Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Review: Catherine the Great and the Small

Catherine the Great and the Small Catherine the Great and the Small by Olja Knezevic
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This year in my Around the World reading I'm tackling Europe - the countries I've never read anything from and deepening my knowledge of others. I posted a list to Twitter and got great suggestions so I jumped into this book from Montenegro author, Olja Knežević. It is translated by Paula Gordon & Ellen Elias-Bursac and came out in 2020 from Istros Books (who seem to be a good resource for translated literature from the Balkans.)

Catherine is coming of age in Titograd in the 1980s (which becomes Podgorica by the end of the novel,) and the book follows her life before and after the Balkan Wars. A lot of the political conflict and economic crises take place in the background of her life and her family and community. It looks at isolation and separation from home more than it tries to look at history and war.

"We each sit on the clean soft grass of our new countries, alone. Alone in a crowd, alone even when we’re with our new friends, who don’t hear the roar of the wild mounting inside us. Always at the start of summer we pine for the pungent smell of home."

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