Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



In association with Amazon.it - Italia

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Bora Ćosić

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

Title: Rasulo
Author: Bora Ćosić
Genre: Novel
Written: 1991
Length: 126 pages
Original in: Serbian
Availability: Im Zustand stiller Auflösung - Deutschland
  • Rasulo has not yet been translated into English

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B+ : sharp, enjoyable take on the writing-life -- and writing and life in (recent) contemporary times in general

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Frankfurter Allg. Zeitung . 2/10/2018 Jochen Schimmang
NZZ . 22/12/2018 Franz Haas
Süddeutsche Zeitung . 15/11/2018 Marko Dinić

  From the Reviews:
  • "Das persönliche Unbehagen steigert sich zu einem universellen Schmerz, doch in letzter Konsequenz mündet alles in der quälenden Erinnerung an «die Wahnsinnigen bei mir zu Hause». Bora Ćosićs Schreiben über das Leiden an Serbien bohrt sich kunstvoll durch «Schimpf und Schande»." - Franz Haas, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "In 31 meist kurzen Kapiteln schildert der Erzähler in einer Art innerer Nabelschau Begebenheiten und Begegnungen, die sich nur in ihrer Belanglosigkeit zu überbieten scheinen. (...) Die Lektüre der sich manchmal über eineinhalb Seiten erstreckenden Sätze ist ein Genuss, weil sie von den aberwitzigen, grotesken, mitunter menschen- und menschheitsverachtenden Ansichten ihres Sprechers humorvoll aufgewogen werden." - Marko Dinić, Süddeutsche Zeitung

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

[Note: this review is based on the German translation by Brigitte Döbert, Im Zustand stiller Auflösung (2018)]

       The narrator of Rasulo -- Ćosić, essentially -- is an author looking to write about Proust, and this book opens with him wishing to travel to Cabourg, in Normandy, on the trail of the French master. Instead, he finds himself traveling with a small group to Tréboul, a different coastal town (that Proust never visited), in the Bretagne, his French friends certain they know better. He does admit it might be better for his writing to avoid the place that is of interest to him, indeed, that he might be able to better conceive Cabourg literarily without actually seeing it, but the reality -- of literary inspiration and creation -- isn't quite so simple.
       Tréboul seems like an agreeable alternative: not only does it bear many similarities to Cabourg, it's also apparently a more pleasant locale -- so at least Proust's experiences in the latter, as he documented them, lead the narrator to believe. The beaches in both are supposedly similar, so -- so his friends tell him -- Proust surely readily could have imagined himself in Tréboul as walked on the beach in Cabourg and, similarly, the narrator should be able to imagine himself in Cabourg as he walks on the beach in Tréboul ..... Of course, when he gives that a go -- as he gamely does -- it doesn't turn out to be quite that easy -- though less due to a failure of imagination than the constant interruptions of strangers as tries to make his way, both physically and in his mind's eye .....
       Stuck in Tréboul, the narrator certainly manages to feel rather out of sorts and place for the duration -- which isn't the worst thing, as he'll also admit: writers fare better, he tells his companions, in surroundings that aren't entirely comfortable (as Cabourg was for Proust). True, it doesn't help him come to better grips with his conception of the Proust-work he hopes to write -- but it does, in the sense that, while the Proust-theme remains fairly elusive, he does get to riff on writing, reading, and the human condition in shaping this book of experiences and thoughts. The work is significantly determined by the locale he finds himself in and the company he keeps -- or, it can seem, in opposition to them.
       The narrator is, through and through, a book-person: he lives through literature. As he explains, even in the most 'beautiful' surroundings (his quotation marks: natural beauty is a questionable concept to him) he prefers to pull a book out of his pocket and read descriptions of these same surroundings than to see them for himself. Similarly, his interest is in the transformation into the literary -- whereby , for example, it is not that important to him to in some way authentically capture Proust; what interests him is the literary engagement with the subject-matter, and so he imagines his Proust book will, in fact, deal with an 'un-Proustian "Proust"'. Or, as he explains about an earlier 'Russian Novel' of his: his interest wasn't in writing about Russians, but about considering and conveying Russian-ness.
       Rasulo is about the struggle of writing: what to write, how to write -- indeed, being able to write, at its most fundamental. The narrator doesn't have writer's block, but he does have difficulty shaping his original conception -- Proust eludes him -- and he does struggle with writing per se. He's not quite at the point of what's-the-point, but he veers close to it at times; he admits it's an odd pursuit: why would anyone want to sit still and scribble away when there are so many other things one could do ? He also complains repeatedly about dizziness and unsteadiness -- a physical manifestation (not just standing and walking, but even sitting -- the most unstable position the human body can assume, he maintains at one point), but also a reflection of a world which seems increasingly unstable.
       In the background, and distance, is also the situation in his homeland, the collapsed Yugoslavia and the terrible flaring up of war in the Yugoslav after-states at that time. The title suggests the overall situation -- rasulo means 'chaos' or 'breakdown' -- as the disturbing news filters through even to this French resort town, leaving the narrator even more unmoored.
       The novel proceeds in thirty-one mostly short chapters, many short riffs on a particular subject matter, though all tied together by the slow progression of events on this trip; only the final chapter is a longer, more extended piece. As reluctant as I am to compare a work to writings by other authors, Rasulo really does read very much like as a combination of Dubravka Ugrešić and Thomas Bernhard, in approach, tone, and general attitude.
       Rasulo is a book of lost worlds (meaning also: never reachable ones), the narrator looking to Proust's, but unable to recapture that, and struggling just as much to come to grips with his own destabilized world (no wonder he's so dizzy). It is about the writing-life, and about writing as a vital part of (his) life, and the frustrations of it in our (near-contemporary world.
       Ćosić's work is meandering and humorously misanthropic, very much of the older Central European school but not wallowing in the nostalgic -- good fun and consistently engaging.

- M.A.Orthofer, 21 October 2018

- Return to top of the page -


Rasulo: Reviews: Other books by Bora Ćosić under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Bora Ćosić (Бора Ћосић) was born in Zagreb in 1932.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2018-2019 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links