The Fig Tree
By Goran Vojnović. Translated by Olivia Hellewell
The Fig Tree is a novel composed of the intertwining stories of the family of Jadran, a 30-something who tries to piece together the story of his relatives to better understand himself. Because he cannot understand why Anja walked out of their shared life, he tries to understand the suspicious death of his grandfather and the withdrawal of his grandmother into oblivion and dementia. With all his might, Jadran tries to understand the departure of his father in the first year of the war in the Balkans as he also tries to understand his mother, with her bewildering resentment of his grandfather, and her silent disappointment with his father.
The Fig Tree is a multigenerational family saga, a tour de force spanning three generations from the mid-20th century through the Balkans wars of the 90s until present day. Vojnović is a master storyteller, and while fateful choices made by his characters are often dictated by the historical realities of the times they live in, at its heart this is an intimate story of family, of relationships, of love and freedom and the choices we make.
Winner of the Kresnik Award for best novel of the year 2017
Winner of the Župančič Award, the highest recognition of the City of Ljubljana for outstanding creation in the field of art and culture, 2017
Shortlisted for the Njegoš Award 2017
"Vojnović writes with a fluency and energy that moves adroitly between tumbling inner monologues and startlingly well-observed set-pieces ... His changes of scene, period and mood find a superbly skilled advocate in Olivia Hellewell. Her agile, well-paced and thoroughly engaging translation cleverly hints, as well, at the verbal interplay of Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian and Bosnian idioms that mark these characters’ differences – and their similarities. This is a story of people who shared so much and yet who quickly drifted so far, so fatally, apart, until only the fig tree was left “resisting the madness which in a matter of years had changed everything, from the landscape to the people”. Now, it feels like one that belongs firmly in our own backyard."
Boyd Tonkin, The Arts Desk
"Goran Vojnović’s multigenerational Balkan novel of gaps and silences...a gentle, quiet, emotionally powerful novel concerned with memory, families and the stories we tell each other..."
Paul Scraton, The TLS
"This is a remarkable portrait of a country’s fragmentation and a family’s fracture."
Lucy Popescu, Bookblast
"As well as serving as a group portrait of a family shaken by the shifting tectonic plates of history, The Fig Tree is also a universal, insightful book about being a father, facing a bereavement, trying to make long-term sense of the concept of marriage. A novel of growing up, therefore, but with deep historical resonances."
Jonathan Bousfield, Stray Satelite
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