Next comes “Nine Rabbits”, by the Bulgarian author Virginia Zaharieva, translated by Angela Rodel and published by the rather delightful Istros Books, a small press devoted to publishing fiction in translation, with a strong focus on South Eastern Europe. In common with the previous work is its epistolary form, tricksy way with perceptions of reality, in the very best post-modern tradition, – and the pervading obsession of the novel’s central “voice” with matters of the kitchen and table, as a medium for explaining and demonstrating the workings of their personal cosmology.
One of the great joys, for me, of reading literature from other countries and cultures than my own, is the sensation of tasting a dish unknown to me, a dish formed by other influences and other histories, only comprehensible to my animal brain in the consumption and digestion thereof. And in this aspect, “Nine Rabbits” is so far showing itself a Michelin five star, luridly synaesthetic all-round box-ticker. Opening it is itself like falling down a rabbit-hole, into a dystopian wonderland of alternately passionate, and disinterested, brutality, told, initially, with the almost magical unconcern of a child’s viewpoint, looking back with minimal reinterpretation but a steadily held lens. Stylistically, Zaharieva juxtaposes memoir format, diary, fragments of epic verse, lists of alternate endings like a “What happened next?” adventure book, and of course the recipes, each recipe marking a significant moment or stage in the narrator’s psychological journey. I have tried a few of the recipes along the way, and intend at a future stage to publish the results with a few observations, and other serving suggestions. Arse-End Potatoes and Monastery Soup (complete with incense) have met with approval, both for flavour and title, in my household so far.
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