March 21st, 2015


BSFA short fiction

There are only three nominees this year, all by women. I'm voting for "The Mussel Eater", by Octavia Cade, a magical realist fairy tale; you are in little doubt where the story is going from the first few paragraphs, but it's very well told.

I was not as impressed by "The Honey Trap", by  Ruth M.J. Booth. There were a couple of jarring tone shifts in the middle of key scenes, and (perhaps I was just too tired while reading it) I wasn't actually sure what we were meant to understand had happened at the end. But I'm glad I read it.

Last year, I didn't vote for a Hugo nominee who endorsed acid attacks. I am applying the same to my BSFA votes. That is all.

What is the best-known book set in Montenegro?

See note on methodology

The book most often tagged "Montenegro" on both Goodreads and LibraryThing must, alas, be disqualified because only a small part of a very long book is set there. It does, however, have one of the best quotes ever about Montenegro (see page 1009):
It is said that a traveller said to a Montenegrin, 'How many of your people are there? and he answered, 'With Russia, one hundred and eighty millions,' and the traveller, knowing there were not two hundred thousand of them said, 'Yes, but how many without the Russians?' and the Montenegrin answered, 'We will never desert the Russians'.
First published in 1942, and dedicated "To my friends in Yugoslavia, who are now all dead or enslaved", it is:

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The top book by ownership on both GR and LT which is mostly set in Montenegro is part of a long series of detective novels which are mostly set in New York, and whose central character is a Montenegrin. He rarely leaves his house and orchids on West 35th Street, but in 1954 he returns home to avenge the murder of an old friend in the appropriately named:

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It's followed very closely on Goodreads - again illustrating Goodreads' occasional deep reach into local literary traditions - by the national epic poem, published in 1847, written by the man who ruled the country from 1830 to 1851 and describing the bloody exploits of one of his ancestors. It is:

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That is very far behind on LibraryThing, where the next book with a Montenegro setting is a 2000 novel about a young botanist who gets caught up in Balkan intrigue in the critical year of 1908. Again appropriately named, it is:

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I'm in a quoting mood today, so here's another from a literary classic of 1925, in which the title character recounts his experiences of the Great War:
"...every Allied government gave me a decoration — even Montenegro, little Montenegro down on the Adriatic Sea!”
     Little Montenegro! He lifted up the words and nodded at them — with his smile. The smile comprehended Montenegro’s troubled history and sympathized with the brave struggles of the Montenegrin people. It appreciated fully the chain of national circumstances which had elicited this tribute from Montenegro’s warm little heart. My incredulity was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines.
     He reached in his pocket, and a piece of metal, slung on a ribbon, fell into my palm.
     “That’s the one from Montenegro.”
     To my astonishment, the thing had an authentic look
     “Orderi di Danilo,” ran the circular legend, “Montenegro, Nicolas Rex.”
     “Turn it.”
     “Major Jay Gatsby,” I read, “For Valour Extraordinary.”
Yep, The Great Gatsby himself had been there.