BEST EUROPEAN FICTION 2014 by Drago Jancar


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Illuminating collection of current writing from across the pond, as different from its American counterpart as a Paris croissant is from a New York cronut.

To gauge by this collection, universities in most European countries don’t offer a Master of Fine Arts degree. The contributors to this collection hold Ph.D.s in art history, ethnography, literature, philology, philosophy, and often, their publications are divided between fiction and politically engaged essays. The “enfant terrible of Galician literature,” Xurxo Borrazás, for instance, writes “transgressive fiction,” whatever that is, and, lately, “a challenging collection of essays on literature and politics.” The fiction here breaks down somewhat differently, and though the generalization is a loose one, it seems that writers from oppressive zones such as Belarus (“Well, we’re here to express our dissent against the politics of the ruling regime”) are just a wee bit more vocal about social/political matters than those from more forgiving climes—say, Switzerland, from which Christoph Simon turns in a tale reminiscent of fellow Helvetian Friedrich Dürrenmatt in which a presumably transgressive bookseller is ordered to be “put in a coffin...hammered shut with an iron nail, and...thrown into the river.” (Her mule, in addition, is to be turned into sausage.) It would stand to reason that the oppressed would be allegorical and the free representational, but no. In all events, the assembled collection offers a pleasing blend of realism, deconstruction and absurdism that sometimes vie for the dominant mood, as if the spirits of Slavoj Žižek and Samuel Beckett and maybe Georges Perec were fighting for first place. Sometimes all three meet, though, as in Belgian Thierry Horguelin’s meta-policier and Liechtensteiner Jens Dittmar’s alternately dark and goofy view of human relations: “[I]nstead of screwing her, he simply shoved her down the stairs.”

Unlikely to touch off a wave of imitators on these shores but an interesting sampler.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-56478-898-6
Page count: 420pp
Publisher: Dalkey Archive
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2013


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