5 Ways of Looking at Lidija Dimkovska
A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska (tr. Christina Kramer) has been racking up attention since its release last week. Here are five different takes on the book, giving you 5 different methods to find you way in to this great saga of sisterhood, war, communism, and living as a conjoined twin.
1. Publishers Weekly: A “kaleidoscopic, bighearted novel”
Publishers Weekly gets the best 3-word summary of A Spare Life. The book is indeed kaleidoscopic—subjects it takes in would include: the fall of communism, sisters coming of age, the strangeness of being conjoined twins, growing up in a communist country, love, heartbreak, the occult, the Balkan Wars. And indeed, the book is very bighearted, never shrinking from all the terrible things that get thrown at Zlata and Srebra, but doing it all with an honestly and poignancy.
2. Words Without Borders: “Dimkovska’s résumé reads like a beehive of transnational literary success in the making”
Who are we to disagree? Dimkovska won the EU Prize for this book, she’s gotten a rave from Dubravka Ugrešić, the reigning queen of Balkan literature, she’s studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and she has released acclaimed poetry collections with Ugly Duckling Presse and Copper Canyon Press. If that isn’t a beehive of transnational literary success in the making, we don’t know what is. A Spare Life is her biggest, most complex book to date, and we think it’d be great if it gets ther the English-language acclaim she deserves.
3. Lidija Dimkovska: “I felt guilty to be from Macedonia, which was then the so-called oasis of peace”
In a must-read essay over at Literary Hub, Dimkovska talks about the generation of literature that was lost thanks to the Balkan Wars and how the writers who lived through that (as did Dimkovksa) have internalized it in their work and made it into literature. A Spare Life is very much in this tradition, as Dimkovska explains in the essay. And she also discusses the awkwardness of being from Macedonia, which was a relatively safe, stable place during the wars.
4. Unabridged Bookstore: “Keenly observed, poignant, and penetrating, A SPARE LIFE is quickly becoming one of our favorite books of the year”
To make a huge understatement, when you’re writing a book about life from the perspective of a twin conjoined at the head, it really puts your observational skills to the test. One of the most rewarding things about A Spare Life is seeing just how authentically Dimkovska brings this world to life. But not only does she nail that world, she also nails the bureaucratic, provincial, weird world of living in a communist country, and then seeing that all fall apart. Just on the level of observation alone, we can see why A Spare Life wins such big praise.
5. Elliott Bay Bookstore: “Glad to have Lidija Dimkovska here tonight with @CopperCanyonPrs’s Tonaya to discuss A SPARE LIFE from @TwoLinesPress”
In addition to being an award-winning novelist, Dimkovska is also a very talented poet, having released acclaimed collections with Ugly Duckling Presse and Copper Canyon Press. Here she is with Copper Canyon’s Managing Editor Tonaya Craft during an event earlier this month at Seattle independent bookstore Elliott Bay Bookstore. Although A Spare Life is first and foremost a novel, you can definitely see Dimkovska’s poet’s eye in the acute observations and the interesting way she puts words together.