What You Can See From Here sang out at me when I first saw it advertised as available for review on Netgalley. I thank the author, publisher, translator and everyone involved in it. It was the perfect antidote for my reading blues. And it has an Okapi on the cover!
What You Can See From Here
By Mariana Leky, translated by Tess Lewis
On a beautiful spring day, a small village in Western Germany wakes up to an omen: Selma has dreamed of an okapi. Someone is about to die. But who?As the residents of the village begin acting strangely (despite protestations that they are not superstitious), Selma’s granddaughter Luise looks on as the imminent threat brings long carried secrets to the surface.
And when death comes, it comes in a way none of them could have predicted… A story about the absurdity of life and death, a bittersweet portrait of village life and the wider world that beckons beyond, What You Can See from Here is a story about the way loss and love shape not just a person, but a community.[goodreads]
What You Can See From Here is an international bestseller, and now translated into English, it was published on Thursday. And for once, I agree with all the plaudits heaped upon it.
It is a charming story in its utter geekiness, with odd characters who do odd things which seem entirely normal compared with some of the things my friends and neighbours do. These could be your best friend, your irritating family members, the love of your life… They sang to me in voices clear, and even the weirdest of them had something memorable about them.
The fear that binds them together when Selma dreams of an okapi seems a very tangible thing. The outcome took me completely by surprise – as it did them. The story, told by Luise takes us from before that moments, to well afterwards, and features a charming long-distance love affair by letter with a buddhist monk. As you do. Well, if you’ve never had a love affair by letter you’re missing out.
Some of the translation seemed weird, but it was consistent, so you appreciated that maybe a choice of words had been made deliberately. I just had to remember that a comforter is not a thick scarf, but an eiderdown or duvet, which I only did about two-thirds of the way through, when the woolly scarf just didn’t make sense!
Warm, gentle, stirring, and possibly the complete antidote to post-COVID trauma. The writing has a wonderful flow, and the richness of the world shone through. I loved all the characters, even the unlikeable ones, mostly because you know people like them. A wonderful drawing of real life, even in a big village.