Virtuoso by Yelena Moskovich
Zorka. She had eyebrows like her name.
1980s Prague. For Jana, childhood means ration queues and the smell of boiled potatoes on the grey winter air. But just before Jana’s seventh birthday, a new family moves in to their building: a bird-eyed mamka in a fox-fur coat, a stubble-faced papka – and a raven-haired girl named Zorka.
As the first cracks begin to appear in the communist regime, Zorka teaches Jana to look beyond their building, beyond Prague, beyond Czechoslovakia … and then, Zorka just disappears. Jana, now an interpreter in Paris for a Czech medical supply company, hasn’t seen her in a decade.
As Jana and Zorka’s stories slowly circle across the surreal fluctuations of the past and present, the streets of 1980s Prague, the suburbs of 1990s Wisconsin and the lesbian bars of present-day Paris, they lead inexorably to a mysterious door on the Rue de Prague …
Written with the dramatic tension of Euripidean tragedy and the dreamlike quality of a David Lynch film, Virtuoso is an audacious, mesmerising novel of love in the post-communist diaspora.
Delighted to share my review of Virtuoso (Serpents Tail) by Yelena Moskovich as part of the Swansea International Dylan Thomas Prize Blog Tour.
This is the second novel by Yelena Moskovich and Virtuoso is a dark yet also a brave account of life in 1980’s Prague. Jana begins a friendship with the mysterious Zorka. Life within the Communist state can be as dull as a Czechoslovakian winter. But Zorka’s family have moved in next door and it is Zorka who wants to show Jana that there is a life beyond the Communist state.
In reality what we have here is a novel about female friendships and what is spoken through Moskovich’s novel is one of a complex relationship between Jana and Zorka. It is then that Zorka disappears without warning.
We fast forward and Jana is now living and working as an interpreter in Paris. Time really has moved on for Jana and then we meet Aimee who is happily married to Dominique. It is the story of these women’s lives in what is a rather strange and sexually explicit novel.
It is a novel that explores the relationships of these women and Moskovich’s unique style of writing makes this a novel sometimes takes patience and yet never really leaves you alone after you have finished reading. One that you will love or one that will frustrate you. It challenged me and I loved it.
Shortlist Announcement is made on 7th April 2020
Winner Announced on 14th May 2020