Reviews

Snow Man

Stephen Osborne

One rarely finds a Canadian book, a North American book, that seems to belong to the literature of the world in the way that books by Sebald, Saramago, Borges and García Márquez seem to belong to and even to define a literature that takes the world as its measure, a literature that makes itself sentence by sentence in a quest consisting of the finding of sentences. In such a literature the problem of narrative is always being worked out by close attention to the cadences of storytelling and the inflection of time past, present and future (such attention is to be found in the narrative writing of Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Miriam Toews, Sheila Heti), and not by the enumeration of detail, the tedium of invented dialogue and the relentless stage directions that infect so much “realist” writing. Snow Man, the masterful new novel by David Albahari (Douglas & McIntyre), belongs precisely to such a narrative of the world; and its provenance is evident from the first sentence, which takes us up in a moment and sweeps us into the history of language itself in a simple story brilliantly narrated. Snow Man is a straightforward tale of the New World: a writer from a former European nation escapes to a city much like Calgary, where he learns, by processes of default and loss, to burrow in. Snow Man is a haunting book, a great book. According to the jacket blurb, Albahari is one of Serbia’s major writers; he lives in Calgary; with the help of his translator (Ellen Elias-Bursac), he is one of Canada’s major writers as well. His presence in this country is an enormous encouragement for writers determined to break loose from realist monotony.

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Stephen Osborne

Stephen Osborne is a co-founder and contributing publisher of Geist. He is the award-winning writer of Ice & Fire: Dispatches from the New World and dozens of shorter works, many of which can be read at geist.com.


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