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The ten best Eastern Europen books you've never heard of

BY JEFFREY ZUCKERMAN, THE AIRSHIP, May 13, 2013

Black Balloon has just published Robert Perišić’s Our Man in Iraq, translated by Will Firth. Despite its title, the novel takes place almost entirely in Croatia and feels so deeply Eastern European in sensibility that I found myself jotting down other books from that region once eclipsed by the Iron Curtain’s shadow. Without further ado, here are ten brilliant and barely-known books from ten countries in Eastern Europe . .



 

Albania

Ismail Kadare, The Fall of the Stone City

Translated from Albanian by John Hodgson

 

Although he hasn’t won the Nobel Prize yet, Ismail Kadare might as well have—he’s just that famous in Europe. Under Enver Hoxha, Albania’s government was one of the last Communist regimes to fall, and Kadare’s works were often banned or published in translation before being read by the Albanian public. The Fall of the Stone City, his latest novel, is one of his best: it satirizes the German invasion of an Albanian city and shows how under Communism hallucinations can distort and become reality.

 

Croatia

Ranko Marinković, Cyclops

Translated from Serbo-Croatian by Vlada StojiljkovicBilled as a Croatian Ulysses, Ranko Marinković’s Cyclops follows the solipsistic Melkior throughout Zagreb as he and his countrymen gird themselves for World War II. Propelled by literary allusions—Homer, Petrarch, Dostoyevsky, and many others—and teeming with paranoia and anxiety, as well as a great deal of humor, this book so thoroughly embeds you in Melkior’s mind that you appreciate his delusions and come to understand Zagreb and its inhabitants.

 

Czech Republic

Bohumil Hrabal, Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age

Translated from Czech by Michael Henry HeimThere aren’t many novels that consist of just one sentence, and even fewer that pull off the trick successfully, but Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age is an object lesson for the not-so-advanced in age. The whole book consists of a narrator “palavering,”endlessly recounting anecdotes and charming the pants off his listeners. It only takes two or three hours to read, which is just the right amount of time to listen to an old man describing the funniest parts of his entire life.

 

Hungary

Deszö Kosztolányi, Kornel Esti

Translated from Hungarian by Bernard AdamsWhen I originally read the story of a kleptomaniac translator who steals astonishing amounts of money, jewelry, and valuables between the original version of a text and its translator, I was riveted. Kornel Esti comprises a hilariously bizarre series of magical, inexplicable fragments from the eponymous character’s life—a trip to an overly honest city, or a heartbreakingly clear account of a tram ride—painting a compelling portrait of Hungary between the wars.

 

Poland

Olga Tokarczuk, Primeval and Other Times

Translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-JonesThis is the story of a town named Primeval, and of the people who lived there from the First World War to the beginning of Solidarity. This is also the story of many Times, each one a different chapter describing a new place or a new person. Even God lives in Primeval, yet the nature of God’s existence is still a subject for debate. As the novel progresses and the characters’ lives interconnect in ever more complex ways, Primeval and Other Times moves from a singular experiment to a profound portrait of a village at once fantastical and intensely real.

 

Romania

Gabriela Adameșteanu, Wasted Morning

Translated from Romanian by Patrick CamillerSince the collapse of Ceaușescu’s regime, Romania has modernized rapidly, yet has not let go of its distant past. At the center of Wasted Morning is Vica Delcă, a seventy-year-old who has endured her country's many changes and takes no prisoners in the tales she tells. Set in Bucharest (once “the Paris of Eastern Europe”)and mixing stream-of-consciousness passages with keen-sighted realist narration, Adameșteanu’s novel offers a brilliant visual and historical panorama of a Romania that has swiftly become unrecognizable.

 

Russia

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby

Translated from Russian by Keith Gessen and Anna SummersHer name isn’t thathard to pronounce: “Peh-true-shev-skay-ya.” That is, unless her horror stories of ghosts and vampires, neighbors letting their grudges swallow them whole, and creepy Siamese twins have you shuddering uncontrollably. While most post-Soviet writers in Russia are busy pushing the limits of postmodernity or addressing risqué topics once censored by the Soviet government, Petrushevskaya has gone on doing what she knows best, and chilling the blood of Anglophone readers finally getting a

 

Serbia

Milorad Pavić, Dictionary of the Khazars

Translated from Serbo-Croatian by Christina Pribicevic-Zoric

 

What kind of book gets published in a male edition and a female edition? A Dictionary of the Khazars that isn’t even about the real Khazars to begin with, of course. The novel focuses on the pivotal moment when many Khazar nobles converted to Judaism, and is structured as three small dictionaries (Christian, Islamic, and Hebrew). The difference between the male and female editions is a handful of lines in a crucial paragraph—but the consequences are immeasurable. Consequently, the act of flipping between entries and dictionaries is strange, idiosyncratic, and absolutely irresistible.

