Published by Noir Press (originally published in Lithuanian as Lengviausias)
Author: Rasa Aškinyte
Translated from Lithuanian by Jura Avizienis
Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“My name is Tom.”
Synopsis (from the blurb):
Blanca works at café France.
If she actually exists.
There she meets the characters of the novel, Alex and Not-Alex, Greek, the owner of the café and Anastasia her best friend.
It is a story of love, of not loving and of an apartment reached only by a ladder and birds that come crashing down onto table tops. Aškinyte’s novel is lightly and lyrically told, but beneath the surface bubbles a dark and disturbing world.
I found my way to this novel through its publisher, Noir Press. I was invited to the book launch event at One BC in Nottingham, coincidentally the setting for the cover photo.
I had recently interviewed the founder of Noir Press, and author in his own right, Stephan Collishaw, and was keen to get my hands on some Lithuanian fiction.
What appealed to me about this novel in particular is the fact that the character may or may not exist. This lends the plot to an element of philosophy and magic realism which are two features of fiction that I always try to incorporate into my own writing.
I had to read this book no matter what.
I was blown away from the start. There is a subtle genius about the style of writing and the voice of the main character, Blanca. Her phrases seem simple on the surface, but actually hold an incredible amount of philosophical weight and makes you stop in your tracks when reading.
I read this book with a pencil in my hand, as it soon became apparent that there were so many quotes that I would want to revisit, and I didn’t want to lose them. Some of the quotes are rare gems, and reading them I feel like I want to share them with everyone and say “read this! You cannot be living your life day by day and not read this! Trust me!”
I trust this book. I trust the writing and I trust Blanca.
The novel is narrated by her, and she is strange but likeable. Her non-existence (or existence, I’m not sure) should make her unreliable, but we’re seeing her life from her eyes, we’re seeing the characters from her perspective and we judge them as she judges them. The writing creates a film-like sequence in my mind, sort of like a Xavier Dolan film with the colour and clarity of A Single Man.
It also reminded me of Mist by Miguel de Unamuno, ad Blanca would not be out of place in the world created by Unamuno, and would happily interact with his characters, I feel.
The chapter titles are my favourite part of the novel, as they could be read alone, one after the other, and you would still have a thought-provoking experience enough to make you say “read this!” to whoever is lucky enough to be near you at the time.
For me, the Lithuanian fiction bar has been set high with this one, and I am incredibly grateful that Noir Press have begun translating and publishing these novels. I will never forget some of the brilliant lines I read in this novel.
Philosophers everywhere, read it now, it should be studied on philosophy courses.
Everyone else, immerse yourself in this kind of fiction, even if just for the quotes that explain yourself back to you.
Buy the book here: The Easiest