Two twin sisters, natives of Dobratyche, a small Belarusian village on the Buh river close to the border with Poland, set out to examine the events that led to granny Makrynya’s unexpected death. Their trek quickly turns into a murder investigation. As the twins uncover new facts of the crime, more questions need to be answered. But will they? A rural intrigue continues to hold the villagers firm in its grasp until the very resolution.
Today mostly associated with the personality of President Lukashenko, Belarus remains terra incognita for the rest of the world. Babina’s surprisingly fresh portrait of today’s Belarus celebrates the country’s diverse demographics be it business, education, culture or just the way people go about their daily errands. Quiet and shy, Belarus turns out to be the land of grandeur, vastness of spirit and passionate hearts and minds.
Supported by English PEN and Arts Council, England.
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Natalka Babina was born on May 15, 1966 in Belarus, close to the border with Poland and Ukraine, and graduated from Belarusian Institute of Technology in Minsk.
Babina worked at the editorial departments of two Belarusian newspapers. Since 1994, she published her works in the independent newspaper Nasha Niva. Since 2006, she became a journalist at the same venue,also collaborating with other presses in Belarus and Ukraine.
Natalka Babina authored a collection of stories The Blood Should Not Be Seen and a novel The Town of Fish, both translated into Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and Czech. Natalka became the laureate of the Cherkasova prize of Belarusian association of journalists in 2010.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
“In fact, the realism in the background of Babina’s novel is consistently more interesting than the flashy fantasy of its plot. Ala’s very realistic personal history gives her character an unusual perspective and a distinctive narrative voice.” Bradley Gorski, World Literature Today
“Originally written in Belarusian, Natalka Babina’ book is the rural murder mystery you’ve always dreamt of. Existing somewhere in the grey area between credibility and fantasy, the novel follows two twin sisters as they investigate the sudden death of their grandmother.” Elise Morton, The Calvert Journal
“Babina’s original and ambitious novel, in a fine translation by Jim Dingley, gives a remarkable picture of both the attractive and the appalling sides of provincial Belarusian life. Down among the Fishes, in a fluent and idiomatic translation by Jim Dingley, is one of the most interesting novels by a young Belarusian writer. Natalka Babina’s book, somewhere between the genres of village prose and magic realism, also contains elements of murder mystery, treasure hunting, commercial greed and finagling, and, above all, the violent manipulation of the presidential election campaign. Particularly successful is the narrator, a 50-year-old recovering alcoholic, whose twin sister works for an opposition politician, and there is a wide range of other characters, ranging from the honest, even heroic, to the venal, and totally ruthless, including an outstanding but spineless poet. For an impression of provincial Belarusian life (in the Biareście region near the Polish border), this vivid novel reveals some of the undoubted physical attractions of Belarus, as well as the cruelty and harshness of the lives of many who live there.” Arnold McMillan, Emeritus Professor
“The novel is told in the first person, over the course of 56 short chapters, by the heroine, Ala Anatoleuna Babylyova, a fifty-year-old recovering alcoholic, a divorcee whose only child has predeceased her. Ala, however, possesses one remarkable quality – the ability to travel back through time. This is what provides the novel with what the blurb calls ‘elements of magical realism’ and what Terry Pratchett would simply call ‘fantasy’. It is this ability which enables her to hunt for, and ultimately locate, long-buried treasure. This strand of the novel might be termed an adventure story, but there are as many strands in this novel as there are linguistic variations.” Michael Pursglove, East-West Review
“Down among the Fishes is a monument, first and foremost, to the women of Belarus. It is their strength that upholds decency in Belarusian society, unhinged as it has been ever so often by the times and powers-that-be.” Dr. Joerg Forbrig, Fund for Belarus Democracy
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