Daughter of Here by Ioana Georgescu, translated by Katia Grubisic

Ionana Georgescu’s debut novel, Daughter of Here, was a cinema lover’s delight to read. Consider her opening page::

I sweep open the heavy wine-coloured velvet curtains like a figure skater. By the window, the marble of the alcove floor is ice under my bare feet. The lace lining is brown like a chain-smoker’s fingers. I tug on the fabric from one side and then the other. The glass is as wide as a movie screen.
I open the window and take a breath, the air fragrant with tomato sauce and baked beans from the apartment below.
A grey bird has been lingering for a while, clinging to the wire. It flies off, and my thoughts follow.

The theatrical sweeping open of the window curtains signals the show is about to begin and this reader’s anticipation was at its highest. It is through this apartment window (which is “five minutes from Tahrir Square”) that Dolores and her little daughter Mo behold life in Cairo, and in a series of flashbacks, we see how Dolores finds herself here in this ancient Egyptian city after so many years of global living.

This is the prelude to the daily film of my life, open to the outside. The lead actors are the sun, a stubborn bird, and various figures from my memories and my projections. Then there is that other protagonist, the absence so present, hidden behind the window, just out of sight. Since the various scenes playing through this living window first caught my eye, I haven’t been able to stop watching the countless transformations orchestrated by a hand that has stayed invisible during my time here.

Dolores freely allows us inside her world, to watch the neverending story of her life, married to her itinerant husband Célestin, and of course, Cairo in the days leading up to the revolution (aka “Arab Spring”).

Her random thoughts take her back to her childhood, her time in Tokyo during an earthquake, to NYC and a man named Nicky whom she loved, but exited her life abruptly one day, never to be heard of again. So many memories are invoked through her dreams and daydreams, watching Mo play and observing life through the virtual frame of her apartment window.

Dolores is very much a woman of the world, and a product of it as well. She describes herself thusly:

I am an Eastern Bloc Black, marked by each space I have crossed. I am a Pinoy, an Arab, a Jew: Indonesian, Chinese, Indian, Cambodian, a little bit Hungarian, like my grandmother, the mother of my mother; with the touch of Greek from her father, Dinu. I am moussaka, masala.

An agreeable novel to read, it was Daughter of Here’s detached, contemplative pacing that really drew me in. Nothing is rushed in Dolores’ world, or in Ms. Georgescu’s writing, as wonderfully translated by Katia Grubisic. The novel is full of cinema-related references, primarily to that of Chris Marker’s 1962 short film La Jetée. (The filmmaker even makes a cameo appearance in the book) It all adds to a unique aura of a documentary-type film composed of still images as was La Jetée.

Montreal’s Linda Leith Publishing continues its extraordinary custom of producing fine-quality literary fiction with Daughter of Here. Recommended.

Ioana Georgescu is an artist and novelist. Her performance art, video installations, photographs, painting, and drawing have been presented around the world. She is the author of three novels, Évanouissement à Shinjuku (2005), L’homme d’Asmara (2010) and La Jetée: Elle s’appellera Mo (2013), published by Les Éditions Marchand de feuilles. Georgescu holds a PhD in Comparative Literature, and has taught in the Italian and English (Cultural Studies) departments at McGill University. Born in Bucharest, she lives in Montreal.

Katia Grubisic is a writer, editor, and translator. Coordinator of the Atwater Poetry Project reading series, she was also founding member of the editorial board for the Icehouse Poetry imprint at Goose Lane Editions. Her work has appeared in various Canadian and international publications. She has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for translation, and her collection of poems What if red ran out won the Gerald Lampert Award for best first book.

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1773900684
  • ISBN-13: 978-1773900681
  • Publisher: Linda Leith Publishing (Sept. 4 2020)

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James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.