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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Succubus

Vlado Žabot

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Title: The Succubus
Author: Vlado Žabot
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 201 pages
Original in: Slovenian
Availability: The Succubus - US
The Succubus - UK
The Succubus - Canada
  • Slovenian title: Sukub
  • Translated by Rawley Grau and Nikolai Jeffs

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Our Assessment:

B : fairly effective tale of man losing grip on reality

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Cleveland Plain Dealer . 27/9/2010 Matthew Jakubowski
TLS . 10/12/2010 Toby Lichtig

  From the Reviews:
  • "Zabot's long, enjoyable sentences show Valent using imagination and booze to fight loneliness. (...) The climax is vague yet disturbing." - Matthew Jakubowski, Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • "The Succubus is a witty, claustrophobic novel, its mannered prose well in translation by Rawley Grau and Nikolai Jeffs. The register is convincingly archaic (.....) Consistently clever, the novel does loosen its grip on the reader, and after a pungent opening the story meanders in its unravelling. But there is much to admire here" - Toby Lichtig, Times Literary Supplement

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:

       Valent Kosmina, the protagonist of The Succubus, was always a rather uneasy fellow, but now -- retired, his sons moved away, his wife having "succumbed to tranquilizers and television" -- he's on even less sure footing. With little of his world of much interest, he tries to build his own reality -- and present himself as something that he's not. But he knows there's not much to it, and he's afraid of being found out. So, for example:

His look of noble, long-suffering self-confidence, which for some time now he had been obsessively cultivating (most especially with his pipe between his teeth) -- this guise of his would be exposed as nothing but common duplicity and dissemblance.
       Among his pastimes now are regular strolls in the neighborhood of Brežine -- much fancier than his mundane surroundings -- , which slumbers "in stately remoteness". He can pretend he belongs here, just as he pretends to be busy with business, going into buildings, having the "general appearance as a man of class too much preoccupied with important matters to take notice of his surroundings." Of course, it's all a façade: for all his efforts at keeping up these odd appearances, he has nothing to accomplish, no one to see. His life is empty, and he's trying, futilely, to fill it.
       When Kosmina reads about a murder in Brežine his imagination runs away with him. He worries about being considered a suspect, and isn't sure what will arouse more suspicion: if he continues his routine, or breaks it off. There's more that confuses him, too: a letter, slipped to him, the noises he (but no one else) hears coming from a deceased neighbor's apartment -- and then the young girl he encounters (and gives a bottle of Shalimar perfume to), his Shulamite and succubus. Already one to read far too much into the clouds and their shapes (making predictions as to how the day would unfold, and what he should avoid based on their appearance), Kosmina drifts off entirely into the surreal.
       Though a contemporary Slovenian novel, Žabot's fiction has the feel of the works of the Austrian Prague writers of the early twentieth century -- Gustav Meyrink and Leo Perutz, especially -- and The Succubus fits perfectly in that school of writing, in that mystical feel of the city Žabot captures, as well as the mind-games the protagonist is subjected to. The (melo-)dramatic end, too, is of a piece.
       Kosmina's wife doesn't much bother with what her husband is up to, but when he wants her to pay attention (or listen for those noises) she is bothered:
     "You're strange," she could barely get the words out.
     "We're all strange, Olga ..."
     "Valent !"
     "Yes, that's what I think."
     "Something's not right with you, mister."
     "Heh, heh, heh."
       Indeed, in either guise -- the domestic Valent, her husband, or this alter ego he tries to become as he does his rounds in town (this "mister" he'd like to be) -- Kosmina is losing his grip on reality. When he's unable to shape it he proves unable to hold it, either, and Žabot does a fine job of showing fantasy (and perverted forms of wishful (and sometimes presumably subconscious) thinking -- of seeing in the clouds, and then in reality, what he wants to see) taking over, and pushing him over the edge.

- M.A.Orthofer, 15 December 2010

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The Succubus: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Slovenian author Vlado Žabot was born in 1958.

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© 2010 the complete review

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