondered where the title for this came from so I translated a number of interviews with Dasa from the net using Google translate . I knew Leica is a camera and format is the prefered style of picture for documentary photographers .Dasa has described this book as in the style of documentary photos snapshots of a city . The book is a story in fragments we dive in and out of people’s lives it is the story of the city from those newly arrived to those who have lived in the city for years . It is a story of secrets people not being whom they seem a woman on a train told she isn’t who she thought she was ? Dark secrets leak out like the drains in the cities .The book unfolds as a history fo all the dark deeds of the 20th century .How this once proud city has become insular and smaller over the century .The city reflects the whole region in a way .

Don’t trust your memory , your memory is a net full of holes , the past and the present slip through it everything slips through your memory , your memory is a hole .

How true is this passage .

I loved the style of this book one of the interviews I translated compared it too Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin , the great german novel that capture that city so well and yes it has a bit of that , one could also compare this book to  something like Italo  Calvino’s   book invisible cities . This is a book of parts a mosaic so to speak that mix style of story and narrative like say John Dos Passos had used in his epic book USA .Of course Dasa has captured her homeland that has seen so much of what happened in the 20th century from the start of world war one , being involved in world war two Tito and then the break up of Yugoslavia .This is one of those books you need to read to know about it is so full of ideas strings and characters .

Have you  favourite female writer from the Balkans ?


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MarinaSofia
    Jun 19, 2015 @ 11:37:41

    I really liked Death in the Museum of Modern Art by Alma Lazarevska (also translated by Celia Hawkesworth, incidentally), a collection of short stories set in a Sarajevo under siege.


  2. TJ @ MyBookStrings
    Jun 19, 2015 @ 13:55:26

    My knowledge of literature from this part of the world is sorely lacking. I just finished reading Girl at War (the author has lived in both the US and Croatia) and it has really kindled my interest in literature from and about the former Yugoslavia. So thanks for this review… now I have a starting point.


  3. 1streading
    Jun 21, 2015 @ 09:37:37

    I loved Trieste and it’s exciting to hear that Leica Format is equally interesting and that there are a number of other novels out there waiting to be translated. I’m looking forward to reading this.


  4. Mytwostotinki
    Jun 24, 2015 @ 10:33:18

    It is dangerous to read your reviews, Stu. Because now I added one more book to read…your review sounds very interesting.
    Regarding female writers from the Balkans: there are so many remarkable one’s, it is difficult to single out only one. I recently enjoyed very much Virgina Zaharieva’s Nine Rabbits and Ornela Vorpsi’s The Country Where No One Ever Dies. Vorpsi writes in Italian but since she is from Albania I suppose she fits into the category.


  5. bookwormbird
    Aug 05, 2015 @ 10:49:18

    I’m reading this at the moment at also thought it was like a documentary – one with no narrator; one where you have to observe carefully and make your own connections. In that respect it is quite hard work, but I am enjoying it nevertheless. Also reminds me of Richard Brautigan and Virginia Woolf.


    • winstonsdad
      Aug 05, 2015 @ 12:05:17

      Dasà has described it as a documentary in croatian interviews and leica format is the preferred paper of documentary photographers I agree with woolf it has a modernist feel as well


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June 2015


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