Creative, Review

Review: The Mongolian Travel Guide

0 53

By David Keyworth


I do not have any immediate plans to travel to Mongolia, but if I did, I would not refer to this fictional guide/novella.

This is not a criticism of Svetislav Basara’s book. It does not set out to be a conventional volume of any kind.  Instead, its 117 pages are concerned with the metaphysical ramblings and the “reality-dream dichotomy” of the punningly-named narrator, Ulan-Bator.

‘The Mongolian Travel Guide’ was first published in 1998 and it is dedicated to the victims of Sarajevo. Its absurdist style must in part be a response to the chaos of the breakup of Yugoslavia and the carnage of the Balkan Wars (1991 – 1999).

Despite its theological and philosophical preoccupations, the prose style is enjoyable. I cannot vouch for how it reads in the original Serbian, but in Randall A. Major’s translation, the sentences are short and sharp.

Humour comes in the form of bathos. A matter-of-fact pay off always undercuts the existential agonising. “Cupidity and video recorders have completely ruined the world,” comments Luke, a priest, in conversation with our narrator.

Despite the economy of the prose style, my attention often wandered. The intellectual ramblings are stimulating, but intriguing characters tend to come and go before we get to know them. In this sense, the book is perhaps too faithful to the transitory experience of being a tourist.

Overall, I was happy to follow the intoxicated narrator (“I mercilessly destroy myself with alcohol”), down the literary route he chose. But sometimes his lengthy detours tested my patience.

About the author / 

aAh!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More News Stories:

  • What’s Happening In Sudan?

    By Ben Thompson Social media has been abuzz lately with news of violence in Sudan. To most people who don’t spend their time on the internet, Sudan isn’t of particular interest. Thanks to the brave voices speaking out, however, information concerning the travesties unfolding in the African nation is making its way out of the…

  • YES issue launched at Number 70

    By Brontë Schiltz After months of hard work from writers, editors, artists and designers, the aAh! team were delighted to launch our second print edition, the YES issue, at a wine reception at Number 70 last month. The festivities were inaugurated with a speech from James Draper, the head of Manchester Metropolitan University’s hugely successful…

  • Laureate’s Choice Anthology showcases a cohort of poets to watch

    By Hayley Targett The Laureate’s Choice Anthology was launched in Manchester on Friday 10th May, welcoming readings from some of the new poetic voices it has championed, including David Borrot, Tom Sastry, Natalie Burdett and Yvonne Reddick. The Laureate’s Choice Anthology brings together substantial selections from each of the twenty poets chosen by the Manchester…

  • Preview: Toruk – The First Flight

    By Mike Hingston On the beautiful and exotic exoplanetary moon known as Pandora, there are stories told by the Na’avi people, spoken by the worshippers of their goddess Eywa to the chiefs of each tribe. They speak about the great Leonopteryx that, unlike the lesser Ikran that the Na’avi fly by melding together, flies with…

aAH! Radio