Ádám Bodor’s long-awaited new volume comprises seven short stories. The ‘nowhere’ of the title is a place familiar from Bodor’s previous works: the peripheries of Eastern Europe, a land characterized by oppression, misery and absurdity on the one hand, and a kind of fairy-tale magic, strange and powerful emotional ties and natural beauty on the other.
The time of these stories is impossible to determine, except for the first, “The Marmots of the Matterhorn.” In this story, the narrator – a scientist – is tempted to ask for his files from the archives of the communist secret services, but eventually backs out, and returns to his research on marmots, those shy and elusive animals. The only other story where the realia of the modern world appear to some degree is the concluding one, “Rebi”, in which the narrator relentlessly asks about the fate his wife, who disappeared the previous night when she went out to bring back their goats, which had suddenly escaped. Worried for his wife, with whom he seems to be in a love-hate relationship, the narrator appears unaware of the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb or the panic of his neighbours.
All the other stories take place in a world well-known from Bodor’s novels. “Paraskiva” is about the mysterious death of the narrator’s stepmother, spiked with chilling and hilarious detail in equal measure. In “Hekk,” four people live and work on top of a hill, overseen by their rich Arab boss, who orders them to give shelter to the eponymous criminal. They obey, willy-nilly, only to witness his horrific death. In “Leordina” a young couple try their luck at trading in hair, while in “Pitvarsk” the narrator tries to cope with the news that his ex-girlfriend, who left him six months earlier for an army officer, has died. In “Milu” inmates in a prison cut the hair of a new inmate, who dies as a result.
The stories in Nowhere are hallucinatory stories about love and death, told with a grotesque humour akin to the ‘dirty realism’ of Cormac McCarthy. Every one of these stories has its own inner logic and emanates a kind of wild freedom, in spite of the horrific nature of the events recounted.
Hallucinatory stories about love and death
ISBN 978 963 14 3857 4
2019, hard cover with jacket
156 pages, 3499 HUF
English excerpt available