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Bellevue by Ivana Dobrakovová

Bellevue by Ivana Dobrakovová


From Donald Rayfield's review in Literary Review:


'Ivana Dobrakovová is well known in her native Slovakia as a translator of Elena Ferrante. In Bellevue she shows even greater ability than Ferrante to get into the mind of a rebellious adolescent girl. Blanka, bored with her student boyfriend who does nothing but revise for his Spanish exam and eat bread and jam, takes a volunteer summer job, working with a mixed bunch of Europeans as a carer in a Marseille centre for the disabled. She clearly has no vocation and is very soon overwhelmed, first by dislike of the disabled, then by a paranoiac conviction that the disabled hate her in return. Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly (though perhaps with more than enough information about bodily fluids) that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not just imagine the breakdown but actually experienced it. Yet few people who have a breakdown as severe as Blanka’s would be able to recall every stage, every hallucination, every mood swing with such graphic precision. All the other characters, such as an Algerian woman and a Slovene youth, are judged through Blanka’s eyes, now needy, now hostile, so that there are no villains or heroes in the novel, only fellow carers, more or less indifferent or well disposed to this awkward teenager. What eventually emerges is a picture, faintly reminiscent of a Camus novel, of a northerner’s alienation in a southern landscape, as well as a plausible portrayal of the carer’s dilemma: how to protect oneself from the mood and even the fate of those you care for.'




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