Set in an Alpine village, Tamangur depicts the grief experienced by a young child and her grandmother following the deaths of the child’s brother and grandfather. With its creative imagery and spare prose, Leta Semadeni’s novel explores the intersection between the childlike and the surreal.
A young child lives with her grandmother in a small Alpine village. Both characters remain unnamed as we experience their lives through short, sparsely told yet striking episodes. The child’s grandfather has gone away to the hunters’ paradise of Tamangur. As the book continues we meet the village’s other inhabitants through the child’s eyes. There is the wildly entertaining Elsa and her ne’er-do-well boyfriend, Elvis Presley; the village tailor, who steals other people’s memories and repeats them as her own; and the beloved grandfather, whom the grandmother and child are both mourning.
The scenes in the present are interspersed with flashbacks as well as the child’s dreams, in which she is often faced with the horrifying moment of losing her little brother to the river, which carries him away towards the Black Sea. The vignettes provide a sense both of village life and the reality behind the disturbing images: the grandmother’s grief, and her anger that her beloved husband should leave her, even in death; and the young girl’s guilt that she was responsible for her brother’s death when he drowned in the river. The novel portrays the competing emotions of grief and guilt within the family, counterbalancing them with the warmth of the love between grandmother and grandchild.
At the end of the book the grandmother is lying in a hospital bed and her granddaughter is now a young woman. The grandmother declares that her ‘soul is still young,’ and shortly thereafter goes to Tamangur, by which we understand that she dies. The final scene lays bare the metaphor of the novel’s title, while emphasising the importance of imagination for the child in dealing with her grief.
Tamangur is a hugely rewarding novel, remarkable for its evocative setting, crisp prose, and whimsical, unsettling imagery, perfectly poised between the comic and the tragic.
Rights sold: Switzerland (Italy), Edizioni Casagrande, Switzerland (French), Slatkine&Cie; Czech Republic, ARCHA; Russia, Center of Modern Literature; Mexico, La Cifra Editorial; Greece, Loggia P.C.
Find out more: https://rotpunktverlag.ch/buecher/tamangur