Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

buy us books !
Amazon wishlist

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Garden, Ashes

Danilo Kiš

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

To purchase Garden, Ashes

Title: Garden, Ashes
Author: Danilo Kiš
Genre: Novel
Written: 1965 (Eng. 1975)
Length: 174 pages
Original in: Serbo-Croatian
Availability: Garden, Ashes - US
Garden, Ashes - UK
Garden, Ashes - Canada
Jardin, cendre - France
Garten, Asche - Deutschland
  • Original title: Башта, пепео
  • Translated by: William J. Hannaher
  • Introduction by Aleksandar Hemon

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B+ : poignant, understated

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Christian Science Monitor . 22/9/1975 Victor Howes
New Statesman . 19/9/1975 Valerie Cunningham

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Garden, Ashes is an autobiographical novel, the story of a boy of Kiš's age named Andreas Scham, set mainly in the early years of World War II. The focus of the story is Andi's father Eduard, a Jew, broken by the crumbling world around him and eventually sent to the concentration camps.
       Eduard's grand project in those last years is "the third or fourth edition of one of his most poetic books: the then-famous Bus, Ship, Rail, and Air Travel Guide". The once-useful "combined guidebook-baedeker" has mutated into something far more ambitious, an eight-hundred page all-inclusive tome -- with little chance for success:

     The text stubbornly, obstinately retained its original title as a travel guide, reflecting the sick confusion in my father's mind.: he actually believed that some publishers would be fooled bythis obvious fraud and publish his chaotic compendium under the guise of an innocent timetable-travelogue.
       The great work offered some sort of hold for Eduard, but it's not enough. The clamp-down on wartime life hits the family harder and harder, though through the eyes of Andi, whose account this is, the hardship is not entirely evident as such. The child takes pleasure in and is fascinated by all aspects of life, and often doesn't know any better. It is a world of largely inexplicable wonder, though the dark shade to it is clear, at least on some level, even to him.
       Eduard goes off on long solitary walks, daydreaming and speaking to himself, half-mad -- and yet treated like a possible threat by the authorities, who follow and eavesdrop on him.
       Eventually the father's presence becomes an absence. Eduard goes away, but it is unclear what sort of separation it is, or for how long. He might, it seems, simply be on a business trip, or lost -- equally plausible, especially to the young boy. In fact, he was taken on a train and wound up (like Kiš's father) in Auschwitz.
       The power of the novel is in its understatement, the threats ominous but seen through the eyes of the child who doesn't yet understand fully. Auschwitz and death camps aren't even mentioned, his father's fate incomprehensible to Andi. Presumably he is protected from the truth by the adults, and yet the sense of what must have happened weighs even on him.
       It is an adult Andi who looks through those childhood-eyes again in telling his story -- helping to accentuate what he now knows actually happened, even if he chooses not to dwell on that. He describes this as the "muddy tale of my father, woven together from one unreality after another." It is particularly convincing as a childhood recollection, the fathers quirks amplified by the dream-like pieced-together memories. In not focussing on the literal horror, but allowing it to remain almost entirely threatening background, Kiš also offers a remarkable atmosphere.
       A small, appealing novel from the periphery of the Holocaust.

- Return to top of the page -


Garden, Ashes: Reviews: Danilo Kiš: Other books by Danilo Kis under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Danilo Kiš (Данило Киш, 1935-1989) was a leading writer in the former Yugoslavia.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2004-2008 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links