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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



You Do Understand

by
Andrej Blatnik


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase You Do Understand



Title: You Do Understand
Author: Andrej Blatnik
Genre: Stories
Written: 2009 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 94 pages
Original in: Slovenian
Availability: You Do Understand - US
You Do Understand - UK
You Do Understand - Canada
  • Slovenian title: Saj razumeš ?
  • Translated by Tamara M. Soban

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Our Assessment:

B+ : collection of well-shaped short pieces

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       You Do Understand is a collection of fifty very short pieces, some only two sentences long. Many of these flash- and short fictions focus on an individual at some remove from his or her surroundings, centered on the self and unable to make a complete connection to anyone or thing; throughout, there is a sense of alienation. The first piece already sets the tone, reading in its entirety:

     "Do you believe in a tomorrow together ?"
     "First I'd like to believe tonight really happened."
       To varying degrees many of the protagonists deal with a sudden, radical change of circumstances -- sometimes of their own making, sometimes seemingly entirely arbitrary. So, for example, Separation begins:
     It's odd to wake up in a strange apartment. You look at the woman lying next to you. How did you get here ?
       Indeed, the question of how did they get there -- wherever they now find themselves -- is one almost all of Blatnik's characters face. In its most radical form: "You go to bed a bank mogul, you wake up a rickshaw driver", but that is simply the clearest manifestation of what so many of these figures face.
       Blatnik highlights the disconnect between lovers: there are few happy affairs here, and the focus is on degrees of the act of separation. On Paper begins:
     He was one of those men who went out for a paper and never came back.
       He's not the only one: "I've left", begins another one, and so on. In Crossing the Horizon a man actually does venture back after a failed love affair, drawn back because he forgot the sunglasses he thinks he so desperately needs but then actually believing a new start might be possible; it isn't, of course. Blatnik allows his characters longing, but rarely has them take the necessary steps that might permit what they long for to be realized. More often, partners are simply left behind and, more or less, put out of mind: "I can't remember anything but the smell of his helmet", one girl admits after what one might have expected to be an entirely more memorable encounter.
       Some variations are not primarily romantic, as in Experts, where a group of public relations experts is headed to a conference and get flagged down on the road by men with guns who want some media coverage for the war they are involved in but which the PR-men haven't even heard of. "Maybe the whole thing is for real", the narrator wonders -- but here as throughout there is a distinct unreality to even what may well be real, with characters never fully engaged with or integrated into the world around them.
       There is some comic relief, too, though often also with a darker side. Among these humorous pieces is Home from Xpand, a 3D on-screen monster's complaint and reaction to his own condition. Most of the stories, however, are more realistic, and most are steeped entirely in darkness and melancholy: the ending of Cracks holds for many of the pieces:
Many stories don't have happy endings. This is one of them.
       Indeed. The somberness can get quite heavy, but Blatnik is creative enough in both his idea and presentation that one wants to read on. The pieces are well conceived and put together, and it makes for a quite compelling collection.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 August 2010

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Links:

You Do Understand: Reviews: Andrej Blatnik: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Slovenian author Andrej Blatnik was born in 1963.

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© 2010 the complete review

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