Years ago, and quite probably by accident, I discovered the essays of Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulic. I found her 1993 essay collection Balkan Express: Fragments from the Other Side of War a fresh, direct and passionate look at the region’s bloody conflict. Not long after reading Balkan Express, I happened to see a little blurb in The New Yorker noting that an English language translation of her novel Marble Skin had recently been published in the United States. Before long I was able to procure a copy from my local public library. Crazy thing is after reading only a few pages I put her novel down and didn’t read another page.
Last week, while at the public library combing the shelves for novels set in Europe, I wanted to find something from Croatia. Remember that Drakulic is Croatian, I looked to see if any of her stuff was available. Lo and behold, there it was. Not only was it there, but I’m willing to bet my bottom dollar that it was the same 1994 hardcover edition of Marble Skin I checked out years ago. Time to give Marble Skin another chance I told myself. And that’s exactly what I did.
Marble Skin is not an easy novel to write about. For one, it’s written from a first person perspective in a kind of dream-like state; at times you’re left wondering how reliable is the narrator. Second of all, it follows a young woman’s transition to womanhood and with it the powerful, confusing and potentially dangerous world of sexual attraction. With her mother’s remarriage the young protagonist must now share her household with an adult male who is far from oblivious to her blossoming womanhood. As you might guess boundaries familial, ethical and legal will be crossed.
After comparing Drakulic’s fiction to her nonfiction, I think I like her as an essayist more than a novelist. However to be fair, I should read more of her stuff in order to make a fair assessment. With a pretty decent catalog of her writing available for me to choose from, I shouldn’t have any problem.