Every now and then, I will mention excellent books not yet available in English translation. These are the sorts of books that I believe readers of this blog will want to consider, but unfortunately the Anglo-American markets will be among the last to receive them. However, for those reading this who are fluent in Spanish, these books (often translated from languages such as Polish or Serbian, for example) are readily available via Amazon, Alibris, ABEbooks, and other online retailers. Now to the book at hand, Serbian author Goran Petrović's La Mano de la Buena Fortuna.
Petrović is one of the most highly lauded Serbian writers of the past 20 years who recently has begun to see his books translated into Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian. His sixth book, La Mano de la Buena Fortuna (The Hand of Good Fortune in English) , won the prestigious NIN prize in 2000 for Serbian literature, and after reading it the past couple of days, it is easy to see why he is so lauded by those who read him.
La Mano de la Buena Fortuna deals with how the reading of a particular book, Mi legado by Anastas Branica, affects its readers. Utilizing vividly-detailed sentences to draw in the reader, Petrović creates well-drawn characters and situations. Below is a translation from the first passage in this book:
It was a phrase in Serbian. Like the following too. Composed manually. Printed in Cyrillic letters. Between the lines one could glimpse the printing on the back of the page. Originally a perfect white, the paper presents time-worn yellow stains, as time passes through everything.With this simple introduction, which contains echoes of the opening pages of Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler..., Petrović sets the stage for exploring the dynamics between the rather mundane physical properties of a book and the effects that such a physical object can have when its words are transformed into meaningful ones by its readers.
La Mano de la Buena Fortuna is divided into a brief introduction of Branica's book and the eight readings of it by couples, whose lives are affected by this reading. While some might notice a similarity with Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind and how the reading of that book affected young Daniel Sempere, here in Petrović's work, a similar transformation takes on many more possible meanings and forms, most of which deal with couples and their reactions to the book's message. Petrović doesn't focus on the negative, sinister possibilities, but rather on the more positive influences that the act of reading and interpreting can have on others. But while one might be forgiven for thinking this surely has to be a rather direct, bald approach, in actuality, these transformations are subtle, as the narrative takes purposely understates what is happening, leaving the reader to interpret what is happening, perhaps adding yet another layer to Branica's story.
As far as I know, there are no plans for Petrović's works to be translated into English in the near future. However, based on my first reading (there will be many more in the near future) of his work, I suspect that there would be a willing market for his works, which seem to be reflective, multi-layered, but with very well-drawn characterizations. Hopefully, some publisher will be willing to take a chance, as Petrović is one of the more talented authors that I have read in the past few years.