cover image Alindarka’s Children

Alindarka’s Children

Alhierd Bacharevič, translated from the Belarusian and Russian by Jim Dingley and Petra Reid. New Directions, $19.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-8112-3196-1

Belarusian punk rocker Bacharevič makes his U.S. debut with a mind-bending update of “Hansel and Gretel.” In a parable-like fashion, the story follows two siblings, Alicia and Avi, who travel through a nightmarish world where speakers of their native tongue, “the Leid,” are subjugated and forced to learn “the Lingo,” a state-approved language. After escaping from a camp for language reeducation, they follow a path to Bremen on an old map. Along the way, they wander into a forest, where they find a strange cottage constructed of old confectionery packaging. Bacharevič also develops an obsessive character known as “the Doctor,” who has a peculiarly perverse love for the Lingo. Largely a meditation on what makes a language worth holding onto, this gains potency as an impassioned attempt by the author to protect his beloved language, Belarusian, from being stamped out by the more dominant language of his region, Russian. Bacharevič’s storytelling is slippery and opaque, especially because the book shifts lyrically between two languages, Belarusian and Russian, translated respectively and brilliantly into Scots and English. Readers will be stirred by Bacharevič’s ardent, earnest devotion. (June)