“My father spends entire weekends in his studio. A painter must never be satisfied with what he sees – painting reality means surrendering to it, he cries when I knock at the door to say the air’s leaking out of my soccer ball, or the inner tube of my bike tire.”
– Saša Stanišić (How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone 16)
Saša Stanišić’s debut novel, How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone (in marvelous English translation by Anthea Bell – I couldn’t get my hands on a German version), is full of these fabulous hairpin turns between the grandiose and the everyday – which makes up much of its (substantial) charm.
It’s not a long novel, less than 350 pages, but I’ve been reading it for a while now – mostly five pages at a time on the bus back from giving morning English classes. When I first started reading it I was completely hooked. I was in love – it was a mad passion – it was something akin to lust – I had to read it all RIGHT THAT MINUTE. The book was, as the San Fransisco Chronicle very rightly put it, “wildly inventive [and] it rages…rough and broad and joyful.”
The fact that it had been a very long time since I had been so completely enraptured by a book only made my love for it stronger.
I got to about 100 pages in half the usual number of bus trips and then things sagged a little. I’m not sure if it’s me or the book, or maybe the two of us together. I’m on page 198 now and my reading has slowed dramatically. But, like any good relationship, I’m willing to do my bit and put in the effort because I believe (and I think I’m right in believing) that it will be worth it in the end. Alas, it’s just not quite like the old days – the sparks between us have dimmed somewhat.
More on this when I’ve finished the novel.