Review of Morningside by Téa Obreht – Life in Exile

oxygenIn Island City (which may be, or may have been, Manhattan), in a once-luxury apartment building called The Morningside, an 11-year-old girl observes and learns about the neighborhood she lives in while yearning for more. Learn more about this community. The community she comes from.

Sylvia and her family – her mother and her aunt Ena, the neighborhood administrator – are refugees from an unknown country, and they carry with them in very different ways the traditions and traditions of that country. myth. Ena cherishes the past and re-examines it, preserving artifacts and recounting how Sylvia’s mother had her own reasons for wanting to leave everything behind, resisting memories and discouraging her daughter from asking questions about her father, family and life in her native country .

As Obright draws it, aunt and mother represent two modes of exile: holding on and letting go: “If the past felt like a forbidden room that I briefly glimpsed when my mother closed the door, then here was Ena, she holds the door. But because Obrecht’s characters are so dynamic and personal, they are never ciphers for a particular way of being. In this novel, letting go and holding on have more in common than we and the characters might imagine need more.

Sylvia and her family are part of the “Repopulation Plan”, waiting to be placed in a program aimed at reviving a metropolis abandoned by its inhabitants due to environmental disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. The ground was higher and the water was fresher, as they usually did.The family are refugees from a place known only as “home,” although Oblett’s readers tiger’s wife You’ll recognize something about the non-specific Balkans in the novel; it’s a composite of post-war, post-communist Europe, maybe even post-Europe, rather than a place directly drawn on a map. Morningside also shares elements of style, voice, and imaginative hinterland with Obrecht’s first novel: a first-person narrator whose worldview is refreshing without being childish, and he is fascinated by the power of story to engage us Rooted in the past while also showing us the path through the present.

“Back home” represents all the homes people have been forced to leave. The language Sylvia and her family speak is simply called “ours.” It’s nuanced and truthful; Obrecht tackles big, topical, and often brutal themes without ever sacrificing her storytelling artistry to be didactic or brutally allegorical.

When we first meet her, Sylvia is bewildered by her mother’s role in a mysterious criminal case in her native country, while also pondering the legend told by her aunt about Vera, the A mountain goddess who roams with her three shape-shifting sons. Environmental disasters even force souls to leave their lands: “When the world collapsed, the Welay people moved on. There must have been hundreds of them adrift like the rest of us,” says Aina.

As if to prove this, Sylvia became obsessed with the mysterious penthouse artist Bezi Duras, also from “Going Home” and, according to Einar, three of his A dog is not a dog. Ena tells Sylvia that “there is a world under the house”. Early in the novel, Ena collapses and dies while tying her shoes, leaving it all for Sylvia to discover. Obrecht is a skilled and passionate novelist who uses ancient storytelling forms—folk tales, myths, and legends—to retain all their power to explain, mystify, soothe, and terrify.

Fictional children are often spies in the adult world, and the trope of the curious child’s perspective is common. Sylvia is in this tradition, but her voice and perspective are always fresh. She is a successful narrator who imbues her stories with humor, excitement, tenacious curiosity, and fear. The novel is filled with characters, including Milla, who becomes an accomplice to Sylvia’s curiosity, and Lewis May, the building’s former caretaker and a writer who is searching for a lost manuscript. What could be called a dystopia, to this reader, feels hopeful in its imagined near future: Depopulation programs are the result of rich countries paying dues to other countries’ displaced and traumatized populations; trains are either more or less There is less land to work; there are schools and basic health care, and even “the rubbish is taken out”. There is a society, and there are forms of community and solidarity, such as the pirate radio station “Dragon City Dispatch”. All of this makes novels say more about how we live. To unite, not to fall apart.

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The Morningside by Téa Obreht is published by W&N (£20). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at: Guardianship Bookstore. Shipping charges may apply.

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