The Boy’s Marble by Nastaša Nuhanović

An unnamed woman sees someone in Montreal and thinks he could be her childhood friend, back in Sarajevo. The two played together all of the time and planned to run away together, against the backdrop of the Sarajevo Siege. However, the narrator waited and the boy never showed up at their meeting place, but she never stopped thinking about him. A dreamy, lyrical novel, moving between timelines, The Boy’s Marble by Nastaša Nuhanović examines war from the viewpoint of a young child, and the shifting boundaries between memories and dreams. Nuhanović uses language skillfully to portray her narrator’s challenges as a new immigrant, and as a sufferer of past trauma. It is also a surprisingly joyful novel, with the purity and innocence of a child focused on her little world, even as war affects her home. This is not an easy novel to read; for anyone who prefers clearly delineated timelines, this isn’t for you. But for anyone who is willing to take their time and enjoy the often-confusing journey, The Boy’s Marble is a true treasure.

It is hard to know what is real and what isn’t in The Boy’s Marble: what is happening in Montreal in the present, versus what is happening in Sarajevo in her childhood. Diving into the novel was an experience in learning what was going on line by line, and not necessarily in any kind of order. Throughout, one scene slides into another, and images bleed from one timeline to the next; different things in both timelines trigger the narrator’s train of thought to drift to her childhood. These moments can be abrupt and upsetting for her, or they’re sometimes just a pleasant dart into thinking about how she played marbles with her friend, referred to as the boy throughout. The war in Sarajevo takes away some of the things they enjoyed, and makes food short, but as children, they’re more concerned with their time together, and their games, like marbles – and modifying the game to better suit their needs, making it more fun to play. This is not a bleak novel by any stretch, despite the often grim storyline: war, escape, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nuhanović’s novel is a complex and layered one. It requires patience and a love of ambiguity in your novels, as well as an appreciation for tight character studies, but if you’re willing, it will reward you handsomely. I look forward to reading it again and again, as I expect I will do, in order to pull more pieces out of it each time.

Natasha Nuhanovic is a writer, translator and filmmaker. She was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1984. In 1994, amidst the Bosnian War (1992-1996), she moved to Germany. Canada came next in 1998. Over time, Waterloo, Toronto and Montreal became her three Canadian homes. After studying Literature at the University of Waterloo and University of Toronto, her path took her to McGill University. Her first poetry book, Stray Dog Embassy, was published in 2010 with Mansfield Press. Subsequently, she translated poetry, plays and short stories within combinations of three different languages: English, Bosnian and German. Her proficiency in three different languages also lead her to work as interpreter for the Sarajevo Poetry Festival. Along with her literary career, she has also ventured into storytelling through film. She has worked on several short films in many different roles. Her first feature-length film, Close the Door, is set to be submitted to festivals internationally in 2022.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Guernica Editions (Sept. 1 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 208 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 177183739X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771837392

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Alison Manley has ricocheted between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for most of her life. Now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she is the Cataloguing and Metadata Librarian at Saint Mary's University. Her past life includes a long stint as a hospital librarian on the banks of the mighty Miramichi River. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. While she's adamant that her love of reading has nothing to do with her work, her ability to consume large amounts of information very quickly sure is helpful. She is often identified by her very red lipstick, and lives with her partner Brett and cat, Toasted Marshmallow.