Macedonian writer Blaže Minevski has written a ghost story.  “Academician Sisoye’s Inaugural Speech” is not a story about ghosts (well, in its way, it is that) but one seemingly told by a ghost, by something less, even, by a narrator – Sivakov – who lays claim to evanescence.  Floating in free space, as it were, this story is in no way vaporous or nebulous, but pulses with comedy, vibrant and exuberant, charming and ludic.

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Iulian Ciocan’s story Auntie Frosea opens with the eponymous character rushing home under the heavy load of overfilled shopping bags. She is not alone in her haste as the streets empty of people: mothers dragging behind them tired children, motorists speeding away and out of sight. “From the window of a block of apartments, an elated housewife shouted down to her husband, beating carpets in the yard, to drop everything…” “The only sound [from Auntie Frosea’s apartment block] was the squeaking of a swing from which a little had leaped but a minute before, impelled by an irresistible desire.” “What kept you woman? “Isaura’s started!” That last is Auntie Frosea’s husband, and the Isaura he refers to is a Latin American soap opera, “the first…ever to be broadcast on Soviet television”.

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The statistics are worrying.  More time is being given to the watching of television than to reading.  Ink and paper are losing to light and glass.  Mobile “reading devices” that can store many hundreds of books in electronic format make even the idea of a bound book seem quaint, its reader conservative.  The moribund technology of printing has (and has had for some time) its elegists who fight to stop the book from becoming a Relique.  I am thinking of the American critic Sven Birkerts and his beautiful, personal book of essays, The Gutenberg Elegies, named for the inventor of movable type.  This theme of literature’s endangered existence is one taken up (though not as engagingly as Berkerts) in Ognjen Spahić’s story Raymond is No Longer with Us – Carver is Dead.

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The protagonist of Manon Uphoff’s Desire courts a bad ending.  As a teenage girl she possesses all the attendant curiosities that come with the transition from adolescence to womanhood, the outward flowering of a dormant sexuality that marks the maturing of a young woman perhaps more than the first swelling of the chest or the first menstruation. Read the rest of this entry »

The act of making a choice is an expression of freedom.  When there is only one path to take, and that path steep and stony, we feel keenly our privation, the injustice of it, often hopeless, and we shuffle along it fettered, as it were, by a fate incorrigible.  Most often, however, the truth is that we have only ourselves to blame for such a harshly determined existence.  And so while we yet have the choice to make, while we remain undecided, we stand in the knowledge of our freedom, feeling that we have some control over our lives.  In this state of perpetual indecision  is how the narrator of Frode Grytten’s short story Hotel by a Railroad wants to live.

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