Singer in the night by Olja Savičević

Singer in the night by Olja Savičević

Croatian fiction

Original title – Pjevač u noći.

Translator – Celia Hawksworth

Source – review copy

I’m back from my short holiday and back with a book from one of my favorite publishers Istros books and also a book that does something that in the time I have been blogging we are seeing and that is a second book from a writer coming out in English. Sometimes we see a great novel from a writer then never see any of there other works translated so this is the first of two returning writers that Istros have brought out this year the other I will be bringing you shortly here. I reviewed Olja first book farewell cowboy a novel that followed a sibling hunting for a lost brother with touches of lost time from her generation often called the lost generation. She grew up when Yugoslavia was still just together and saw the birth of a new country. This book like her earlier book, this is set in Split and also has a similar theme of a female looking for a lost male her it is Clementine’s story of searching for her ex-husband.

Dear citizens, householders, close friends, fellow townsfolk, mild and attentive civil servants and waiter, courageous and patient nurses, magicians, secretaries, dresser of abundant hair, eternal children in short trousers, seasonal ice-cream sellers, dealers in intoxicating substances, drivers who brake on bends, gondoliers of urban orbits, captains of foreign ships, foreign girl on captains, neighbours – agreeable disco gladiators, neighbouring proto astronauts and everyone else in Dinko Simunovic street, not to list you all

The book opens when a poetic letter is posted by someone calling themselves the nightingale. This letter an ode to the street in a district of Split and his wonderful neighbors from the daily rising to there lovemaking. This letter leads into a sort of hunt for the writer of it from someone that was his wife  Clementine now a successful soap opera writer sets of to find the Gale but also driving her car around the places they visited we see her take a drive into her past and what happened to bring them to the present from the street of the letter writer we see a trip to the seaside and the to the Capital of Zagreb where her job is launched and her street poet other half and her drift war and life drifted them and this fragment work shows a women grasping at the past love and trying to reconstruct her life and like most her fellow country people make sense of the war still there in the background and she has to face what is her reality what is her truth this in her world is maybe now rewritten like a soap episode and shows what happens when we make those choices.

All right, I’ll tell you, so ,my name is Clementine. On outside, I’m a blonde orange. I have a Brazilian hairstyle, I drive a two seater Mazda MX-5 covertible, gold, but inside I’m a black orange. Full of black juice.

The day bfore my meeting with nightingale’s mother, the meeting with which I began this story, I travelled from Ljubljana to Split. I decided to make the journey after I had spent tje whole of the proceding week vainly calling Gale every day,. When I tried to pay money for the boat’s berth  I discovered that his account had been closed months before, at the marina they told me he had paid all his bills, but, they’d noticed for some time no one had been coming to the boat. His mobile was dead and at first that annoyed me , then it worried me( we had not been in touch often, in fact very rarely in recent years, and then mainly in connection with our shared boat, but nevertheless).

Clem explains why she want to find the gale.

This book brilliantly is a mix of a road trip novel as clementine revisits her past in doing so sees where her life start from her home town and the mirror of her friends from then with her kids a life that she could have had there is a sense of a soap opera at times the way the tale opens piece by piece wanting us the reader to get to the next episode as one would say a lot of cliffhangers. This is also a detective work in a way we follow Clem and her hunt for the Gale and like a good detective novel those little clues of there lives and past are scatters as the picture builds this is a single night read that lingers with the reader. It has a heady mix of lost love, poetic writing, post-war Croatia  and pre-war Croatia without ever wallowing in the war just showing the outfall from letter by the likes of the old warrior.

Weekend reading Papua New Guinea

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A short post as I have been busy today put before work today and then at work til ten tonight .I am off this weekend and as I have every second weekend off I like to choose a couple books to try and read this weekend I’m trying a collection of essays and fiction by the great Croat writer Dubravka Ugresic looking forward to this as the lovely Celia Hawksworth has translated it as one of my favourite translators .Then I am off to Asia and a travel memoir from Trish Nicholson about her time teaching in the remote West Speke province as 8 not read a book from Papua New Guinea it is chance to discover this country .
What are your weekend reads ?

Death in the Museum of modern art by Alma Lazarevska

 

Death in the Museum of modern art by Alma Lazarevska

Bosnian short stories

Original title – Smrt u Muzeju moderne umjetnosti

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source review copy

 

Easter, 1916

I HAVE met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,

A view from another besieged city with WB Yeats Easter 1916 when the easter uprising happened in Dublin .

Well its a bit late as I’ve been slow on my bloggging this year but now we have another edition to the East european reading month . Later this month I am of to see a couple of other writers from Istros books at London book fair .Anyway Alma Lazarevska is a Bosnian writer who lives in Sarajevo , this city formed part of her first collection Sarajevo Solitaire .She is also a teacher of writing and happened to teach Andrej Nikoladis another Istros writer before his family left Bosnia .This book won the best book in Bosnia when it came out .

At last the crossing was agreed . The young man who brought the good news did not bang roughly on the door . Nor did he shove her small thin person arrogantly aside , as all the others before him had done , barging into the flat without taking off their boots ,He had timid eyes , which she recognised , and bowed before she confirmed that she had understood when and how the crossing wold take place .

The opening of Dafne Pehfogl crosses the bridge between there and here .

Death in the Museum of modern art is a collection of short stories that capture both life the alma Lazarevska saw in the time Bosnia was at war . This is caught so well in the first story , which to me partly in its title harks back to Ivo andric the great Balkan writer Dafna Pehfogl crosses the bridge between here and there .Covers the war but also in its title maybe the here and there is then and now in a way as we follow someone in the middle of the war trying to get from  point a to point b .Then there is also a dry wit ,like in the story greetings from a besieged city a pun on the postcard greeting , but the story also looks at books translation and being in a besieged city .Another story touches on the myth of the area a tale of the real Kasper Hauser who of course is the subject of the Werner Herzog film starring Bruno S .

“Who was Kaspar Hauser ?”

“Hauser turned up in Nuremberg in 1828 , saying hardly more than a few words , unable to write anything apart from his name , and eating nothing but bread , drinking nothing but water . At first it was assumed he was a tramp , and then he was thrown into the gaol and became an attraction for scholars …

The secret of Kaspaer Hauser looks at his story again from another angle .

I’ve mentioned three of three of the six stories I will keep the other three for you to discover .I love the way Susan the boss of Istros is bringing us such vibrant voices like Alma Lazarevska , yes she has won prizes but in other ways if it wasn’t for Istros we wouldn’t be getting these insights into Balkan life .Think how few books we got before they start publishing a few every year .This collection captures the feeling of being caught in the besieged city the first story Dafna Pehfogl crosses the bridge remind me of the short film I had seen a while ago Torzija which follows a choir trying to exit the besieged city via a tunnel whilst a cow also gives birth  after being spooked by the war , whilst they wait .Such is life in this book yes war is there but also life continues .Have you a favourite book from the Balkans ?

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