Humor that hurts instead of laughs

Review of "Meetings with the Devil" by Sashko Nasev

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he protagonist Nikogov and Satan's nephew give this art work a Balkan touch. One explores the identity of man. Or it is better to say identities: gender identity – he is a man, then later, he becomes a woman; the cultural - a provincial from the undeveloped Balkan country, so he becomes a bigger American than the Americans; the ethical - fine meditation guy becomes a servant of the Devil who takes various forms, etc .. etc ... The Hell where Devil's nephew “reigns” is built as a nepotistic semi-monarchical creation, in which the inhabitants take their eyes off for supremacy, an order that irresistibly resembles our Balkan states.

Here we see the power of parody and the postmodern - through borrowed themes and intertextuality, to create a possible, self-relevant story elsewhere: in a different context, with its own metaphors and in its own literary language. Because parody is not just a "parodicaly retelling", but a fierce, polemical imitation of a work of culture with an ironic distance. It is in this ironic distance where Nasev's mastery in "Meetings with the Devil" lies.

If we want to address some specifics that characterize this mastery, two would be inevitable: the richness of humor and irony, on the one hand, and the minimalism in the expression, on the other.

Minimalism most often refers to and describes forms of visual art and music, where the work is designed to reveal the essence, the most important or the identity of the subject by eliminating all non-essential forms, characteristics or concepts. Sashko Nasev does it with words. Not only because of the volume of the work (the story of Bozhilak Nikogov is under hundred pages). Even more so because of the ability to paint the human soul, the life with all its ambivalence (according to the new concepts of 20th century irony, it is, in fact, defined - as a poetic means of reconciling opposites, way of perceiving life and its ambivalence).

Whole plots and twists are created with few words. Many examples can be given, but here is one: "The woman gives no signs of life. She sleeps peacefully." In two short sentences - a dramatic twist that plays with life and death, while doing so in a witty way. Entire emotional storms are displayed in a minimalist manner, so you will experience as a reader moments when characters cry, grieve and say goodbye, with only two tears.

"I have the impression that with your short novel you have said more about the human psyche than all my volumes of scientific work," the great psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud wrote to the writer Arthur Schnitzler after reading his short novel Dream Story (according to this novel S

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