Noir Press is an indie publisher who specialise in printing books by contemporary Lithuanian authors. Earlier this year, I read Renata Serelyte’s The Music Teacher, which I thought was fabulous so my expectations were pretty high when The Last Day plopped through my mailbox.
Jaroslavas Melnikas’ The Last Day is a collection of 8 short stories and they are all stunners. Think of the intellectual surrealism of Eugene Ionesco mixed with Haruki Murakami’s early short stories. As Melnikas is a philosopher, most the short stories have a metaphysical quality to them.
One such example is the highlight The Grand Piano Room. A person who has a room with a specific function in his house starts to notice that these specific rooms are disappearing and the furniture of that specific room appears in another room i.e the piano from the music room is in the art room, then the canvases and piano then are in the study and so on. This keeps on happening until the whole house is contained in one room. There will be a solution to this conundrum but it is better to read it.
Fate is also a big theme in the book. The title story is about a person who writes the death date of every living person in the world, which leaks and leads to worldwide confusion. A.A.A. is about a man who receives a letter with four choices which affect his destiny. The concluding story, It Never Ends is about an endless experimental film that depicts life and the main protagonist knows that there are consequences by watching it.
These stories a bizarre but never annoyingly wacky. Melnikas is more concerned in getting a deeper concept out rather than proving that he is a master of writing a weird story. Saying that all eight stories are readable and Marija Marcinkute’s translation is fantastic. One of my gripes with translated books is that I can feel the translation. No such thing here.
The Last Day is a rare book for me: A short story collection which provides brain food and yet reads easily AND is consistent. Each story is pure brilliance, hopefully Melnikas’ writing will reach a wider audience. As it would be a crime if such well crafted short works do not receive wider exposure.
Many thanks to Noir Press for providing a copy of The Last Day in exchange for an honest review.