Apostoloff

Sibylle Lewitscharoff, trans. from the German by Katy Derbyshire. Seagull (Univ. of Chicago, dist.), $21 (288p) ISBN 978-0-85742-088-6
Greeted with howls of protest when it was published in 2009 (while also earning the Leipzig Book Fair Prize that same year), German novelist and playwright Lewitscharoff’s English-language debut digs into the histories of a troubled family and a shattered nation and comes up with nothing but outrage and contempt. An unnamed narrator—who misses nothing and hates everything—and her infinitely more sociable sister are being escorted through Bulgaria by Rumen Apostoloff, an old family acquaintance, on the return trip home to Berlin from their father’s burial. As they travel, Rumen bravely attempts to share with these women some of the sights of his homeland while regaling them with stories of local history, most of them regrettably violent and grim. As they roll along, Lewitscharoff’s narrator contemplates her father’s suicide, her mother’s unhappiness, and her sister’s unsinkable attitude, while fiendishly riffing on Bulgaria’s dreary landscapes, horrid food, and mafia-controlled culture. Lewitscharoff’s caustic prose can be occasionally overbearing but it’s her sharp-eyed, unsentimental, and even lyrical musings that make this novel a spiky, pungent pleasure. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/29/2012
Release date: 06/01/2013
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