Book Notes: Alhierd Baharevich’s Dogs of Europe

This is a gigantic novel by a young Belarusian writer. I hated it many times and loved it almost as often. Baharevich is the kind of author who doesn’t give a crap what the readers think of whether they understand the novel. He’s so enjoying the process of writing that he can’t be bothered to care. Which is the number one characteristic of a real writer.

The novel consists of six novellas that are loosely – like in very loosely – connected. To be honest, I’d throw out all of them except the second and the sixth. These were the novellas I read at a maniacal speed while slogging through the rest. And it’s not like the other four are bad. They definitely have a right to exist, especially the third one. But they are quite extraneous to the main hook in the larger plot.

Since this is nowhere to be found online, here is what the novellas are like.

#1. Two male misfits create their own language. Baharevich made up an actual language, complete with a grammar and a two-way dictionary, and inserted large chunks of text in this made-up language into the novel without translating them. This is a deeply postmodernist novel, and he’s playing many literary games at once with this. But hey, if Tolstoy – a writer definitely less gifted than Baharevich – can start his novels with 26 pages of untranslated French text to make sure the hoi polloi know to leave his books out of their grubby monolingualist hands, then what’s the problem? In the end, the male misfits are bested at their game by a young woman who appropriates the invented language as her own.

It’s not a bad novella but I’m about 30 years too old for these language games. The novella also mocks the entirety of literature in Russian in a very vicious way. This is endearing but it also gets a little too dark.

This is going to be a gigantic post, so I’ll put the rest under the fold where I will talk about my favorite novellas in the book.

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