Review: Garden, Ashes (Danilo Kiš)

A semi-autobiographical story, Garden, Ashes is a recollection of Andy Scham, a young child living in Hungary during the World War II. Despite the ubiquitous shadows of Holocaust, Kiš’s masterful composition of vivid, precise minutiae of surrounding details and events, with an intense focus on the (eccentric) father, Eduard Scham, Garden, Ashes evokes the densely atmospheric writings of Bruno Schulz in The Street of Crocodiles. Much like the father in The Street of Crocodiles, who imagines a bird cosmos and thinks up a metaphysics based on tailor dummies,” Eduard Scham is an eccentric yet charming madman-prophet, who dreams up of cosmos in his Bus, Ship, Rail, and Air Travel Guide, covering “the most diverse disciplines, in almost all European languages.”

With his exquisite blend of microscopic details from history, self-references, literature, culture, infused with concentrated poetic intensity, Kiš silently compels the readers to immerse, intoxicate themselves deeper inside the pages. It’s like drowning inside a rich, hyper-real world that is both terrifyingly and beautifully comforting in its minutiae, and you find yourself missing the excruciating suffocation once you finish this short book.

Garden, AshesGarden, Ashes
by Danilo Kiš
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