This book opens in an old isolated farmhouse, with a father and his two children (a boy and a girl). The father goes and looks out of the window at the sound of a car engine. What happens next is a shocking act of violence, that leaves the father and son shot dead. The daughter (Nina) although hidden away is discovered by Tito, the youngest of the killers.
“The child turned her head and looked at him. She had dark eyes, oddly shaped. She looked at him without expression. Her lips were half closed and she was breathing calmly. She was an animal in its den. Tito felt returning to him a sensation he had felt a thousand times, finding that exact position between the warmth of the sheets or under the afternoon sun of childhood Knees folded, hands between the legs, feet balanced. Head bent forward slightly, closing the circle. How lovely it was, he thought……..”
What he sees is a 4 year child, and against the wishes of his comrades, he covers up her hiding place & leaves her without revealing her existence.
Years later a beautiful women somewhere in her 50’s purchases a lotto ticket from an old man. She strikes up a conversation with him, then invites him to go with her for a drink. He somehow recognises her as the young girl from years before & initially refuses, knowing that he is the last one of the killers surviving from that day, that his fellow assassins have met untimely ends. Although believing she’s here to kill him, he goes with her to a local cafe, and over glasses of wine, they start a conversation which takes up the major part of the book and shows how each of their lives have cast shadows upon the other, and how Nina's life, an apparent series of isolated moments, of twists of fate, becomes a net of intrigue, of calculated intent.
They leave the cafe……
This Novel could so easily have become a tale of revenge, carrying on with the bloody path it first seems to be taking, but it becomes so much more, with it’s beautiful understated prose, placing it in a no mans land, in a time and place unstated. It’s myth and like myth it’s relevance is timeless & like myth it mines the human psyche.This book is 87 pages of viscerally shocking, mesmerising writing. It takes no time to read and yet its stark landscape will become a backdrop to your thoughts .
After reading Ocean Sea, by this author last year, I’ve been wanting to read another of his books and came across this one, I’ll now be tracking down his other works.
Translated by Ann Goldstein
"Draupadi" by Mahasweta Devi মহাশ্বেতা দেবী (1981) - Mahasweta Devi (1926, Dhaka, India) is best know for prolific literary and cultural studies of the lives of women in Indian Tribal societies and Dalit cl...
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