Year of publication
Number of pages
Italy (Bottega Errante)
English sample translation, German sample translation, Italian pdf
childhood, growing up, family, cancer, death, grief, humour, 1980s, Yugoslavia
Belo se pere na devetdeset
Whites Wash at Ninety
Whites Wash at Ninety is an exhilarating debut, a powerful, witty and most of all an inspiring novel that tells the story of the narrator who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. In her childhood, her world revolves around her parents, her brother Rok, her grandmother Dada, her aunts and uncles, the Sarajevo Winter Olympics and all the other big and small things that made up the world of every child growing up in Yugoslavia back then. And although it speaks about all these things, the novel is most of all a story of growing up, of facing loss and illness, of overcoming fears and of everything that we do not want to see until we are inevitably faced with it.
This is a book that delves into eminent questions of life and death, with humour and charm, and without a trace of moralising or self-importance.
Kresnik Award for best novel of the year 2019
[Bronja Žakelj's] book came at a time when readers believed that Slovenians could only go wild for foreign authors. When they believed that all stories about life had already been written, and that nothing more could surprise them. But then came September, the end of summer , and with it, a book that mercilessly confronted them with the biggest questions of life and death.
Whites Wash At Ninety will undoubtedly become one of the most read Slovenian contemporary novels.
Certainly an excellently written novel, which, although grounded, courageous and sometimes even daring, manages to soar in the best sense of the word.
The autobiographical Whites Wash at Ninety is a heart-breaking, touching story that is unafraid to face our illnesses, our impermanence and our fears. It is also a story about love – between mother and daughter, between siblings, between grandchildren and their grandmother, between a girl and her boyfriend … as well as a story about courage, strength, hope and the meaning of truth.
How painfully tight can the embrace between soft tenderness and the immense brutality of existence be. With her heart-breaking autobiographical novel Whites Wash at Ninety, author Bronja Žakelj accomplishes what few people are able to: she navigates the gloomiest bends of life with joyful and exciting prose, as well as whimsy and irony. Žakelj delves into memories, sometimes partly our own, collective memories, into timeless sources of anxiety, such as illness, loss, death, denial, lies and solitude, with the sparkling song of a literary soul that had never lost its childlike playfulness, joyousness and freedom.
Casually relating all the terrible things that she had not been spared, Žakelj shines a light on the reality of the human condition: that people are painfully alone and that adults often give up much more easily than children. In terms of her prose, Žakelj hits the mark because she never becomes preachy or pathetic; because life consists mostly of short sentences, much laughter and an abundance of tears.