Farewell Cowboy/Adios Cowboy
“In Dada’s wild amalgam of quest story, social satire, and comic shtick (plus a surreal film-shoot scene featuring cowboys), you won’t catch Savicevic offering tidy diagnoses. You won’t care, thanks to prose that glints like the sea in the distance.”
“Weaves together past and present in a devastatingly consequential way, full of ghosts, regret, and Dada’s always poignant self-examination… When the prose lands… it’s reminiscent of Renata Adler or Lorrie Moore: breathtakingly brilliant with comedy made especially sharp through ubiquitous, underlying tragedy.”
“The publication of this dazzling, funny and deadly serious novel will bring nourishment to readers hungry for the best new European fiction, and to those wondering where the new generation of post-Yugoslav novelists are… It shines… with the help of a flawless translation from Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth… With this novel, which lodges itself in your chest like a friendly bullet, a glorious new European voice has arrived.”
“‘Memory is the present of all remembered events,’ reflects the protagonist of this droll slice-of-life story, expressing the personal sense of stagnation she experiences upon returning to her childhood home in a remote Croatian village. Dada is newly returned from Zagreb to ‘the Old Settlement,’ hoping to put a pointless love affair behind her and to care for her aging mother, and she finds the routines of the locals and her grown-up childhood friends little changed from how she remembers them… As depicted by Savičević, Dada is a resilient woman whose appreciation of the absurdities of her life allow her to carefully navigate them. Her experiences make for an intimate character study.”
“Savičević, who was born in 1974 and grew up with the war… belongs to a lost generation. This novel, which appears to be an account of a personal quest, is about so much more… The humour and sheer anarchy of the action combined with the comic exasperation, unforgettable characters and Dada’s wry acceptance of the way life happens to be, make this subversively appealing novel all the more profound; even, unexpectedly, beautiful.”
“Savičević tells her story in highly poetic, sensual language aglow with wondrously incandescent images.”
“A wild ride through the dusty streets of a coastal city in Dalmatia; clouds of memories are stirred up and verbal hot lead fills the air. The dust settles to reveal a subtle and cleverly crafted family story, which revolves around a pervasive past waiting to be addressed.”
“An accomplished debut novel… Savičević may employ conventional narrative modes—the detective story, the mock western, the email correspondence—but she always uses them as vehicles to further a subtle sociological inquiry that is woven into the novel’s language itself.”
“Wonderfully direct and breathtakingly vulgar… This mosaic of memories and the present, jottings and letters, makes a fascinating reading experience full of vivid impressions, sentimental truths and satirical insights into life in all its depravity.”
“Adios, Cowboy is not the kind of book that is published every day in Britain or America.”
Singer in the Night
Olja Savičević Ivančević’s Singer in the Night (2016, English translation 2019) is written according to the conventions of the romantic novel (it is subtitled ‘a romance’) and has fun with many of the genre’s tropes and clichés, and with contemporary erotic discourse in general. Unlike many writers, she does not foreground irony, nor does she resort to simple inversion, parody and cancellation in her game with the hazardous load of literary love. Rather, she creates a new sentimentality from familiar, cliched elements, and through combining and poeticising them undermines expectations.
Singer in the Night begins with a ‘Welcoming letter’ written by Nightingale, an artist, performer, concept artist, tagger and deserter somewhere between real person and strip-cartoon fantasy. The letter is addressed to lovers who are so loud at night that the whole of a street in Split resounds with their sighs.
Singer in the Night is a rich, sensual novel which comments on perception, on how life is really lived – never objectively, never encompassing the whole truth, and yet no less real to us. In its final message, the novel gives a playful warning about the consequences of choosing banality – whether it be nationalism, vanity or fame – over true human connection.
Singer In The Night is an outstanding example of contemporary European writing. A complex construction for a confusing time. This is a novel which prompts the realisation that much of what we remember is formed from the residue of our mistakes. Regrets are an inescapable part of our memories. Yet we don’t want to stop remembering.
This book is entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time, stimulating and enjoyable to read and to discuss. We recommend it especially because Olja Savičević’s style is unique, fresh and innovative, young but mature in talent, and it is rendered brilliantly into English by Celia Hawkesworth.
Read more about this fantastic book on our blog here.
Part road trip, part social comment, part metaphor and part love story, above all this is an exploration of memory, with some fittingly memorable twists along the way. It is not Nightingale that Clementine is moving towards on this turbulent journey, but her past, her memories, and herself. This reflection on the fragility of memory – both personal and historical – is a poignant, innovative and politically engaged book that deserves attention.
Many Diálogos titles piqued my curiosity, but the one that caught my breath was Mamasafari, written by acclaimed Croatian novelist and poet Olja Savičević and translated by Andrea Jurjević. This expansive poetry collection considers Mediterranean female identity through a variety of voices, switching between narrative, political observation, and lyrical exploration. Savičević’s poems are organized into three sections, each revealing a fresh face of her conceptually-diverse style.
Olja doesn’t write for the critics. After you read the collection’s first section, in which the speaker spends a month in Istanbul, you will quickly understand why she writes. By observing the colors, scents and sounds, the crowds in this foreign land, the chairs, windows and rooms, inside which she observes herself, observes the process of observation, Olja follows the primal need for writing, gains an understanding, and captures that which is elusive. In her poem “Listanbon,” which is a city that sometimes appears in Olja’s dreams, a fusion of Lisbon and Istanbul that flickers between reality and dream, between life and death, Olja captures the chorus of the street singer under the window: “Dying before death isn’t the hardest thing, it’s wanting to live after that, that’s the hardest, wanting to live after that.” Olja’s poems invoke a conjured city you won’t find in travel books. You might think that as such, this city might mean little to you, except these poems carry impressive descriptions of the physical world, and they brilliantly capture the spirit of a place.
Olja Savičević again brilliantly integrates prose fragments and reflexive lyric poetry. Let’s cut to the chase: the author has long ago masterfully created her own subgenre, yet this time she has written an unusually strong, touching, beautiful and passionate book, the best one so far. Regardless of how we try to classify these texts—travel-bits, prose poems, lyric panoramas, micro essays, song-stories, or something else—the fact is there are more lyrical, pure-blooded, no-holds-barred poetic and poetically courageous choices than in ninety-nine percent of the Croatian verse production.
Mamasafari by the acclaimed writer Olja Savičević is a fantastic poetry collection, devoid of empty ramblings and banality, a book which should not be read because we’d simply like to stay current with contemporary poetry but, simply, because of its pleasures.