Fraktura, Sep 2022, 176 pages
French sample available
Translation rights sold: Serbia (Booka)
Summers with Maria spans across a period of hundred years, more precisely across one hundred summer seasons from 1921 to 2021: through them, the author narrates the lives of her heroines, five women of the same family who all go by some variant of the titular name: Marieta, Mary, Masha, Mariola, Mara…
We meet the oldest among them, Marieta, born in the dawn of the 20th century, as a sixteen-year-old faced with an unplanned pregnancy. A century later, Mara, the youngest, travels across Europe digitally sketching the family tree of her female ancestors.
In less than 200 pages, Savičević manages to paint a vivid fresco of a century of female emancipation, as effortlessly as flipping the pages of a family album. In a series of colorful fragments, we meet our heroines through their tiny and immense milestones:
their first periods, war years, courtships and friendships, family gatherings, joys and tragedies, journeys and displacements, memories and dreams of their brighter future.
Much like Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women, Summers with Maria tells a universal tale of mothers and daughters by telling about the everyday lives of women in a small Dalmatian coastal town. The focus is on the intimate and the unknown; great historical events are never narrated, yet always echoed. It is a private history of women on the Balkans and the Mediterranean, tackling gender and national identities, one’s roots and private exiles, girlhood and womanhood as well as wars, lagers, political turmoil and its consequences on women’s intimate lives. Like her heroine Mariola, that may function as author’s alter ego, Olja Savičević reconstructs the reality with the help of fiction; using oral history, archive tapes, photographs, documents and letters, she crafts a poetic chronicle, a yearbook bursting with life, a universal history of women’s experiences.