intense sensations

Longer lasting than lemonade

Posted on: July 22, 2011

Best European Fiction 2011Best European Fiction 2011 by Aleksandar Hemon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First of all, let me say that with collections like this, I don’t start on page 1 (the first story does actually start on page 1) and read all the way through to page 483. I usually keep them by my bed and come back to them time and time again.

Secondly, I have to confess that I am very superficial. The first story I read was called Nela and the Virgins by Mercè Ibarz because I thought it might be sensual, particularly when I saw the sentence:

“‘We won’t be virgins long!’ Isi and Valentina exclaimed at the same time.”

But it’s actually a story about how love evolves silently.

“Nothing was said about sex nor about how they spent their nights together.”

And it’s a story about the craft of using that silence as a writer.

This was not what I wanted to hear so next I turned to Desire by Manon Uphoff. This was more like it. Another virgin, some rough sex and the art of becoming a woman.

“‘Woman,’ he whispered in her ear. ‘Now you’re a woman.'”

I wasn’t sure of the gender of Manon Uphoff. I felt while reading the story that Manon was a man. I wondered if it was important and decided it was important enough to me to look up the biographical note, which told me that she is the award-winning author of four novels, three novellas and a host of short stories that are considered among the best in contemporary Dutch literature.

Then I read the story again and felt it completely differently.


I have now read the story three times and will probably read it again before sampling others with less sensual titles like “Sex for Fridge”, “Plumbers,” “Taboo” and (I hope it is not sensual) “Auntie Frosea.”

I am giving this 5 stars because I have already got value for money (it was 19 euros, which will barely buy you two lemonades and a croissant in Les Deux Magots). Nela and the Virgins, impressed me greatly, in spite of it being not what I was looking for and I have read it twice. If all the stories are this good it will turn out to have been 19 euros very well spent.

View all my reviews


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