The Walnut Mansion by Miljenko Jergović

The book that outlives its characters

Genre: saga
⭐️Stars from Goodreads: 4.21
⭐️Stars from me: 4

The Walnut Mansion is for those who like sagas, histories of families where characters’ stories flow into one another, the characters themselves wither and disappear but the book goes on. You will keep the memories of those characters as if you had met them personally. Miljenko Jergović creates them with the same craft as Leo Tolstoy did. The people in their books are alive and breathing.

The actions take place on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia. I’ve been living on this territory for many years, but I managed to understand it better only now, after reading The Walnut Mansion. To be more precise, I managed to understand that I will never understand it completely. Yugoslavia was only one of the forms this land once took. It also used to be the Ottoman Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire. The book will take you through all those epochs, leading you along lives and story lines.

It is a highly satisfying read because of how beautifully it is written, but it’s not an easy one. It is a story of many wars, of a country reshaping itself, of very passionate people, and so it cannot be gentle.

Jergović managed to deliver the horrible without savoring it game-of-thrones way. There will be violence but it will be faded, almost emotionless. Which is, in fact, even scarier. Unfortunately, either following the modern fashion or just a personal style of his, Jergović couldn’t leave the book without several graphic descriptions of sex organs and bodily functions. That’s the only reason why prude me is giving the book one star less than perfect. I believe if a character can be developed without his sex organ scrutinized under a microscope, he should.

The Walnut Mansion was translated into very few languages. Anglophone readers are lucky. The translator Stephen M. Dickey seems to be a great fan of Jergović, so the translation is very good.

Books from other cultures are different from those you are used to. It’s an unforgettable experience to see how an author uses usual tools but creates something absolutely new. For many readers The Walnut Mansion will become this experience.