giovedì 1 dicembre 2011
Literary Blog Hop: The Suitcase, by Sergej Dovlatov
The Blue Bookcase has raised an interesting question in the last Literary Blog Hop: what book(s) would we recommend to a literary-shy person? There are, of course, infinite possibilities, especially considering that we would probably recommend different books to different people, or at least I would. Anyway, here is my answer. There are broadly two kinds of people who find it hard to appreciate literature: those who innocently claim they don't like it, and those who think they do, yet are blindfolded with all sort of prejudices: they won't read books that are "too short" (as if "good" literature were a question of quantity and not quality), or written by authors that are "too young". They might as well self-righteously claim that To the Lighthouse is boring because "it has no plot". Some wonderful works of literature would unfortunately reinforce these attitudes, but some might, on the contrary, crumble them up. One of these, I think, is The suitcase by Russian émigré writer Sergej Dovlatov. He was born in Ufa in 1941 of Armenian mother and half-Jewish father. He emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1979, together with his mother. All emigrants were allowed to bring only one bag. After many years in America, Dovlatov finds a battered suitcase into his wardrobe. It is still full of stuff: a poplin shirt, a pair of boots, a stained jacket... each item triggers a chain of memories, and each chapter in the book corresponds to an object from the suitcase and its story. Dovlatov shares glimpses of his Russian life with us with his dry, irresistible humor, full of tenderness but absolutely far from sentimentalism. I would recommend this book to literature-shy friends because it is a short book, which will be good for the lazy and will at the same time show how good literature doesn't only come in thousands of pages. It is a book you read easily, and it is funny and ironic, yet exquisitely human and full of depth and subtle melancholia. It is well structured and the language is simple but bright and clever, showing with simple, detached grace what an extravagant blend of laughter and gloom life is. It's a lovely, "happy sad" book that will leave no one dissatisfied.