 

Slovenia

Maja Novak, The Feline Plague

Translated from Slovenian by Maja Visenjak-LimonThere’s something delightful about a novel where businesswomen double as heavenly goddesses and run a chain of pet stores across Slovenia. When a quiet child decides to serve Mammon instead of the earth, she unintentionally unleashes the feline plague of the title and proposes a huge charity telethon to save the country’s morale. If this summary sounds outlandish, the full novel certainly reads as something more believable—albeit wholly Eastern-European in sensibility.

 

Ukraine

Oksana Zabuzhko, Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex

Translated from Ukrainian by Halyna Hryn“Not today, she says to herself. Not yet, not today,” this short book begins, before diving straight into the story of an Ukrainian writer teaching at Harvard and coming to understand the intricacies of female sexuality. The result is an amazing breakdown of love and sex, and the shades of gray in between. Oksana Zabuzhko became one of Ukraine’s foremost writers with this breakout novel, and has since written doorstops spanning six decades of Ukrainian history, but Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex feels pure and honest in its narrator’s attempt to make sense of a new life and a newly liberated country.

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Iva Sopka: Moje pravo, nezaljubljeno lice

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2019

Iva Sopka (1987., Vrbas) objavila je više kratkih priča od kojih su najznačajnije objavljene u izboru za književnu nagradu Večernjeg lista „Ranko Marinković“ 2011. godine, Zarezovog i Algoritmovog književnog natječaja Prozak 2015. godine, nagrade „Sedmica & Kritična Masa“ 2016. i 2017. godine, natječaja za kratku priču Gradske knjižnice Samobor 2016. godine te natječaja za kratku priču 2016. godine Broda knjižare – broda kulture. Osvojila je i drugo mjesto na KSET-ovom natječaju za kratku priču 2015. godine. Trenutno živi u Belišću i radi kao knjižničarka u osnovnoj školi.

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Mira Petrović: Bye bye baby bye; Zana

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2019

Mira Petrović rođena je 1989. u Splitu. Predaje engleski jezik iako bi više uživala s talijanskim. Piše prozu, ponekad odluta u poeziju. Objavila priče i pjesme na raznim portalima i u časopisima. Bila je u užem izboru za nagradu Sedmice i Kritične mase 2017. Jedna od deset finalista međunarodnog natječaja Sea of words 2016. Dobitnica Vranca – 2015. i Ulaznice 2016.

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Ivana Pintarić: Priče

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Ivana Pintarić (1988., Zagreb) je po zanimanju edukacijski rehabilitator. Piše poeziju i kratke priče. Ulomkom iz romana „Gorimo (ali ne boli više)“ ušla je u finale izbora za nagradu "Sedmica & Kritična masa" 2015. godine. Ulazi u širi izbor nagrade "Sedmica & Kritična masa" 2017. ulomkom iz romana "Ovo nije putopis o Americi". Bila je polaznica Booksine radionice pisanja proze pod mentorstvom Zorana Ferića. Objavila je radove na kultipraktik.org i booksa.hr. Objavila je i priču u časopisu Fantom slobode. Članica je književne grupe ZLO.

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Marin Ivančić: Karijatida

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Marin Ivančić (1991., Karlovac) diplomirani je pravnik na stručnom usavršavanju u Hrvatskoj komori ovlaštenih inženjera geodezije. Od zala birokracije dušu spašava čitanjem, županijskim nogometom, a odnedavno i pisanjem. Igra zadnjeg veznog u NK Dobra-Novigrad na Dobri, ima dobar udarac i pregled igre. Čitalački ukus mu je hipsterski eklektičan. Ovo mu je prvi objavljeni rad.

