I’M RIGHT HERE

RUMENA BUŽAROVSKA

ILI-ILI, 2018, 230 pages
• 15-pages excerpt available in English

What sets this book apart from Bužarovska’s previous collections is that its stories focus on the dichotomy between Macedonia and elsewhere, or Macedonians and foreigners. Writing from this new perspective, Bužarovska not only is brave in treading the path of irony and the grotesque—both at the personal and the social level—but also is now free from any self-censorship and restraint. Drawing deeply from the absurdity, nonsense and banality of our everyday lives, she has managed to tell the stories of “us” versus them – those foreigners living with us, and those of us living in foreign lands.

Elizabeta Bakovska

I’m Right Here is a collection of seven long stories. Novellas, almost. Literally all of them touch the glowing coal of Otherness, strange lands, strangers, and “what’s wrong” […] Every so often I felt I was reading a novelist. [But] it doesn’t matter to me if Bužarovska writes a novel next: what I find thrilling now is that she’s Different, an Other compared to the author of her previous book, and it’s this Otherness, this Difference that’s reflected in her ease in handling longer stories without any shortness of breath. This is Bužarovska’s best book so far.

Olivera Kjorveziroska

Rumena Bužarovska’s short story collection I’m Right Here is a literary experience making it possible for you to miss trains, buses, and flights without any regret. Reading these stories, you may not notice it’s evening or morning already; you may forget to pick up your kid from preschool, or you may skip a doctor’s appointment. This book of seven brilliant stories will distance you from the mundane everyday while examining this exact mundaneness through the lens of our common misguided desire to leave this forsaken land and find ourselves enormously happier elsewhere.

Sašo Ognenovski

Through skillful and dynamic storytelling, Bužarovska creates dramatically explosive conflicts, leaving little space for parallel processing and deliberate manipulation of emotions. Her method is minimalistic, at times cruel, even brutal, but the emotion is always raw and authentic. These feelings may rattle you at first, but they’re here to shake you free of your foundations. Maybe they’ll surprise you, shock you, knock you out, but in the end, they’ll knock some sense into you. And don’t be surprised if while reading the stories you find yourself in a neurotic fit of laughter (at the end of “The Eighth of March: Accordion”) or in a neuralgic fit of tears (throughout “I’m right here” and “Boobie”). This is what healing, cathartic release feels like.

Biljana Gjoneska

Translation rights sold: Bosnia and Herzegovina (Buybook), Croatia (V. B. Z.), Serbia (Booka), Slovenia (Modrijan)

Rumena Bužarovska’s latest short story collection I’m Right Here consists of seven short stories dealing with the issue of economic migration and the Balkan inferiority complex towards the Western world. The narratives follow the personal life of the protagonists, focusing on their everyday situations and life choices, as well as their mostly dysfunctional relationships with their immediate family and friends. What the narratives have in common, though, is that they in fact highlight how the migration of a family member, the migration of the protagonist, or the desire of the protagonist to leave the country define these everyday situations and relationships.

The stories are set in contemporary Macedonia, depicting the political and economic reality of the last decade. Such is Eighth of March, the story of the university professor who gets drawn into the student protests of 2014, becoming an activist against her real will and subsequently getting invited to a theatrical performance hosted by the American ambassador’s wife to mark International Women’s Day, where she inadvertently causes a scandal. The story Vase speaks of the frustration of a post-transitional childless couple whose impoverished lifestyle becomes further emphasized by the lifestyle of an English couple they befriend. In Boobie, a housewife and mother of a two-year-old married to an American finds her nostalgic illusions shattered upon her return home to visit her sick father. I’m Right Here. I’m Not Going Anywhere tells the story of a middle-aged man who failed to make it in Australia and has to come back to live with his mother, haunted by the memories of the past. Blackberries has the protagonist examining her failure to escape the patriarchal protectiveness of her family by comparing her life to her childhood neighbor now living in the USA. There is also the child protagonist in Cherokee Red who suffers from culture shock upon his move to Arizona, where his father’s masculine brutality is even more deeply felt. Finally, the story Medusa speaks of a nouveau riche Balkan family attempting to fit into British high society and in the process get stranded on a beach in Southern France. All in all, the collection aims to thematize the political and economic reality of the Balkans through the everyday, deeply personal, comically tragic stories of the troubled protagonists.

Rumena Bužarovska’s new book is again close to the American narrative tradition, reminiscent of the authors such as Alice Munro (similarities between two authors have been noted by the critic Teofil Pančić as well), along with the influences of the minimalist, hyper-realistic tradition of Raymond Carver, as well as the atmosphere of gloom in Flannery O ‘Connor’s short stories. But Bužarovska builds her own realistic tableau infused with the humour that made the author recognizable among her numerous readers in the South-Eastern Europe.