First Fiction Friday: The Boy’s Marble

With overwhelming emotional power, in The Boy’s Marble (Guernica Editions), Nataša Nuhanović’s shows us that we need to keep choosing love, innocence, and hope, if humanity is to be given a chance to win against terror and the absurdity of war.

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What: The Boy’s Marble (Guernica Editions)Who: Nataša Nuhanović was born in Zagreb in 1984. In 1994, amidst the Bosnian War, she moved to Germany and later to Canada. Her first poetry book, Stray Dog Embassy, was published in 2010 with Mansfield Press. She has worked on several short films in many different roles. Her first feature-length film, Close the Door, premiered at the Sarajevo Film Festival in 2022.
Why you need to read this now:
In the midst of the Sarajevo Siege, a boy and girl promise to meet at midnight on a bench halfway between their apartments, and run away together. But the boy never comes. Twenty years later, suffering from PTSD, the girl is trying to establish a home in Montreal, when she meets someone who reminds her of the boy. As traumatic scenes weave themselves into every landscape she inhabits — the worn streets become wounds from mortar shells, squeaky Montreal steps remind her of stepping on a mine — she frantically tries to find out whether it could really be him.
With overwhelming emotional power, The Boy’s Marble tackles the heaviness of war literature with lyrical and visceral language. Here, snowflakes and bombs share the same scene; sparrows eat breadcrumbs amidst a cold, wartorn landscape; a confused and broken God smokes cigarettes and drinks whiskey; a stray dog reappears throughout like a missing puzzle piece. As her protagonist searches for a childhood innocence, Nuhanovic shows that we need to keep choosing love, innocence, and hope, if humanity is to be given a chance to win against terror and the absurdity of war.Here’s an arresting, short excerpt from the book:In school we learned that if we step on a landmine, it is best to throw oneself sideways onto the ground, the same way a kite would fall after the wind decides it has had enough of playing. The lower the jump, the better. The more horizontally one falls, the less chance of dying. The marble is too high. I am not supposed to jump up like that. I need to jump like I am going to sleep, lying down. It is starting to snow more. I am happy to see that, because I do not want to be here anymore. I want to go back to that bench, where I used to sit waiting for the boy to arrive. Maybe then I could take one of the large candles and lean it on the winged man’s thigh. Then I could climb up like on a slide, push the marble out of his hand with my fingertips, watch it fall together with the snowflakes, like a planet tumbling through the universe. We lost the marble not too long before we were supposed to run away. I think it may be my fault he got lost, too. “Maybe if he still had his favourite marble in his hand, he would have somehow found his way to the bench. I know I always felt safe when he placed it in my palm, folded my fingers around it and said: The river inside it has turned brown, but the moment you close it in, it turns blue-green, just the way it was before the war. The rivers in our city can one day turn back, too. I don’t know if that’s true. Through the blinds my mother placed over my eyes, I could hear someone cry: Oh no! There is another one in the river. Oh no! Please. Why? The hand is not moving. A drop of river mixed with red lands on my cheek. The wind must have carried it. Turn around! Turn around! You can’t breathe with your face in the water like that! My mother covers one of my ears with her other hand, but I can still hear. Another brown drop lands near my eye.X + Y A protagonist’s observations from a falling, war torn city in Anonymous’ A Woman in Berlin meets the lyrical language of Dunya Mikhail’s The War Works Hard, equals The Boy’s Marble.

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Thanks to the folks at Guernica Editions for sharing The Boy’s Marble with us!For more First Fiction Friday, click here.