cover image Ballerina, Ballerina

Ballerina, Ballerina

Marko Sosic, trans. from the Slovenian by Maja Visenjak Limon. Dalkey Archive, $15.95 trade paper (123p) ISBN 978-1-62-897097-5

Sosic’s sorrowful and strange first novel, first published in 1997, is narrated over 15 chapters by a 15-year-old girl in Yugoslavia known only as “Ballerina,” whose mental disabilities render her a perpetual child. The halting, declarative first-person voice conveys Ballerina’s altered view of the world, circa 1957: “I see the moon moving closer, and the window. The window with the moon.” Over the course of the brief but densely packed story, Sosic’s novel immerses us in Ballerina’s mind; her excitement over her birthday party, her shaky grasp of death; and her reactions to snippets from the outside world, such as the launch of Sputnik. The book’s emotional strength comes not from conventional plotting, but rather from the gulf between Ballerina’s dispassionate narration and our own understanding of her predicament. Sosic clearly makes his point when, for example, Ballerina reports, “Ivan is with me, telling me he will cure me when he’s no longer at school, when he’s a doctor,” as flatly as she describes a rainstorm: “Then I feel a drop on my face. Mama says it’s raining.” While Sosic’s brand of Continental modernism can be challenging, he is masterful in achieving his apparent aim: placing the reader within a totally different consciousness. (Sept.)