Sandra Gugi´c’s debut skilfully interweaves the stories of an intriguing group of characters during a summer in the city.
The novel’s six characters are all grappling with problems of cultural identity, addiction, mental health and loneliness, as well as being misunderstood by and alienated from other generations of their families. The bookish Darko comes from an immigrant background and has been brought up by his grandparents. Darko’s father is a taxi driver, unpublished writer and struggling alcoholic who has been an inadequate father to his son. Zeno shares Darko’s immigrant background and is terrified of being sent back to his home country. Mara is Darko’s girlfriend, a compulsive fantasist who is having an affair with his father. Alex is a young junkie from an affluent, middle-class family who is befriended by a policeman who suffers from anxiety attacks. Each character feels isolated from the rest of the world, and yet Gugi´c demonstrates how their predicaments are more closely connected than they at first appear.
Astronauts is a compelling investigation of these individuals’ thoughts, memories and fantasies set against a minutely observed urban backdrop whose architecture, roads and surveillance cameras frame the characters’ emotional development.
An English-language review of Astronauts from Literaturhaus Wien is available here:
All recommendations from Autumn 2015