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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

And Other Stories

by
Georgi Gospodinov


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase And Other Stories



Title: And Other Stories
Author: Georgi Gospodinov
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 80 pages
Original in: Bulgarian
Availability: And Other Stories - US
And Other Stories - UK
And Other Stories - Canada
And Other Stories - India
L'Alphabet des femmes - France
Gaustin oder Der Mensch mit den vielen Namen - Deutschland
  • Bulgarian title: И други истории
  • Translated by Alexis Levitin and Magdalena Levy

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Our Assessment:

B : varied, quick, often very appealing

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Review . 1-2/2008 Dimiter Kenarov
World Lit. Today . 7-8/2008 Aleš Debeljak


  From the Reviews:
  • "At less than a hundred pages, this volume stands in stark contrast to sprawling style of so much contemporary postmodern fiction. The lapidary prose combined with the silence of white spaces gives And Other Stories the faint air of poetry, of Japanese haikus. Averse to pyrotechnics, the book can be likened to a match lighting the mindís cigarette, followed by a deep puff and the fizz of burning tobacco. There is relaxation here, a savouring that lingers. Words are not watered-down substances; each has a particular taste." - Dimiter Kenarov, Boston Review

  • "His writing, characterised as it is by subtle humour, is often teasingly ironic and self-deprecating while at the same time attempts to chart serious subject matters: Western metafiction meets East European metaphysics. Gospodinovís stories are full of wonderful surprises, imaginative turns and engaging language, but their main concern seems to be the pursuit of redeeming distance from the ugly immediacy of facts. (...) This collection of short stories is entertaining as it makes us see the cold war Bulgarians treating »abroad« as a distinct country, on a par with France and Italy; it is aesthetically attractive in its weaving together of speculative and fecund aspects of reality, and it is ethically credible as it understands (and properly pokes fun at) that reality itself is never accessible other than through unstable, elusive, but irresistible words." - Aleš Debeljak, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       And Other Stories contains almost two dozen stories, all short -- some only a single page -- and ranging from the fantastical to the realistic, with the quirky touch predominating. Gospodinov tends to take his inventive premises and get straight to their point, padding his stories even less than, say, Borges does.
       The premises are good -- including what must surely be an East European favourite, as Gospodinov imagines the other side of a famous Esti Kornél-story by Kosztolányi Dezső, turning things not quite on their head in 'A Second Story'. The poignant 'Peonies and Forget-me-nots' sets the bar high as the opening story, a love-conquers-all tale (of sorts) that nicely allows for both the impossibility and the realisation of true love.
       The title-character in 'Blind Vaysha' has as its premise the sort of transcendent but also complicating qualities Gospodinov seems particularly drawn to:

     With her left eye she could only see the past, and with the right one only what was about to happen in the future.
       Though Gospodinov often spins the consequences of these premises out to their extremes, there's still a sense of restraint about the stories, as he handles them quickly and surely, rather than drawing them out in endless permutations (as so many science fiction novels do). It's an effective technique, and he's quite good at it.
       Not all the stories are successful: something like the very short 'Station Story' feels terribly forced, like a desperate attempt to fashion some story around an amusing anecdote (about Bulgarians cheating the automatic toilet doors at train stations, slipping in a whole group of passengers with a single coin, rather than just an individual). Elsewhere, too, the stories don't come together entirely neatly, a bit too much demanded of the ideas, or the expression sounding just a half-tone off.
       Still, overall there's more hit than miss here. Despite being well under a hundred pages, the size of the book is something of a drawback: there's too much here that's not up to the sharpest stories, pulling the collection as a whole down with it, and with this quick succession of stories, burst after burst, as it were, it's hard to pace oneself in reading them and enjoy them as they are probably enjoyed best: separately and one (or a very few) at a time. Here's the problem of collecting stories in one volume; these probably work even better on their own, in other surroundings -- they seem ideal magazine material, for example.
       Still: worthwhile.

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Links:

And Other Stories: Reviews: Georgi Gospodinov: Other books by Georgi Gospodinov under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov (Георги Господинов) was born in 1968.

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© 2008-2011 the complete review

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