Home to nine hot springs, Verhovina used to be rich in natural beauty yet it has become a waste land, with only a few dozen inhabitants left. Trains to Verhovina are scarce; the timetable was cancelled. One day, even the birds disappeared from the region. The village has virtually lost contact with the outside world, though it seems to depend on some faceless, invisible power whose arrival always spells mysterious disappearance and violent death.
The reader arrives in Ádám Bodor’s world, the periphery of civilization, at the break of dawn. Adam, the foster son of Brigadier Anatol Korkodus is waiting at the dilapidated station for a boy who is arriving from a reformatory school. Soon afterwards, Korkodus is arrested, for unfathomable reasons. As the subtitle says, these stories are ‘variations on the last days.’ Yet this decaying and sinister world, populated with people bearing fantastic names (Bodor’s trademark), is not devoid of a certain joie de vivre: people eat gourmet dishes, point out their interlocutor’s hidden motives with incredible acumen, and enjoy the stunning natural beauty. Ádám Bodor’s novel is the description of a totalitarian society in all its irrationality, absurdity and implacability – a description that alternately provokes laughter and shuddering in the reader.
The Birds of Verhovina is oppressive and cruel without ever being gratuitously so; hilariously funny without being silly; magic and surreal without being gaudy or bombastic.
“The quality of Ádám Bodor’s humour is akin to the hardly perceptible smile of a Buddhist – as it appears on the smeary face of Eastern Europe. And it can turn into the grimace of horror in any given moment.” (Viktória Radics)
ISBN 978 963 14 2873 5
2011, hard cover with jacket
256 pages, 135×197 mm
Italian, Il Saggiatore
Complete English, French and Polish texts available
English excerpt published in Best European Fiction 2019 (Dalkey Archive Press)