Belladonna by Daša Drndić

Belladonna by  Daša Drndić

Croatian fiction

Original title Belladonna

Translator Celia Hawkesworth

Source – Review copy

As I said in yesterday’s post , I’d be back in Croatia today with one of my favourite writers Dasa is someone I was lucky enough to have met when her first book in English was shortlisted for the old IFFP . Ispent a good hour talking books and lit with her so this book is no surprise as one of the things we talked about is how important books can be at highlighting the darker side of the world we live in and this is something she felt English novels miss somewhat. Dasa is a writer in various ways radio plays , short piece for Croatian magazines like work , savremenik and literary word.

His name is Andreas Ban

He is a psychologist who does not psycholoise any more

A writer who no longer writes.

He is a tourist guide who no longer guides anyone anywhere.

A swimmer who has not swum for a long time.

He has other occupations that no-one any longer needs , he least of all

He is sixty- five , he looks pretty good, like fifty

Andreas is treading water in his life when the end of his career comes.

 

The hero of this book is Andreas Ban , a writer , psychologisvt and what one would say is a intellctual in every sense of the word. But he is now in that last third of his life facing retirement and this is his life from them . Looking back on the past and trying to see what brought him to the point he is at.Now the title of this book has a varied meaning in part it is best shown in the croat cover where the cover has an eye with a drop , which is what Belladonna is used for to help open the eye but also on the cover Belladonna is written in red the colour of bloood and also in Braile below. I feel this gives the really meaning of the book it is a look back on the blood of his home land  both in a fictional sense and also in the sense of real history in the use of  history again like in her earlier work Dasa use list of names to amplify the lost sense of history . I know this is something Dasa is passionate about using the horrors of the past to shine a light on the way Europe seems to be going blind into a new right-wing world . Any way we see this through Andres Ban eyes a man who has become a piece in a machine an email tells him he has left his job then he becomes ill and feels like a piece in a machine in this ever quickening world .Maybe the answer is in the title for what Andreas has to do !

For a year and a half , the angel of death (Mengele) keep his seven dwarves in a human zoo and examines their insides.

The worst were the gynecological experiments.They would tie us to a table and the systematic torture could begin. We got shots into our womb, they took blood from us, samples of our flesh and fluid from our spinal cords, they pierced and cut us, pulled out our hair, examined our brain , our nose , our mouth, our legs and arms, they dug around and drilled through us in the name of those who will come .I am Elizabeth

A passage about past hours that reminds us of the dark not so distant past we had .

 

 

It is hard not to sing the praises of Dasa , after you meet her she is articulate passionate and one of those writers you meet and know you will love all their books. I also feel the same feeling she does the growing right-wing nature of the world we live in is one we are slowly going into and with out books like this to remind us of what is around us .Like in here earlier books she blends fiction and non fiction and the use of list of names is as powerful as when she used it in Trieste as she said to me when you remove these names from the book it becomes unstable and unbalanced and that is what happens in the world when these people are killed for no reason. Dasa is one of the great writer one that needs to be more widely read !!

 

Advertisements

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 ?

 

Farewell , Cowboy by Olja Savičević

Farewell , cowboy by  Olja Savičević

Croatian fiction

Original title – Adio  kauboju

Translator – Celia Hawkesworth

Source review copy

 

I seem to recognize your face
haunting, familiar, yet i can’t seem to place it
cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
lifetimes are catching up with me
all these changes taking place, i wish i’d seen the place
but no one’s ever taken me
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…
i swear i recognize your breath
memories like fingerprints are slowly raising
me, you wouldn’t recall, for i’m not my former
it’s hard when, you’re stuck upon the shelf
i changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate
perhaps that’s what no one wants to see
i just want to scream…hello…Now

I think the lyrics in this old pearl Jam song elderly woman behind echo Dada return to the town .

 

I have met both the writer and translator of this book earlier this year at London book fair and had intend to blog about it then as things are and rather like this book family happens and things go astray .Olja Savičević is an award-winning poet and novelist , she has six collection of poetry this was her debut novel and was a huge hit in Croatia already been made into a stage play over there . A part of this was used in the Dalkey archive best of european fiction collection in 2014 .

This business with the cowboys was my father’s doing . He started it , and somehow it was his story . Everyone else in Yugoslavia liked Indians best , apparently because our most popular TV series , which had Winnetou , the indian boy as the hero . It was only much later that cowboys came into their own .

Why everyone liked Indians in the Old Yugoslavia

 

Farewell , cowboy is the story of a brother and sister Dada and Daniel . Dada has returned to her hometown to find out what has happened to her beloved brother .This small seaside town in post war Croatia is seeing the first signs of  people from outside the country starting to buy property in this town , add to this a film crew is making a western Dada needs to find out why her brother killed himself by throwing himself under a train . She meets a band of eccentric characters as she starts to piece together her brothers last few months  whilst seeing the broken town see grew up in and mixing her memories with the broken and changing childhood town so badly scared by the war .

Daniel , my brother , died in his eighteenth year , by jumping from a concrete bridge over the railway under a speeding Osijek -Zagreb – Split intercity train .

He hadn’t appeared at school that morning , he had turned off towards the highway , beside the dry stream , then under it through the secret tunnel beneath the road and along the well know gravel path to the railway . I can imagine it clearly

Dada recalls how Daniel lost his life .

Lost men is a theme in this book the siblings own father has disappeared many years ago , he was a fan of Cowboys when a strange thing in Croatia most people who watch western films connected with the Indians in the films not the Cowboys . Of course the film industry paid a huge part in pre civil war Yugoslavia with TITO attracting and encouraging  film crews many of the great western films of the sixties and seventies were filmed in Yugoslavia .I would recommend the film Cineman Komunisto , which Susan from Istros books suggest I watch , so I did it shows how Tito used films  control people but also the great filmmakers from Yugoslavia that appeared  . Anyway back to the book Daniel seems to be in some ways an everyman for the lost innocence of a generation that was involved with the war and the way many men where missing from this generation brother fathers and husbands .Dada is like an old fashion private investigator trying to find out the clues to her brother’s death , in fact in some ways I was reminded of Twin peaks with some of the odd characters she meets along the way . A novel about a country on the cusp of what is to come just after the last bombs and deaths , the new money just coming and old wounds waiting to heal Olja captures what it is like to be a Woman in a country where the men have gone .

Have you a favourite Croatian Novel ?

 

 

Hello London , Bok london LBF here I come

I write this as I am waiting for my taxi to take me to station to get a train to bring me into London around 10 this morning . I have luckily been given the chance to go to the London book fair and meet the  writer Olja Savičević at the launch of her first book in English Farewell cowboy at the Croatian writer union stand and the publisher Istros books .I’m excited as this is the place a lot of translation deals are made so I hope to see if only at a distance how this works . Mexico is the country of note this year .I have 9 Novels from Mexico under review at winstonsdad . I may do a few short blogs today if I get chance to give the atmosphere of London book fair .

August 2019
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  
%d bloggers like this: