x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Book review: Novel of funereal road trip too derisive

In Sibylle Lewitscharoff 's Apostoloff, two Bulgarian immigrant sisters travel to their homeland to rebury their father.

Apostoloff
Sibylle Lewitscharoff
Seagull

Patience is a virtue, it's been said, and it takes a fair amount of it to get to this book's relatively rewarding ending.

Apostoloff is about a road trip taken by two sisters to re-bury their father in Bulgaria, from where he fled in the 1940s to Germany, where he married a German woman.

But the literal and figurative road to the last three comparably enjoyable chapters is long and often nasty.

The narrator of the story, the younger of the sisters, is unceasingly critical about all things Bulgarian, including its history, architecture, geography, weather, art, religions, hairstyles, coastline, cobblestones, cuisine, cars, crockery and, perhaps most significantly, its people, whom she describes as hirsute and garlic-loving.

This younger sibling (neither are named, almost as if giving them monikers would imply possession of a personality), is one angry woman. We learn that the narrator is known for creating chaos, and admits she is not as pretty as her elder sibling.

But her icy negativity seems to thaw in time for her father's burial in Sofia. As his coffin is entombed, so too is a small amount of her hate.

Whether the reward is too faint to endure such a dark journey is decidedly up for debate.

* Mark Angeles