“Dear bugs and other scary stories” by Maša Kolanović is this year’s EU prize winner for literature. And I can state without any doubt – with a full right. Although this is the first work from the young Croatian author I have read, I can not deny the quality of her work that has long been mentioned in the circles of readers and writers alike.
“Dear bugs and other scary stories” is a brilliantly written prose in the form of short stories through which we are observing the bare reality of the common mortals in an immortal form. A few motives are stretching through the book and seemingly combining the incompatible stories.
Mortality, the transience of time, the world around us, and humanity in all its worst and most vulnerable forms. And bugs. That is what Maša Kolanović is bringing to us in her “Dear bugs and other scary stories”; that humanity and inhumanity which we can so easily identify with. And we shouldn’t ignore the fact that this collection of short works is a sort of dedication to “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka.
Our everyday lives and fragments of moments caught behind the metaphor of fragile bugs are the main themes of the book. Maša Kolanović skillfully deals with modern problems; from the loss of tradition in the sole benefit of profit, through the slave relationship between a human, his mobile phone, and the mediator, over the theme of growing up without a mother, immigrants, capitalism, nationalism, and dear bugs… Maša’s mind brings us a creepy metamorphosis of common yet tired people.
Stylistically speaking, Kolanović is writing boldly and legibly; without exaggerated, ornately, or forced style. She is writing in modern style and yet so timeless. Twelve short stories will awake many emotions in you. Many strong emotions. I was especially impressed with these exact unfiltered emotions and interpersonal relations.
It is as if there is a part of every single one of us hidden behind every story. Maša Kolanović broke that barrier, stripped us down, and placed a sort of a mirror in the form of letters on paper in our hands. It is difficult, after reading this distinctive work, not to wonder what is the true momentum of consumerism in a society that often can not allow itself to succumb to the consumer culture of the capitalist system. It is a layered and very complex presentation of the society in which we live and to whose pressure we subject.
The entire book can be read in a single read. But in that case, in my opinion, it becomes too filling. I would love to describe it as a perfect meal with twelve courses during which the attendant advises you to take a moment after every gourmet meal and soak in what you just consumed.
Yet another interesting thing to mention about this book is that it shows us Croatia as it is today. We are observing the mentality and development of both individuals and the environment in no glorified way. Technological enslavement, twisted values, unfitness in a society that is partially still living and looking through dark bonds of some long passed time. “Dear bugs” is bringing us a whole palette of what is known to us but to which we might have become immune in our everyday chaos.
Consumerism, the expectation of the society towards an individual, personal reflections, everything that brings us to the fact that we are not that far away from the dear bugs that heedlessly crawl around through their lives. This modern Croatian novel is a breath of fresh air on the literary scene and brings us a new stylistic era that pushes the boundaries of post-war literature. “Transitional Gothic”, as the literary critic is describing it, truly brings you the perfect harmonious amount of dark, but also human.
Everyone who takes this novel in their hands definitely won’t go wrong. It truly deserves all the attention of this World.