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VIRTUOSO by Yelena Moskovich


by Yelena Moskovich

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-937512-87-3
Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

A fractured, hallucinatory novel about female friendship and who knows what else.

Every so often a book comes along that is so utterly strange it can’t be classified—it can barely be described. Moskovich’s (The Natashas, 2016) latest novel is one. So how to start? The first chapter begins with a body, face down on a hotel bed. An ambulance arrives; the medics labor over the body. It isn’t until later that we find out whose it is. That’s one storyline. Another involves Jana and Zorka, two Czech girls growing up in Soviet-controlled Prague. Then Zorka lights her mother’s fur coat on fire, leaves it burning in the hallway of their apartment building, and disappears. That’s another storyline. Yet another follows Jana, now an adult, through Paris, where she works as a translator. And another re-creates chat-room conversations between Dominxxika_N39 and 0_hotgirlAmy_0. And there’s more. How it all ties together, and what any of it means, is anyone’s guess. Moskovich’s novel has more in common with David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive than it does with any contemporary piece of writing. The narrative is fractured, and so is Moskovich’s sense of reality: Dreams give way to hallucinations, which give way to oddly realist bits of prose that seem, in this context, weirder than anything else. At times, the book is hypnotically engaging; some passages, though, seem to go on and on, with Moskovich dwelling on minor details linked to minor characters for longer than seems necessary—or interesting.

Moskovich breaks almost every rule of contemporary fiction but doesn’t always manage to do something simpler: engage the reader.