ALONE BY THE SEA
VBZ, November, 2015, 341 pages
Excerpt of the novel available in English
Translation rights sold: Germany (Folio Verlag), Serbia (Booka)
Four years after the great literary success of The Maya Calendar Zoran Ferić returns to the scene with the novel that deals with man-woman’s relationships and its peripeteias. But unlike in the voluminous Calendar, here the author doesn’t write the complete life stories of its characters but rather catches them in the key episodes where those lives start to form or refract. The whole is fractured, but the novel is completed and rounded.
Ferić`s literary home again is the Rab Island (but the authors follows and sees off his characters as well in Makueni Country, Battle Creek, Krakow, Graz, Zagreb, Rijeka…) where we are accompanied by the lives of several local “seagulls” and “small town” girls, from their first adolescent years burst with hormones up to those weary and resigned moments when we slowly start to resume our lives. Luka, Boris, Gavran, Škemba, Lena and Alka are the main protagonists, but their stories are entwined with numerous “foreigners”: Constanze, Gaby, Urlike, Dagmar, Marie…
Love, sex, and myriad humorous and distinctly Ferić`s grotesque situations, but just as well the sorrow and melancholy and eternal wrestle with life that always somehow finds the way to “fuck you up”, and all of it written with the handwriting of one of the most persuasive and most authentic voices in modern Croatian literature.
Readers will go into this book relaxed, ready for laughs and adventures of heroes-seagulls, promising of easy sex, easy love, unbearable lightness of being. Some will enjoy the atmosphere of carefree 70-80s, in pictures of their youth and memories of summer love, some will cheer on the story of the legendary seagull, which has captured the glory of Croatian men all over Europe. But there’s more to it.
The realism of Ferić’s novel leaves no place to doubt, at least at first glance. Recognizable ambience, speech, atmosphere of an era. But his heroes are by no means “typical characters in typical circumstances”. The young seagulls Luka, Boris, Gavran, Škembo, Dudo are quite similar in terms of their successful conquest operations. They have similar tactics, goals, and they only differ in their failures. Therefore, the narrative would be boring if it presented the typical idea of a seagull as a conqueror of female hearts. Ferić, presenting the routine practice of the island seducers through striking episodic images, places their defeats in the narrative center. All happy seducers are similar – the unhappy one is unhappy in his own way. In those disasters they are given a unique face and the right to a special story.
Paradox of Ferić’s novel of the “seagulls” lies in the fact that the love stories which will stay in the reader’s memory are not the ones about enjoying sex with foreign girls. Those moments are left in the background (…). Each of the stories is remembered by the drama it brings to the character, undermining the legend of “seagull” lovers – and not just that.Alla Tatarenko