& occasionally about other things, too...

Friday, April 02, 2010

Bluebird A Memoir

In 1992, when Vesna Maric was 16, she had to leave her home and parents (Croat mother and Serb father), take a bus ride across Europe along with her sister, and other women and children to reach Britain.

She was told she would return within six months once the trouble at home was over; she remained in Britain for the next four years as a refugee.

Bluebird, A Memoir describes in an unsentimental manner Vesna’s journey to Britain and her life and growing up in a foreign land.

It’s the unsentimental part of the narrative that is refreshing about Vesna's memoir.

Generally speaking all tales of displacement tend to be maudlin and those by refugees more so, perhaps because a refugee experiences displacement more sharply than an immigrant does.

Unlike an immigrant, a refugee is an unwilling relocater. Unwilling to leave the baggage – both physical and emotional – behind at home and cheerfully attempt to resettle in a new land.

Vesna’s account of her relocation is humourous and realistic. She narrates her circumstances and the situations with dry wit. She tells the stories of her compatriots with empathy and without the hyperbole.

We are fascinated by a series of lovely and loving people – mostly women – who try to continue living their lives as normally as possible, despite having turned refugees. 

There's Gordona, a mother of two, who at 52 is pregnant again because as she confesses, “...you know, me and my man, we still have sex quite often. We fuck every which way, whenever we can.” Vesna describes her thus: “(Gordona) looked like Xena the Warrior Princess, with a tight dark plait snaking down her steely buttocks hugged by a pair of lilac leggings.”

There's Bakira, a woman of forty, who was to marry an Englishman named John. “One of the greatest mysteries of Bakira’s and John’s relationship was that Bakira spoke no English, and he understood very little Bosnian. Bakira was given to explicit conversations. She would complain loudly in Bosnian. “John, it’s not going to work like this. The sex is just not good enough – you come quickly and me – nothing! But you don’t care, do you? You have to spend more time, you hear?”

However, while describing these vignettes, Vesna never loses sight of the poignancy of their predicament, and by not getting too heavy handed, she succeeds in bringing to life the human tragedy of the Bosnian war. 

Thank you Yoko.

Granta published Bluebird in the UK in January 2009; Anansi Press (www.anansi.ca) is the distributor for Granta in Canada. The paperback edition is on sale in Canada from this month.  

Image: 
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bluebird-Memoir-Vesna-Maric/dp/1847081193/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270262126&sr=1-5

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