once I must have trodden on soft grass
Carolina Schutti’s receipt of the 2015 European Union Prize for Literature is amply justified by this beautiful book, full of characters who seem to have a life beyond the page.
This is the story of Maja, whose mother dies when she is still a child and who is then sent to a foreign country to live with her father. Maja feels doubly bereft after moving house: grieving for her mother as well as her mother tongue. Maja’s father is reluctant to look after her and moves away, leaving his daughter in the brusque care of her great aunt. Maja meets Marek, who has also experienced the loss of his cultural identity and becomes a father figure and friend to her. Schutti’s pared-down style enables her to narrate Marek’s complex story of war, love and loss in a concise, elegant way.
In the later chapters the adult Maja reflects on her life and relationships; she is lonely and secretly in love with a colleague of hers. At the end of the book she makes a journey back to her old home with her daughter. Readers may draw different conclusions about what the future holds.
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