Is it a headless tongue or a tongueless head?
Some of the most interesting and least known books come out of Eastern Europe. Verdana Ruden is a Croatian writer who is clearly interested in expanding and twisting the traditional notions of fiction.
It’s not new but the narrative of her novel Night is one long internal monologue. The main character is intending to leave her husband to run away with a new lover. Her lover will come for her in the morning. She has the entire night to ruminate on her past experiences and her pending future. And she is not shy about anything (what does it mean to be shy in an internal monologue?).
The back cover of Night, which is from the Dalkey Archive Press series of Eastern European Literature, reads:
Not since Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s protagonists has a character appeared in fiction with such a bitter, vulgar, hysterically ranting voice. Tonka—a woman spending the night watching TV as she plans to leave her husband the next morning for a younger man—rails against all of society, from America to commercials, from self-satisfied married women to corrupt corporations. With shocking honesty and anger, she talks to an imaginary audience, interspersing her invective with the story of her difficult life, the suffering experienced during the Yugoslav war, and the affairs she and her best friend have had with the same man. Night marks the emergence of a unique voice in contemporary fiction.
Sanja Domazet at Danas adds:
Verdana Rudan’s first novel is a picturesque, unpretentious, ironic-satiric narrative, in which the tragic elements are succeeded by comic episodes, and in which a sharp style and vocabulary serve a singular purpose of diagnosing the Croatian reality.
One thing Tonka does in her internal monologue is to yell at her audience as if there is someone in the same room listening. In a way, this suggests that the reader is the non-existent audience. Get used to being yelled at.
Night is short, snappy, and well-worth reading. And when you’re finished, look into some of the other great literature coming out of Eastern Europe.