Tauben fliegen auf (Falcons without Falconers)

Melinda Nadj Abonji
Nadj Abonji

Melinda Nadj Abonji, born 22 June 1968 in Becsej, Vojvodina, Nadj Abonji earned a master’s degree in German and history in Zurich, where she now lives as an author and musician (violin and vocals). She has collaborated since 1998 with poet and beatboxer Jurczok 1001 (text performance, music, theatre). She lectured from 2003 to 2009 at Zurich Teachers’ College, where she led a writing workshop, and has led her own writing workshop since 2007. Nadj Abonji’s first novel, Im Schaufenster im Frühling (In the Showcase in Spring), was published in 2004 and has been the recipient of numerous awards. Tauben fliegen auf (Falcons without Falconers), her second novel, won 2010 the German and the Swiss Book Prize.

Foreign rights are already sold to: England (Seagull Books), France (Éditions Métailié - "Pigeon, vole"), Italy (Voland - "Come l'aria)), Sweden (Norstedts Förlagsgruppe - "När duvor flyger"), Netherlands (Uitgeverij Van Gennep - "Duiven vliegen op"), Hungary (Magvetö-"Galambok röppennek föl"), Poland (Wydawnictwo Czarne - "Golebie wzlatuja"), Czech Republic (Nakladatelstvi Jota -"Holubi vzlétaji"), Serbia (Laguna - "Golubije srce"), Slovenia (("Golobi vzletijo" - Cankarjeva Zalozba-Zaloznistvo), Bosnia (Connectum), Spain (El Aleph - "Las palomas emprenden el vuelo"), Finnland (Lurra editions), Russia (Text Publishers), Turkey (Ayrinti Yayinlari), Israel and China (Shanghai Translation Publishing House)

Short text
They roll up in a chocolate-brown Chevrolet with Swiss plates, much to the general astonishment of the people of the town, whose main street really wasn’t made for automobiles like this one. They are the Kocsis, and the town is in the Vojvodina in northern Serbia, home to the country’s Hungarian-speaking minority, to which the Kocsis belong.
Or rather, used to belong. Some years ago they emigrated to Switzerland, first the parents and then, as soon as they were legally able, the two daughters, Nomi and Ildikó. It is Ildikó who is telling this story: telling about this visit, which won’t be the only one, since weddings and deaths will call them back time and again, back to where Mamika and all the rest of their relations live, as long as they are themselves still alive.
So the Kocsis’ home is Switzerland, but it’s not an easy place to call home, and certainly not to feel at home, although they run a cafeteria there, and it’s where the kids grew up. Still, the parents have made it, although the daughters, Ildikó in particular, sometimes feel like Switzerland wasn’t made for them, like they’re only tolerated there. All it takes is to eavesdrop on the disputes that break out among the staff, from the various former Yugoslavian republics, to wake up to Europe, a peculiar place whose inhabitants refuse to recognise one another.

Translated from the German by Rafaël Newman