Ottessa Moshfegh – My Year of Rest and Relaxation

otessa-moshfegh-my-year-of-rest-and-relaxation
Ottessa Moshfegh – My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Looking at her from the outside, she has everything one could wish for: she is blond, pretty, thin, a Columbia graduate, stylish without effort and she has a job at a gallery. Due to her inheritance, she can afford an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. But that’s just one side of the medal, her relationship with Trevor has been all but healthy, her parents never showed any affection and thus losing them both when she was in college was a minor affair. What she is lacking is an aim in life, something that gives her a reason for being alive. She feels exhausted and just wants to sleep until everything is over. She slowly extends her time in bed, she even falls asleep at work and then, finally, she decides to hibernate. A crazy therapist provides her with medication that allows more and more hours of sleep at a time. She hopes that after a year of rest, she will awake as somebody new.

Ottessa Moshfegh is a US-American writer who earned a degree in Creative Writing from Brown University and whose short stories were received with positive reviews. After her novella “McGLue”, her first novel “Eileen” was published in 2015 and made it on the shortlist for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. Having chosen a mostly unsympathetic protagonist for her former novel, I found it much easier so sympathise with her narrator in “My Year of Rest and Relaxation”.

The young woman who is portrayed is quite typical in a certain way. She is the modern New Yorker who takes part in the glittery art circus, is a part of a subculture of believes itself to be highly reflective and innovative. At a certain point, the superficiality becomes exhausting and the aimless tittle-tattle and prattle don’t provide any deeper insight.

“The art at Ducat was supposed to be subversive irreverent, shocking, but was all just canned counterculture crap, “punk, but with money”.

Also her relationship does not go beyond superficial sex and one-night-stands that lead to nothing. Added to this is the easy availability of all kinds of drugs, of therapists who themselves are too crazy to detect any serious illness in their clients and therefore just fill in any prescription they are asked for. Even though the plot starts in 2000, the characters are quite typical for the 1990s and they need a major event to wake them up and bring them back to real life.

The narrator tries to flee the world and takes more and more pills mixed with each other, as a result she is sleepwalking, even gets a new haircuts and orders masses of lingerie without knowing. Her radius is limited to her blog, her only human contacts are the Egyptians at the bodega at the corner where she buys coffee, the doorman of her apartment house and Reva, her best friend who still cares about her. Even though she is bothered by the things she does when she is not awake, she has become that addicted that she cannot let go anymore.

Even though the protagonist is highly depressive and seeing how badly she copes with her life is hard to endure in a way, the novel is also hilarious. I especially liked her meetings with her therapist since Dr. Tuttle is riotous in her eccentric ways and their dialogues are highly comical – despite the earnestness of their actual topics. Ottessa Moshfegh most certainly earns a place among to most relevant authors of today.

Atia Abawi – A Land of Permanent Goodbyes

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Atia Abawi – A Land of Permanent Goodbyes

The family is at home, even if it is war outside, they still have themselves; Tareq, his younger brother Salim, the girls Farrah and Susan and the baby twins. He respected his mother Nour and his father Fayed and of course also his grand-mother. When a bomb hits their house, only Tareq and Susan can be saved, luckily their father was at work and is also alive. They decide it is time to leave the country, after such a loss, what is it that keeps them still there? But first, they need to go to Raqqa where Fayed’s brother lives who can lend them money. Yet, Raqqa is deep in the Daesh controlled area and going there is highly risky. But this is only the beginning of a journey which hopefully ends somewhere in Europe in peace and safety.

Atia Abawi, an American journalist who spent many years in the middle east as a correspondent and is a daughter of Afghan refugees, has chosen the number one topic in the news of the last two years for her second novel. It is her background, both personal and professional, which can be found throughout the novel; you feel in every line that she knows what she is writing about and that neither the emotions she puts in her characters nor the experiences they make are just invented, but exactly what people undergo. At times, the style of the novel has some traces of journalistic work, leaves the pure fiction, but this does not reduce the quality of the novel at all.

First of all, what I really appreciated was the fact that she does not victimize her characters. Already at the beginning of the novel, they are hit by a major loss, but they keep on fighting and do not rely on others. The risk a lot, see evil deeds committed by Daesh fighters, but still remain human themselves. The part I found especially interesting was Tareq’s time in Turkey. It is not only the large number of Syrians being stranded there and setting up a kind of community parallel to the Turkish, but first and foremost the way they are exploited, how people are trying to make profit from their fate which is annoying. Yet, I guess this is just reality.

It is just the story of one family, however, it represents what many people all over the world go through. None of them wanted to leave their country, none of them wants to live in another country of which they neither know the language nor the culture, many of them believe that those who have died are blessed because they do not have to undergo this. Considering all the negative news about refugees, we should not forget their perspective. Atia Abawi has given them a beautiful and engrossing voice.