Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky

Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky

Slovakian fiction

Original title – Letmý sneh

Translators – Julie and Peter Sherwood

Source – review copy

I now move over from France to Slovakia and the second book from there I have reviewed. Also, the first to be published by Istros press from there as they move a little further afield. They have chosen a writer considered the greatest living Slovak writer. He only wrote two books whilst communism was in control of the country. but since the regime change, he has written over a dozen books. This was his latest Novel to come out in Slovakian. He is also a leading translator of books from English into Slovak including great writers like Faulkner, Conrad, and Woolf. It is great to see more Slovakian fiction coming out.

1.B If, as the saying goes, every person is unique, their name ought to be unique too. Except that it doesn’t work like that. What is unique about say, Stefan Kovac, whose name is about as common as Stephen Smith is in english? In this country, no first name can ever be truly unique – the church and the clerks at the register office have seen to that – and if your surname happened to be Kovac the to boot, you’ve had it: you’ll end up being known as Kovac up the valley, or Kovac the shepherd. Slovak is a garrulous language, we don’t mind throwngin an extra word here and there, but even with additional piece of information, does a name convey anythingunique about a person?

the second part of the first story about how come the name is but also how they use extra wrds to identify a stefan Kovac who is ours ?

This is a book that has five interweaving stories at its heart. This is a fragmented book almost like a snowflake with the five points coming out. The first story is the tale of a man at the end of a long marriage that seems to be losing his mind early on we hear he is called Stefan Kovac but has now taken the name Cimborazka and is a self-declared Cimborazka. The second story tells us about a pair of step twins and talks about the soul. The third starts with an avalanche and the fourth story strand a scholar called Stefan, that has recently had a book about North American Indian languages in the US. This fourth links to the first story and where we have a talk about certain US place names that may have Native American origins. The fifth strand finds someone looking through old photos. The strands of the stories cross and the link they are about life, language particular Slovakian and old age. The loss of memory in old age. The snow is the metaphor in a way for so much in this book memories fade like snow old age leads to dementia which is like an avalanche that clears that top layer of one’s memories leaving what was under.  There is a sense of the fleeting nature of life art tines and what makes us as people who is Stefan Kovac a name we are told early on is as common in Slovakia as Stephen Smith is here.

1.J My real name is Cimborazka but I haven’t told ayone. What would be the point ? It would be the same changing your phone number: your friends will remember your new number but the will still use it to ring the same person as before, the same idea of a person. But I don’t want to receive letters addressed toDear Mr Cimborazka, which would be like addresssing a different person each time. Cimborazka is a clean blank sheeet; a reminder that I am a person – not an entity, just a being, albeit a human one. And that every human possibility is therefore still open to me each and everytime. It is a silent, secret challenge to honour my name

What is a name like the first quote another on identity as Kovacs becomes Cimborazka or does he .

This is a meandering book about the nature of life in a way questioned in many ways. Language and how it is used the short passages that make this book up reminded me of the little snippets in books like The book of Disquiet or Zibaldone thou this has more narrative and a central figure that of Stefan Kovac is he the same person, or a step twin or just another character. As in the end all the strands end in one final passage as a couple talk about how many words are in Slovakian and then as they wander on to find a disk on the ground showing distance to place and maybe placing them back in their world with a thrown word over the fact that Vienna is only 57 kilometers away. This is a writer in his old age trying to write a series of themes that must have been important to him in his life like Slovakian for a translator which is a language he mentions for how many more words there are in it. What we are what he has written about what lies after the writer’s life is gone or like the snow what remains when it has melted just the memory of it.

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in the name of the father by Balla

 

In the name of the father by Balla

Slovakian fiction

Original title – V mene otca

Translators – Julia and Peter Sherwood

Source – Review copy

I bring the first book from Slovakia tonight , I’m shocked as I have a lot of Czech novels on the blog but so far not many Slovakian books. Anyway Balla is the name Slovakian writer Vladimir Balla goes by.He studied Economics at Bratislava and then took a job at the district office of Nove Zamky. He has been writing since the 1992 and has published ten books. This book won the book of the year in Slovakia. Balla is often called the Slovakian Kafka for his style of writing.

The era of the great blackout began with the drawing of the drapes across our kitchen window. My wife announced in the semi-darkness that the window would stay covered so that people outside wouldn’t see what we were up to.She claimed the neighbours could see into our kitchen.She ascribed fundamental importance to this. She got into her head that our neighbours sole purpose in life was to spy on the family:

His wife goes slightly mad, but wasn’t every one watching at one time !

The book is the Novella and three very short stories by Balla. The main story “in the name of the father” has been described as being his most Autobiographical work to date. It follows the life story of an unnamed narrator. As he reflects on his life of woes. From the opening lines where he is told not to bear children by a doctor that hate the army and uniforms, where he turned up in his. Then he ends up in a weird house that his brother has built there is a number of rooms below the surface that the brother keeps a number of weird items. Then he starts to tell how his life has been. But there is a sense he feels the victim in his life but as his story unfolds we see he has been the instigator of a lot of his troubles.From his parents to his wife who goes mad and his own two sons. They all mix with the world around them which is a world of shifting nations and people drifting and also a sense of a new post-soviet world of people being individuals rather than a collective, rather like his own family fracturing apart. The three stories follow similar threads of home a woman at home whilst her husband is away. Then a weird tale of two men sharing a house. The first asked his friend to join, only to find he actually hates this chap. But there is also an echo of the wider world changing around them as he is ignored by his friends as if he has a contagion which happens to be the title of the story.

What soon became even more unpleasant was the gap that opened between how my friend and I perceived the process of contamination of our immediate eviroment, To cut a long story short, there came a point when the contagion engulfinfing the furniture and the walls began to affect my friend much more rapidly and with greater intensity than it affected me, his fresh fits manifesting themselves almost as soon as, say, new fuinture had been delivered, the walls repainted or the floor replaced.

From the story contagion a friend sees his friend as an enemy but also the world around him change.

There is a hard thing to call someone the “Kafka ” of somewhere, it isn’t always a title. I like attached to writers. Now that said there is a sense of people being in a world they don’t know but these are post soviet worlds where the goals of peoples lives have changed. hen there is a sense of self-persecution that  Kafka gave his character is very much. In the main narrator of In the name of the father. He feels the world has loaded him with what is wrong with it. The house is maybe a metaphor for this world they built it him and his brother to be a dream home but it ends up not being that.what he has captured are the shifting nature of the post-soviet world of shift border,s people and a change in the nature of people and their attitudes for others.That has been on many books. From Krasznarhorkai satantango a village on the edge, or Andres Ban in the recent Dasa Drndric novel a man also summing his life in the post-soviet world. He is using human nature in all its flaws and a wonderful post-modern look at the world around him. A great intro into Slovakian fiction from a new publisher for this blog Jantar.

 

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