A Swarm of Dust
Author: Evald Flisar
Translated by David Limon
Born into a Roma family in 1960s' Yugoslavia, Janek Hudorovec has grown up with a terrible secret. Given the opportunity to 'make something of himself', he abandons the familiar wild and tactile world of nature and enters the controlled, rational life of university and the city. Here Janek proves himself to be not a conscious rebel but a spontaneous one; under the influences of impulses he cannot control. While his teachers try to understand and categorize him, it is only his fellow student, Daria, who seems able to provide a rational insight into the causes of his behaviour and offer him true affection. Yet the battle that Janek must fight with his past leads him back to the gypsy village, and a terrible denouement. This tragic story of self-punishment explores the idea that man and nature, if they are to survive, together and separately, must forever remain in conflict. Flisar's ability to describe Janek’s inner states through juxtaposition with the outer world create a mesmerizing claustrophobia, as the reader is pulled inexorably into the nightmarish world of a man in anguish.
A Swarm of Dust is widely considered to be one of Flisar’s finest works of fiction, questioning the very notion of objective truth and subverting the norms of Judeo-Christian morality.
"Flisar’s depictions of Janek’s perceptions – his shifting consciousness and his inner state – are mesmerising. The violence of his story is brutal, yes, particularly for a woman reader, perhaps, but this forms part of the inexplicable inner force that arises within Janek. He’s like an idiot savant, seeing through social structures and pretences..."
Morelle Smith, Riveting Reviews (ELN)
"Janek Hudorovec grows up in a Roma family in 1960s Yugoslavia. In the first scene of Evald Flisar’s novel, we discover the dark secret that Janek will carry with him through life. Janek finds social conventions and niceties stifling; though he may think he’s escaping the strictures of village life when he gets the chance to go to university, he realises that he needs the freedom of nature, even though returning to the village means confronting his past. Flisar evokes Janek’s inner life so fully that A Swarm of Dust can be deeply harrowing to be read – but it’s powerful stuff."
"Evald Flisar's A Swarm of Dust pulls no punches in tackling big topics like incest and the troubled place of Slovenia's Roma community."
"Evald Flisar, Slovene man of letters extraordinaire, undertakes fearless forays into the bizarre ways in which the mind works."
Eileen Battersby, Irish Times
"Flisar has the rare ability as a writer to move the reader from laughter to disgust within the space of a single page."
A. M. Bakalar, Words without Borders
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