Baba Dunja’s Last Love
2018 Shortlist

Baba Dunja’s Last Love

Translated from the German by Tim Mohr
artwork-image

ABOUT
THE BOOK

Government warnings about radiation levels in her hometown (a stone’s throw from Chernobyl) be damned! Baba Dunja is going home. And she’s taking a motley bunch of her former neighbors with her. With strangely misshapen forest fruits to spare and the town largely to themselves, they have pretty much everything they need and they plan to start anew.

The terminally ill Petrov passes the time reading love poems in his hammock; Marja takes up with the almost 100-year-old Sidorow; Baba Dunja whiles away her days writing letters to her daughter. Life is beautiful. That is until one day a stranger turns up in the village and once again the little idyllic settlement faces annihilation.

From the prodigiously talented Alina Bronsky, this is a return to the iron-willed and infuriatingly misguided older female protagonist that she made famous with her unforgettable Russian matriarch, Rosa Achmetowna, in The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine. Here she tells the story of a post-meltdown settlement, and of an unusual woman, Baba Dunja, who, late in life, finds her version of paradise.

Comments from the judges

Voice and character drive a story told with compelling simplicity, in this tale of one women’s quest to reconcile her past. An unusual novel in all the best ways, a mere 192 pages that sparkle with allure, Bronsky builds a cast of vivacious, memorable characters, all brilliant in their own right, to orbit their star, Baba Dunja. Bronsky’ protagonist leaps from the page and into our hearts. Baba’s in her twilight years but age hasn’t lessened her wit, sass, or her impatience for fools, whom she weathers with a resilience you’d only expect from a women who’s risked everything to return, to hometown Tschernowo – Chernobyl.  As one of only two residents who lived in the city before the disaster, Baba has an elder stateswoman’s status among the remaining threadbare community – Marja and her annoying pet rooster Konstantin; Petrov, the terminally ill poetry lover, among a scattering of others.  Over half of the houses remain empty, and those that live in the neighbouring city of Malyschi shun the town and it’s people, fearing they too might be contaminated by radiation. Even Baba’s own daughter, Irinia, now a doctor in Germany, and a granddaughter Baba has yet to meet are fearful of the ‘death zone’, as Irinia calls it. And yet one day a man arrives with his young daughter, wanting to move into an unoccupied house. Of course, as is often the case, Baba’s life is changed forever.

Humorous and unpredictable, with a sense of place that makes the death zone as real as the streets outside our windows, Baba Dunja’s Last Love is novel to be devoured hungrily – it really is that good. Tim’s Mohr’s translation is assured and unobtrusive; a gift to a writer for whom short, sharp sentences are her stock in trade. Bronsky writes with an eye for the unbearable aspects of life, in hope of helping us understand that although they cause pain, but we can live through them. In doing so, she’s crafted a rich work, much greater than the sum of its limited pages. As Baba Dunja says, ‘You can’t blame the radiation for every stupid thing in the world.’

ABOUT
THE AUTHOR Alina
Bronsky

Alina Bronsky was born in Yekaterinburg, an industrial town at the foot of the Ural Mountains in central Russia. She moved to Germany when she was thirteen. Broken Glass Park, nominated for one of Europe’s most prestigious literary awards, the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, is her first novel. Alina Bronsky is a pseudonym.

Alina Bronsky was born in Yekaterinburg, an industrial town at the foot of the Ural Mountains in central Russia. She moved to Germany when she was thirteen. Broken Glass Park, nominated for one of Europe’s most prestigious literary awards, the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, is her first novel. Alina Bronsky is a pseudonym.

ABOUT
THE TRANSLATOR Tim
Mohr

As a literary translator, he has translated the German novels Guantanamo, by Dorothea Dieckmann (published in the U.S. by Soft Skull and in the U.K. by Duckworth), Wetlands and Wrecked by Charlotte Roche (both published in the U.S. by Grove/Atlantic and in the U.K. by 4th Estate), Broken Glass Park, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar CuisineJust Call Me SuperheroBaba Dunja’s Last Love, and My Grandmother’s Braid by Alina Bronsky (all published worldwide by Europa Editions), Tiger Milk by Stefanie de Velasco, The Second Rider, by Alex Beer, and two novels by Wolfgang Herrndorf: Tschick, published in English as Why We Took the Car, and Sand.

As a literary translator, he has translated the German novels Guantanamo, by Dorothea Dieckmann (published in the U.S. by Soft Skull and in the U.K. by Duckworth), Wetlands and Wrecked by Charlotte Roche (both published in the U.S. by Grove/Atlantic and in the U.K. by 4th Estate), Broken Glass Park, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar CuisineJust Call Me SuperheroBaba Dunja’s Last Love, and My Grandmother’s Braid by Alina Bronsky (all published worldwide by Europa Editions), Tiger Milk by Stefanie de Velasco, The Second Rider, by Alex Beer, and two novels by Wolfgang Herrndorf: Tschick, published in English as Why We Took the Car, and Sand.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Date published
17/08/2015
Country
Germany, Russia
Original Language
German
Author
Publisher
Europa Editions
Translator
Tim Mohr
Translation
Translated from the German by Tim Mohr

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