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Summer Resort: dying dogs and smashed watermelons

Praised by critics for its poetic language and atmospheric settings, Esther Kinsky's Summer Resort takes place during a heatwave in a Hungarian village.

Summer Resort
Esther Kinsky (translated by Martin Chalmers)
Seagull Books
Dh28

In her native Germany, Summer Resort (published as Sommerfrische) was the novel that propelled Esther Kinsky - then known for her work as a translator - to literary fame with critics citing her intrinsically poetic use of language to convey the atmosphere of her settings. Summer Resort may rest lightly in one's hands at barely over 100 pages, but the weight of its implications require much more attention from the reader.

The summer in which the novella takes place is one of searing, bone-dry heat enveloping a small Hungarian village on the plains. "Everyone remembers the year of the heat" is how the first chapter opens, and Kinsky proceeds to show how well everyone does, through an intricate interplay of elaborate physical detail with its deeper ramifications. The heat "which penetrated the skull before one knew it" soon entails more than the physical discomfort of the village's residents. Each chapter holds a microcosm of unspoken restlessness that permeates the descriptions of dying dogs and watermelons smashed on the road. This is a rare gem of a book full of lightly veiled complexity.

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