A brief, witty, experimental debut novel about the sorrowful fragmented musings of a newly divorced man—originally published in 1999 in Bulgarian.
The hapless first-person narrator, who functions as frustrated author, editor, and protagonist, aims to write a narrative of beginnings “that keeps starting, promising something,” as he says, “then starting again.” The result reads like diary entries, containing dreams, memories, extracts from texts of classical literature, and “pointless” dialogue. The plot, such as it is, centers on the precipitating crisis of the narrator’s divorce. His wife of seven years, after a period of estrangement, becomes pregnant by another man; the husband moves out of their Sofia apartment, which is heavy with associations; the two divorce, and the man obsesses about his ex-wife. Unhinged, he becomes morbidly fascinated by the banality of everyday things, such as the function of the toilet: “The more irrationally isolated I became about my marriage,” he notes, “the more I drifted toward the bathroom.” His attempt to write a “natural history of the toilet,” if only to crack the enforced silence around the subject, becomes a metaphor for the constricting inadequacy of language itself, as these fragments themselves demonstrate. The narrator’s close observation of the fly is another means of idiosyncratic expression. Alas, after introducing a bit of content in his marital narrative, but then pulling back without follow-through, he’s left sitting in his rocking chair, tattered and inarticulate, while the reader grows increasingly exasperated, relieved to reach the end. (Skip the self-congratulatory author interview.)
Weirdly well written and equally self-conscious. The French have already claimed this Bulgarian poet and short-story author.