Fleeting Snow is the first book I read by Slovak author Pavel Vilikovsky, but as soon as his other books are translated into English, I will read them right away. I am a person who carefully looks after her books because I gift them to people after reading them. I neither fold the pages nor underline the sentences. However, this book was filled with such beautiful sentences that I wanted to remember later that I made a quotation book just for it. (Okay, I also would like to use my fountain pens more, but this is main the reason!)
Fleeting Snow is a book that can structurally be a bit challenging for the reader. However, the author has put an atlas of content at the beginning of the book to provide a more effortless reading experience. I chose to read independent of the atlas, I will follow the atlas the next time I read it. Fleeting Snow is about amnesia, identity, languages, love, belief in God, soul, life, death and everything in between; An exquisite novel, unlike anything I’ve read before.
“Here is the thing: my name has lost its meaning for me. It has palled on me.” The book begins with this sentence. So I understood from the first sentence that I would love this book very much. He then deepens this situation in the context of identity and soul. With the impact of language on our identity and the extinction of languages and dialects, our gradual loss of identity goes parallel with the story of his wife’s memory loss.
There is also the heart and the brain in Fleeting Snow: our narrator represents the heart, and his step-brother represents the brain with all his science education. Conversations between these two are pleasant enough to be read over and over again. However, as a person who immigrated to another country and jumps from language to language, I was especially stuck with the issue of identity. How do all those languages that we were born into, which we learned later, the ones that we are more or less familiar with, change us? When we use one of them more, does our use of the other language diminish something? How does this affect our soul, and most of all, our name?
Fleeting Snow has been one of the most exciting books I’ve read recently. I was amazed at every page, both structurally and in the context of the topics that led me to think. I am in love with Vilikovsky’s beautiful sentences; I danced with some and fought with some. Please read Fleeting Snow as soon as possible; you will love it. Enjoy!
Pavel Vilikovský’s novella Fleeting Snow (Letmý sneh, 2014), describes the gradual loss of memory of the narrator’s wife. The narrator reminisces about his past life with his wife and muses on issues ranging from human nature and the soul, to names and the phonetics of Slovak and indigenous American Indian languages, in an informal, humorous style whose lightness of touch belies the seriousness of his themes.
The book’s title refers to its recurring central motif, an avalanche whose inexorable descent cannot be stopped once the critical mass of snow has begun to roll, echoing the unstoppable process of memory loss. Five themes or storylines, intertwined in passages of varying lengths, are labelled with letters of the alphabet and numbers in a playful allusion to scholarly works and musical compositions.
From one of Slovakia’s most respected authors, this tender and sensitive look at an elderly couple dealing with illness might remind readers of Michael Haneke’s award-winning film, Amour.
Pavel Vilikovsky was born 27 June 1941 in Palúdzka. He studied to be a film director at FAMU in Prague, changing courses after two years to study English and Slovak and graduating from Comenius University, Bratislava in 1965. He worked as an editor at the publishing house Tatran, and from 1976 to 1995 as a deputy chief editor of the literary monthly Romboid.
He has also worked in the Slovak editorial department of Readers’ Digest. Hailed as one of the most important Eastern European writers of the post-Communist era, Pavel Vilikovsky actually began his career in 1965, but the political content of his writing and its straightforward treatment of such taboo topics as bisexuality kept him from publishing the works collected here until after the Velvet Revolution. In 1997 Vilikovský won the Vilenica Award for Central European literature.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: