This is a marvellous collection of short stories. Sex and alcohol are mixed in with a splash of violence and a good helping of humour. All this creates a delicious cocktail of weird and wonderful stories set in or about Croatia. A mixture of British and Croatian authors have contributed to this book celebrating alternative literature, many of the Croatian ones being translated for the first time.
I chose this book to take on holiday with me to Croatia and really enjoyed almost every moment. I don’t often read short stories, but found it just right for holiday reading.There is a variety of themes in the collection, including love, the aftermath of war, sexuality and tourism. The British authors mostly write from tourist or ex-pat points of view, with an emphasis on alcohol, sex and Rock and Roll.
The Ballad of Mott the Hoople by John Williams follows Mac, a washed up Punk singer, making a living from gigs in Eastern Europe, where the music scene seems to have got stuck in the punk rock era and never caught up. There is something about the ageing rocker, at the end of his career, scraping money together to get a flight home, that is terribly sad.
The strangest contribution is by Toby Litt. Simply named The Tourist, this is about a man with only a few hours to visit the capital, Zagreb. He takes in the city in a very unusual, and quite unsavoury way. This story is definitely one of the most memorable in the collection.
An unsettling story is Relief from the Croatian author Borivoj Radković about a teacher in his summer holidays, having a beer with an old school friend on his balcony. Things take a disturbing turn when his friend starts raving about torture techniques, leading to a thriller-like hide and seek ending.
Jalena Čarija writes a story about a girl and her visiting Aunt from Australia. Junk Food Kills, Doesn’t It? shows a scary encounter when the two women turn down an offer of keeping a group of men company. Set in a fast food restaurant filled with mostly men, the intimidation and violence that follows is very frightening. The love and protection the Aunt shows towards her niece is an encouraging contrast, especially when lookers on turn a blind eye.
One of my favourite pieces is the darkly humorous short story by Zoran Ferić. Theological Proof is narrated by a call girl. As she looks back on her career and tells of the funny incidents she has had, it is hard not to laugh out loud. Some of her clients are quite quirky, with some very odd requests.
These are only some of the stories in the collection, along with others by Miljenko Jegović, Vladamir Arsenijević, Niall Griffiths, Ben Richards, Tony White, Edo Popović, Anna Daivis, Zorica Radaković, Gordan Nuhanović, Nicholas Blincoe, Goran Tribuson, Salena Saliva and Matt Thorne.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and although some of the stories were more captivating than others, I think on the whole it is worth the read, especially if you have an interest in alternative literature.
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