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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.

o nama

Nagrada Sedmica i Kritična masa 2019. za Miru Petrović

Pobjednica ovogodišnje nagrade "Sedmica i Kritična masa" za mlade prozne autore je Mira Petrović (1989.) iz Splita.
U užem izboru Nagrade za 2019. bili su: Leonarda Bosilj, Iva Hlavač, Toni Juričić, Maja Klarić, Dinko Kreho, Mira Petrović i Iva Sopka.
Ovo je bio četvrti natječaj koji raspisuje Kritična masa, a nagradu sponzorira cafe-bar Sedmica (Kačićeva 7, Zagreb).
U žiriju nagrade Sedmica i Kritična masa bili su - Viktorija Božina, Branko Maleš i Damir Karakaš.

o nama

Nagrada Sedmica & Kritična masa 2019 - uži izbor

Nakon što je žiri Nagrade Sedmica & Kritična masa za mlade prozne autore bodovao priče autora iz šireg izbora Nagrade, u uži izbor ušlo je sedam autora/ica.
Pogledajte tko su sedmoro odabranih.
Sponzor Nagrade je kulturno osviješteni cafe-bar "Sedmica" (Kačićeva 7, Zagreb).

proza

Mira Petrović: Bye bye baby bye; Zana

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - DOBITNICA NAGRADE 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.

proza

Dinko Kreho: Zoja

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2019

Počinjemo s objavom radova koji su ušli u širi izbor... Dinko Kreho (Sarajevo, 1986.) diplomirao je književnost na Filozofskom fakultetu u Sarajevu. Bio je član uredništva dvotjednika za kulturu i društvena pitanja Zarez, te suradnik na projektu Alternativna književna tumačenja (AKT). Autor je knjiga poezije Ravno sa pokretne trake (2006.) i Zapažanja o anđelima (2009.), kao i koautor (s Darijem Bevandom) radiodramskoga krimi serijala Bezdrov (2013.). Književnu kritiku, esejistiku i poeziju u novije vrijeme objavljuje u tjedniku Novosti, na portalima Booksa i Proletter, te u književnom dvomjesečniku Polja. Živi u Zagrebu.

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Leonarda Bosilj: Ptice ne lete

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2019

Leonarda Bosilj (2000., Varaždin) studira psihologiju na Filozofskom fakultetu Sveučilišta u Zagrebu. Tijekom srednje škole sudjelovala je na literarnim natječajima (LiDraNo, Gjalski za učenike srednjih škola), a ovo je prvi put da šalje svoj rad na neki javni natječaj.

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Toni Juričić: Con calma

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2019

Toni Juričić (1990., Labin) diplomirao je komparativnu književnost na Filozofskom fakultetu u Zagrebu. Objavljivao je u književnim časopisima Fantom Slobode, UBIQ, Zarez i u zbirkama spekulativne fikcije Transreali, Sfumato i Futur Crni. Režirao je kratkometražne filmove (Momentum Mortem, Preludij Sumanutosti, Rosinette) i spotove za glazbene skupine NLV, Barbari, BluVinil, Nellcote i dr. Osnivač je i predsjednik udruge Notturno za produkciju i promicanje audio-vizualne djelatnosti. Pokretač je i producent projekata [noir.am sessions] i [noir.am storytellers] čiji je cilj promoviranje nezavisne glazbene i književne scene. Režirao je monodramu Sv. Absinthia. Dobitnik je nagrade "Slavko Kolar" Hrvatskog Sabora Kulture za prozno stvaralaštvo mladih autora. Trenutno je na doktorskom studiju u sklopu Sveučilišta u Durhamu.

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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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Maja Klarić: Japan: Put 88 hramova (ulomak)

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2019

Maja Klarić (1985., Šibenik) diplomirala je engleski jezik i književnost i komparativnu književnost na Filozofskom fakultetu u Zagrebu, s diplomskim radom na temu „Suvremeni hrvatski putopis“, a radi kao književna prevoditeljica. Vodi Kulturnu udrugu Fotopoetika u sklopu koje organizira kulturne manifestacije. Objavila je poeziju i kraću prozu u raznim novinama i časopisima: Zarez, Quorum, Knjigomat, Poezija, Tema... Zastupljena je u antologijama Erato 2004. (Zagreb), Rukopisi 32 (Pančevo), Ja sam priča (Banja Luka), Sea of Words (Barcelona), Castello di Duino (Trst), Ulaznica (Zrenjanin). Nagrađena je na međunarodnom pjesničkom natječaju Castello di Duino (Trst, Italija, 2008.), međunarodnom natječaju za kratku priču Sea of Words (Barcelona, Španjolska, 2008.). Dobitnica je UNESCO/Aschberg stipendije za rezidencijalni boravak na otoku Itaparica, Brazil, 2012. te stipendije organizacije MOKS za rezidencijalni boravak u Estoniji (Mooste, Tartu). Objavila je tri zbirke putopisne poezije - Život u ruksaku (AGM, 2012.), Quinta Pitanga (V.B.Z., 2013.) i Nedovršeno stvaranje (vlastita naklada, 2015.) te prozno-poetski putopis Vrijeme badema o hodočašću Camino de Santiago, 880 km dugom putu koji je prehodala 2010. godine. Urednica je brojnih domaćih putopisnih izdanja kao što su knjige Davora Rostuhara, Tomislava Perka, Hrvoja Jurića i ostalih.

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Iva Hlavač: Humoreske o ženama koje se ne smiju

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2019

Iva Hlavač (1986., Osijek) diplomirala je na pravnom fakultetu u Osijeku. Objavila je dvije zbirke kratkih priča; „I obični ljudi imaju snove“ (2009.) izašla je u sklopu natječaja Matice hrvatske Osijek za osvojeno prvo mjesto, a „Svi smo dobro“ u izdanju Profila (biblioteka Periskop) 2016. godine te je, između ostaloga, dobila stimulaciju Ministarstva kultur za najbolje ostvarenje na području književnog stvaralaštva u 2016. Živi u Valpovu.

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