Bellevue by Ivana Dobrakovoa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bellevue by Ivana Dobrakova

Slovakian fiction

Original title – Bellevue

Translators Julia and Peter Sherwood

Source – review copy

I was sent three Slovakian books as part of a tour that is happening in the UK by the writers of these books here is the first of these three books Ivan Dobrakova. Considered a leading light in the blossoming contemporary Slovak scene with her books reflecting part of modern Slovakian life and that is having to live abroad so expat literature of Slovakian abroad. She has been compared to writers like Rachel Cusk or Deborah Levy in English as OI haven’t read them it is hard to compare but for me, she captured the experience of living abroad as an expat.

There were five sleeping bags on the floor, and holdalls, pillows, handbags, bath towels, cosmetics, sunscreen, bits of clothing, books lay scattered all around the place, a complete mess. I helped to carry the stuff to a two-bedroom flat in the annexe reached through the main building.past a big drainpipe and a flowerbed, accross a short metal bridge above some sort of crater filled with gravel and finally down a long balcony, the second doo on the left. The flat was very clean, light, with a view of the building opposite, a bathroom, a toilet

When she first arrives at Bellevue and tries to settle.

Blanka has accepted a job in France, well in Marseilles at the Bellevue a centre for people with physical disabilities that has volunteers at a camp in the summer to help out. As she boards the night train for Prague to venture across the train to cross Europe it is full of fellow young people from East  Europe like Poles all trying to get a better life in Europe. She arrives and the Bellevue centre is there on the top of the hill. She arrives and is drawn into the lives of her fellow volunteers and works at the centre looking after the patients but also the love affairs and relationships within the group as she starts to meet people Martina Patrick and Drago some of the  European people at the camp is a mix of Them and Algerians working there. she is drawn into the world of the camp one of the beach days and nightclubs and work. Behind all this Blanka struggles to fit in she is a sensitive 19-year-old a fragile girl maybe this trip wasn’t the right choice for her !! But then a single event hinges a change in her life meaning she is injured and a reversal in her role with Bellevue!!

I’m trying to be helpful, I see that he’s exhausted, he’s fed up with me, he seems to be avoiding me, as if he, too wason the brink of a nervous breakdown, so I brig him fruit, stroke his hairand hand him cloths to fling at a hole in the wall, I’ve no ideawhy he enjoys that, tossing dirty tea towels at a hole in the wall after lunch, I keep begging him not to be cross with me, to forgive me, I know I’m being impossible, I know how difficult I make things for him. but it’s just the time being, I’m sure everything will be all right again soon , just bear with me for a little longer, I don’t have anyone else, everyone hates me, please Drago

Here we see how she is pushed out at times with the line everyone hates me as she is the squre peg in the round hole of the camp.

This tale captures a mix of Hope the dream of the French Riveria and working there for the summer against what is Blanka main problem and that is she has depression and very little self-belief in herself. What is seen is the usual your life of a group of young people when gathered together but her we have Blanka view which sadly is that of an outsider inside the world she is when her life hinges on that one event later in the book you wonder what will happen to her that is the question. Blanka is a different character than I expect she is fragile and in that case unreliable as a narrator at times. Well this is an interesting strand of Slovakian fiction one that I have seen in other books from Polish writers that is the one of the expat experience as I have said before this is a genre that will grow over time a sort of European version of what is the Windrush lit scene that of being an outsider in a new place.  Have you read any books from Slovakia?

 

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Oct 13, 2019 @ 16:08:12

    I don’t think I *have* read anything Slovakian, but this sounds great!

    Reply

  2. Lisa Hill
    Oct 14, 2019 @ 04:15:41

    Stu, with your experience working in disability centres, does the setting seem realistic to you?

    Reply

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