As I decided to post this, I found out that Daša Drndić has died earlier this summer. I somehow missed the news. I am so sad now, but this book resonates even more.
I don’t think any other book has affected me as much in recent history. Yes, it’s a lot of work to read it, especially in the beginning, but once you accept Andreas Ban’s invitation to navigate the narrow post-WWII post-Soviet post-Yugoslav war space that is Croatia, in all its decrepitude, ambiguity and hopelessness, it captivates completely. Maybe I found it easier to relate to it because I’m from Eastern Europe and in myself carry the duality of being both from Russia and Ukraine, and being Jewish, but I have honestly never taken in a fictional book that would reflect my angst so well. And despite the fact that unlike the retiree Andreas Ban, I am a 30-year old woman with no ailments, I felt the claustrophobia of growing old, and being in this world, just as well as he did.
It’s a dangerously honest book, intellectual anxiety in the form of a novel.
Beladonna by Daša Drndić
Translated by Celia Hawkesworth
Published by New Directions in 2018