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  3. The Exchange: Karen Russell on “Swamplandia!”

Most of John Hodgson's translation from the Albanian original is fluid enough, but he uses a number of unnecessarily awkward phrasings: "could be counted on the fingers of one hand"; "hall of residence"; "the zip" instead of zipper or fly, on a pair of pants. Still, the problems with the translation are minor compared to the novel as a whole, which is surprising, because of the 10 or so Kadare novels that I've read, this is the only one from which I've come away disappointed. The Accident concerns a mysterious crash on the Vienna autobahn, in which a young couple is ejected from a taxi.

While the lovers, Besfort and Rovena, die, the taxi driver survives with minor injuries and cannot explain why he crashed. The first and last odd pages explore the crash investigation, which initially attracts the attention of some Balkan nations' secret services but eventually falls in the lap of an anonymous researcher from the European Road Safety Institute. There are intimations that the accident may be connected to Besfort's job with the Council of Europe, where he might've been investigating atrocities committed in Yugoslavia under Slobodan Milosevic, but it's never made clear.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell: | ghesampover.tk: Books

Nor do we learn much about Rovena, except that she's at one point "an intern at the Archaeological Institute of Vienna. All of this represents a severe departure from most of Kadare's work, which is not necessarily unwelcome. At first, I thought that The Accident —with its tortured lovers conducting rendezvous in hotel rooms across Europe, manipulating each other into various states of love and submission—might owe something to Milan Kundera, another great writer who found refuge in France. But, at least in this work, Kadare lacks Kundera's ability to show the links between our carnal and our philosophical selves.

The novel aims for a hallucinatory fever dream played out across a newly open Europe, but it ends up with something far less vivid: a list of adjectives would contain words like spectral, abstract, rootless, hazy. The novel itself frequently deploys the word "mist," which is all too apt, for the mist never clears. The shattering revelation seemingly hovering over Besfort—Did he somehow arrange their deaths? What's the Yugoslav connection?

Is he wanted by the Hague? One could justify the disappointment of The Accident by saying that once freed from the strictures of the Hoxha regime, the world was too open to Kadare, his masterful ability to draw historical parallels no longer needed. But Kadare has written some very fine work since leaving Albania, sometimes by writing explicitly about what once was forbidden The Successor comes to mind.

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And The Accident contains a few wonderfully clever observations about Albania's rapid changes since its shift to democracy. Nothing to do then but shrug it off and say that even one of Europe's greatest writers can produce a dud. Few writers have plumbed a region's dark history so thoroughly or profoundly. If so, by whom? Joy Williams who writes so beautifully and ferociously about the Florida Keys and the "Neverglades," as she calls them in "Ill Nature.


This story is very close to me—the landscape is a fictionalized version of my home, "mainland" South Florida and the shrinking Everglades about an hour from Miami , a terrain that's currently poisoned by phosphorus pollution, dammed, drained, paved-over by developers, covered in sugarcane, dyked, maybe twenty per cent of its original size, and disappearing at sickening speeds. For me, the story of the Bigtree family's meteoric descent after their mother's death has always been connected to this larger story of the imperiled Everglades cut off from its headwaters. Also—I recognize that this will sound like some D.

It was especially important to me that Ava get to tell her story in her own language. In the same way that I wanted to capture the physical landscape of the swamp in this book, I really wanted to channel Ava's emotional state onto the page, this mixture of wariness and belief, innocence and complicity; the distorting affect that her grief over her mom's death has on her vision. All the wonder and terror of her crossing over.

At a certain point in the novel, Ava muses about the energy of a secret discharged into language. For me, too, there are a handful of paragraphs towards the end that I think of as the fulcrum of the novel, that swing Ava through a door, and for reasons that I don't think I can spell out here I feel a tremendous relief that they exist outside of me now, un-privately, and inside this book. Unlike the other stories in the "St.


Lucy's" collection, the ending of "Ava Wrestles the Alligator" felt like a beginning to me. There was spaciousness there, the swamp humming all around them—that setting had a powerful gravity for me.

And there was so much menace lurking around the borders of that story, the Bird Man character and Ossie's possessions, the restless ghost of the mother. How similar is your family to the Bigtrees? Have you or anyone you know ever wrestled an alligator? Although I do secretly believe we could wallop a monster in a fight. I am extremely close to my brother, Kent, and my sister, Lauren, who have been remarkably understanding about all of my weird sibling tales. Throughout the book, she dwells lovingly on the endangered beauties of South Florida's Ten Thousand Islands, from the 'glacial spires of a long oyster bed' to a 'sky-flood' of moths with sapphire-tipped wings.

A critic of the New York Times summarizes Russell's unique style by stating that she has "honed her elegant verbal wit and fused it with the nightmare logic that makes Swamplandia! The strongest theme identified by critics and the author herself is the theme of loss, as Russell explains: "So much of the story of Swamplandia! Grief is a very private affair for these characters, and each member of the Bigtree family is so focused on the ghosts of the past, and their doomed, miraculous visions of the future, that they keep missing one another in the present.

As well as being called a Bildungsroman and a Magical Realist novel, Swamplandia! The Southern Gothic aspect is the many references to ghosts and the disturbing character of The Bird Man. The contrast between the macabre and disturbing imagery and the comic interludes has divided critics:. Jonathan Gibbs of The Telegraph noted that: "It's a set-up as wacky as it is grim, and for a while Russell seems content to serve up a hyperactive comedy of despair, a sort of swampy Southern Gothic high on too much cheap cola.

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Susan Salter Reynolds of the Los Angeles Times instead observed Russell's ability to produce conflicting emotions in the reader: "Russell pulls the rug out from under us in a rather brutal way and we are left not knowing whether to laugh and applaud or feel grateful for her survival. Russell was influenced at a young age by the works by short story writer George Saunders who is also recognized on the acknowledgment page of the novel and other gothic writers, particularly Stephen King , who influenced the creation of Swamplandia!

It's every bit as good as her short stories promised it would be. This book will not leave my mind. In October , HBO announced that it was producing a half-hour television series based on Swamplandia! From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The New York Times. Retrieved 26 December Retrieved 16 September Poets and Writers. Retrieved 10 August — via Contemporary Literary Criticism.

Jeffrey W. Detroit: Gale, Literature Resource Center.

New Directions in Folklore. Retrieved 23 August Publisher's Weekly. Barnes and Noble. United States: Vintage.


The Exchange: Karen Russell on “Swamplandia!”

New York Times. The Millions. The Telegraph. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 December The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 16 April Library Journal.