Year of publication
Number of pages
France (Les Editions franco-slovènes & Cie)
USA (Dalkey Archive Press)
English pdf, Italian pdf
cognitive impairment, disability, illness, stigmatisation, childhood, family, empathy
by Marko Sosič
Ballerina is fifteen years old. She lives with her mother, father, and brother in a small village. She loves watching the chestnut tree in their backyard because of the birds sleeping in its branches. She is fond of singing and is happy when her friend Ivan visits. But sometimes she breaks plates and glasses. And every morning she wets the bed. Ballerina is different from her peers.
The short novel Ballerina, Ballerina is set in the 1960s, a period of great leaps and advances for humanity. But to Ballerina, who earned her nickname from a tendency to stand on tiptoes when distressed, the relationships between those closest to her, the light of the day and the dark of the night, the changing of seasons and her dreams are far more important than the news that the first person walked on the moon or that the war in Vietnam had begun. Although her view of the world can seem narrow, it may be that, perhaps precisely because of that, it is much more attuned to what really matters in life.
Drawing comparison to William Faulkner in its expressionistic depiction of Ballerina’s interior world, this is a classic of contemporary Slovenian literature: a hugely popular exploration of a character whose world is so divorced from what we think of as reality.
Awards and nominations
Nominated for Premio Strega Europeo 2007
Premio di Poesia e Narrativa Città di Salò 2005
Premio Umberto Saba 2005
Vstajenje Award 1998
Shortlisted for the Kresnik Award for best novel of the year 1998
Included in the selection of 100 best Slavic novels
The book’s emotional strength comes not from conventional plotting, but rather from the gulf between Ballerina’s dispassionate narration and our own understanding of her predicament. … [Sosič] is masterful in achieving his apparent aim: placing the reader within a totally different consciousness.
You read this novel in one go, not because it is so short, but because the author develops the highest degree of empathy for the main character, something that is in reality the most that can be expected from literature.
The narration in Ballerina, Ballerina is very tight, and that only adds to its expressiveness.
Ballerina, Ballerina is a painful and poetic reconstruction of the narrator's fractured worldview... in both the details of her family life and the bits of the mass-media reality that flow beyond the boundaries of her backyard... [she] is unreliable, disoriented, atemporal.