Arrhythmic Revolution by Jordan Svezhenov published by Iztok Zapad
For sheer entertainment, guts and imagination “Arrhythmic Revolution” will be my Bulgarian read of the summer. Jordan Svezhenov joins Alec Popov and Mikhael Veshim in a select band of writers that make me laugh out loud in public places.
With a host of well described characters and an extraordinary range of starting points all the way across Europe and beyond, Svezhenov has a script writer’s eye for detail, ear for dialogue, and brain for drawing together all the strands of his narrative into the Balkan mountains climax. Throughout the cleverly plotted cliffhangers and often hilarious misunderstandings, Svezhinov’s penetrating satire reflects the new post Cold War criminal order, and the opportunities offered by a borderless Europe.
A disgruntled trio of Bulgarian pensioners plan a shocking act of revolution from their village where they are now the only inhabitants; Johnny Red and Spoiler, two penniless Bulgarian scrap car dealers make their way back from the UK with a disparate band of Bulgarian Roma; an Afghani drug dealer has his world turned upside down when he is visited by an old comrade intent on blowing up Koln Cathedral; a Russian Grannie is kidnapped from a Bulgarian coach, leading to a telephone call to Vladimir himself; a naive Estonian policewoman finds herself the victim of a people smuggling ring; a Russian prostitute escapes her pimps in Spain to searchfor a better life.
World realities are brutal and yet Svezhenov has a lightness of touch and great comic sympathy for all his characters. This is one book that I was sorry to finish. I wanted more.
Johnny Red has spent all his cash on a Toyota sports car in England and we now find him driving four gypsies back to Bulgaria so they can help pay for his petrol and share in the driving. Unfortunately Johnny was asleep when Kenzo, the only gypsy possessing something like a legal license, took a series of wrong turns. This is why Johnny is now driving past San Remo in Northern Italy instead of Nurnberg.
“Oh I know that place!” Great Grandaddy Pramod shouts out and decides to relieve the boredom by raising the cultural bar. “This is where folk hold a fair, they give out prizes for international songs. They gather together gypsy masters from all over the world. Italians, Bulgarians, Turks, Armenians, Abyssinians, Patagonians, you can see all kinds. Like Melody of the Year – only international.”
“Mhm…” Johnny Red is hoarse and doubtful. Great Grandaddy doesn’t stop.
“I remember when I got married in ’77. Lilly Ivanova won the Melody of the Year.”
“How old were you in 77?” the driver cannot contain his incredulity.
“Old enough, old enough!” Pramad reassures him. “Back then Lilly was still a yummy mummy …”
“And I still wouldn’t send her away now …” Little Lad calls out.
“Ey Granny lover!” Granddaddy is outraged.” How wouldn’t you send her away, ey? Now she’s like an Egyptian mummy. Messing about with her would be the same as messing about with an artistic monument. And we don’t mess about with artistic monuments.”
“We just take them for melting down,” Kenzo points out.
“That’s different. That’s how we refresh the national economy. We carry the whole metal industry on our shoulders. Ey these two hands have given more metal to the nation than the Kremikovtsi steel works!”
Great granddaddy Pramod spits on his palms and grinds them one into the other, giving life to several new generations of micro-organisms. Then he lets out an irritated roar.
“Come on, stop interrupting me. I was talking about Lilly Ivanova and Melody of the Year. In 77 she won with the song ‘My old friend’. You know it? My o-o-ld fri-e-e-end.”
The gypsy sings straight away, and from the back seat the broken voices of Kenzo and Little Lad join in.
“Hear the ye-e-ears…
Johnny Red grits his teeth. Gypsies are supposed to be a musical race, but right now it is as if the car has been orchestrated for a hungry pack of wolves, whose skins are being flayed along with their balls being squeezed. If Lilly Ivanova can hear this interpretation of her song, surely several layers of her makeup will crack and fall just by themselves. The redhead begins to dream of having another pair of hands, so he can clap them over his ears.
Copyright Jordan Svezhenov; translation Christopher Buxton