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Jelena Petković: Japan

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Jelena Petković (1984.) diplomirala je povijest i engleski jezik i književnost na Filozofskom fakultetu u Osijeku. Živi i radi u Vukovaru.

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Luiza Bouharaoua: Zvučni zid

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Luiza Bouharaoua (1985., Split) diplomirala je kroatistiku i anglistiku na Filozofskom fakultetu u Splitu. Radi u Skribonautima. Prevodi i piše. Prevela je roman Rachel Kushner "Bacači plamena" (Profil, 2017.). Kratke priče objavljivala je u The Split Mindu, Fantomu Slobode i na portalima Kritična masa i Nema. Priče su joj izvođene u na Trećem programu hrvatskog radija. Uvrštena je u regionalni zbornik "Izvan koridora - najbolja kratka priča" (VBZ, 2011.) i antologiju hrvatske mlade proze "Bez vrata, bez kucanja" (Sandorf, 2012.). Finalistica je natječaja Festivala europske kratke priče u 2016. i 2017. godini. Dobitnica je nagrade Ulaznica za kratku priču te nagrade Prozak za najbolji prozni rukopis autora/ica do 35 godina. U 2019. izlazi joj Prozakom nagrađeni prvijenac.

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Valerija Cerovec: Hotel Horizont (ulomak iz kratkog romana)

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Valerija Cerovec (1993., Čakovec) je vizualna umjetnica i spisateljica. Završila je preddiplomski studij modnog dizajna na Tekstilno-tehnološkom fakultetu i studij komparativne književnosti na Filozofskom fakultetu, a diplomirala na Odsjeku za animirani film i nove medije na Akademiji likovnih umjetnosti. Dobitnica je nagrade “Franjo Marković” Filozofskog fakulteta. Sudjelovala je u nizu skupnih izložbi i jednoj samostalnoj naziva “23. rujna, dan kad se ništa naročito nije dogodilo”. Članica je HDLU-a.

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Jan Bolić: Mrtvi kanal (ulomak iz neobjavljenog romana)

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Jan Bolić (1995., Rijeka) je autor koji boluje od progresivne bolesti spinalne mišićne atrofije tip 2 zbog koje ne može pomaknuti gotovo nijedan dio tijela, no i dalje, bez obzira na progresiju bolesti, uspijeva pisati s dva prsta koja još uvijek može pomaknuti i s njima stvara književna djela. Dosad je objavio dvije knjige: zbirku poezije „Trenutci“ (2016.) i zbirku poezije i proznih zapisa „Može biti lijepo“ (2017.). Jedna pjesma objavljena je i u zbirci poezije skupine autora iz cijele RH naziva „Petrinjske staze“ iz Petrinje. Povremeno objavljuje svoje radove na književnim portalima i svom Facebook profilu U trećoj knjizi odlučio se pozabaviti žanrom krimića.

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Andrea Bauk: Kult užarene krune

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Andrea Bauk (1985., Rijeka) je završila stručni studij vinarstva u Poreču nakon kojeg je radila razne poslove. Teme njezinog pisanja su SF, međuljudski, pogotovo obiteljski odnosi i tabu teme, a njezini likovi redovito su autsajderi i mizantropi. Nekoliko njezinih priča i pjesama objavljene su u sklopu književnih natječaja.

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Luka Katančić: Papirnati poljubac

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Luka Katančić (1996., Zagreb) student je Pravnog fakulteta u Zagrebu. 2014. i 2015. godine osvojio je treće nagrade: „Stanislav Preprek“, „Joan Flora“, „Pavle Popović“, „Janoš Siveri“, „Rade Tomić“ te drugu nagradu „Duško Trifunović“ u Novom Sadu za poeziju u kategoriji do 30 godina.

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Dalen Belić: Ispovijed serijskog samoubojice

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - ŠIRI IZBOR

Dalen Belić rođen je 1997. godine. Živi u Pazinu, a studira engleski i njemački jezik na Filozofskom fakultetu u Rijeci. Objavljivan je u istrakonskoj zbirci Apokalipsa laži te zbirkama Priče o manjinama i Priče o Pazinu u sklopu Festivala Fantastične Književnosti. Osvojio je drugo mjesto na Riječkim perspektivama 2017. godine i prvo mjesto 2018. Jednu njegovu priču teškometalne tematike možete pročitati na portalu Perun.hr.

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