Body Kintsugi by Senka Marić

Body Kintsugi by Senka Marić

Bosnian fiction

Original title – Kintsugi Tijela,

Translator – Celia Hawksworth

Source – subscription editon

I have yet to review one of this year’s Peirene its not like me I am usually on them as over the time they have been around they are one of my favourite publishers and have just had a change at the helm they will still be bringing out great novels from around the world and this is a perfect example of what I love around the books from peirene over the years there has been a strong female voice in there choices and that is the case with Senka Marić an editor she had trained as a hairdresser in the Uk during the civil war in Bosnia ( I worked along side a Bosnian in Germany at the Jugendwerkstatt I had worked at so I am always connected to stories from Bosnia). She is also a cancer survivor and this book is based on her experience it follows are narrator as she copes with her cancer.

You get up again and probe. Your breath fills the room. It bounces off the walls. It makes the summer night day. The round lump moves away from pressure (its touch is forever etched into your fingers’ memory). Panic is mud. It pours into your mouth. The night is swallowing you.

You resolve to shatter this image. Like a mirror with a stone thrown into it. Then all that remains is a dull sensation.

You’re not yet aware of how much has been taken away from you.

The discovery of a lump early on in the book.

The narrator of the book is in the middle of one of hardest events in most people’s life the break up off a marriage when she has some physical issues that lead to the discovery of a lump under her arm event she had always thought could happen, due to her mother own Breast cancer. What follows is her journey that sees her travel to get treatment and tests along the way. But we also have a little piece about the meds she starts to get treated with as she tries to survive cancer. But as she is getting treated she views her own life journey from her sexual awakening and the awkwardness of that to her own family’s struggle with health there is a part where she lists the body part of her mother and father and her own. as she tries to piece her self back together the title is a nod to the Japanese art of kintsugi to make something new beautiful out of the piece of broken porcelain and gold something new out of the part and that is what our narrator’s journey is in this book.

A week after the operation you’re sitting in the car, on your way home. Early that morning you went back to the clinic and the surgeon bandaged your breasts. You tried to see them, but you were lying down and he was bending over you. You could only see a bit of bruised skin. The pain was still great, and you almost didn’t care any more. After that, you had to go down a lot of steps, get into the car and find a position in which you’d be able to bear the drive to Mostar while your mother, leaning forward, clutches the steering wheel.

And worries about your being comfortable. And whether the wind is too strong. And whether you’ll have to make a detour. And drive through the Lika district, which now, as your journey devours unforeseen hours, carries your thoughts away from your body. And that grey landscape, battered by the wind, seems to you the only place there’s any sense in being at that moment. Removed from reality, from the pain and disintegration of your body.

The mind drifts and she drifts back as she start to rebuild herself after the treatment and operations.

This is a raw visceral journey you can see how her own life seeps into this book the fragile line people walk when getting treatment for cancer. the knock-on effect of already going through a divorce. But also the knowledge of family history around cancer. leads to a forbidding in our narrator’s mind as she drifts back on her life. Cancer is something that touches everyone My own mother survived it and sadly recently lost a colleague to cancer it is something that takes its toll on everyone. The passage where she list the loss of body parts she and her family have given t cancer and illness over time. The other part I like was the stark medical side. She gave the test and meds the side effects etc around the tablets and treatment she is having which in a lot of cases are very difficult to deal With as a patient is often so poorly from the treatment but this leads to reliving the past at times. So it looks like Peirene is in safe hands with its new owners and this is also another great slice of Balkan literature but also a strong narrative around cancer and also surviving the worst life has to give you. Have you a book about cancer or illness.

Winston’s score – A – One woman’s cancer journey and how she rebuilt herself.


December 2022


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