18 March 15 | Kaija Straumanis

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by P. T. Smith on Flesh-Coloured Dominoes by Zigmunds Skujiņš, translated by Kaija Straumanis and published by Arcadia Books.

Patrick has been a powerhouse of reviews this past month—and this isn’t even the last from him! Here’s the beginning of his review:

There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity of attempting the latter. It has quite possibly the most misleading, inaccurate cover copy of all time. Surrealism is an overused term, applied to anything odd, just to the right of realism, but Flesh-Coloured Dominoes is the most straightforward work I’ve seen called Surrealist. This isn’t a criticism of the book itself, it couldn’t be, but when you go into a story wanting the unsettling, funny, and strange, then encounter dry, if beautiful and emotional verisimilitude outside of a few occasions, it is hard not to be disappointed. In addition to claiming Surrealism, the copy tells us that Skujiņš’s novel is split into two parts: the eighteenth century and the modern world. By modern world it means the era of World War II, and with a child protagonist, very much of that wide genre of storytelling.

But enough with the damned throat-clearing and correctives, a book needs to be seen on its own actual terms. Flesh-Coloured Dominoes is a novel with a sense of physical detail that gives the time periods and their characters lush life and a nuanced creation of how those characters interact with each other—both in their emotional connections and in the single touch of the fantastic, where lives separated by time intermingle and overlap. It is the story of a family in a Latvian town surviving the multiple occupations, Russian and German, of World War II, and how just as that history can’t be separated from the past, neither can the individuals from one century to another.

For the rest of the review, go here


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