„The Yasnaya Polyana Dossier” is a remarkable short story, a story that together with the story “The Void”, which received the first prize at the Nova Makedonija 2010 short story competition, represent Bakovska’s true prose ID. It is the opening story of the collection, but it is also the gateway, in medias res into the eternal writer’s illusion about words, about love and confusing one with the other. Should one write “with your words, with my words” or to love “with your words, with my words”. This historical travesty involving Tolstoy and his wife Sofia is more than biographical fiction, it concerns an essential aspect of the love of two people whose profession is words. Has their love become a word, was born out of a word or it had been a word that disappeared? Or was it created? Could love be disassociated from words or it shall always and forever be its most beautiful and most terrible image? “The Yasnaya Polyana Dossier” is an excellent short story.
Both of Bakovska’s collections contain a short story entitled “Surprise”. The first one has no subheading, only three parts: Father, Mother and Me. The second story shares the same title and three parts, while the subheading is: twenty years later. We have here two different contents placed in the same form. That by itself is a sign of a variety of literary devices. The relation between “Surprise” from 2004 and “Surprise” from 2018 presents us with a very interesting creative relation. The same sentence, the same journey down its flow, ripped from its essence, both then and now (does the essence ever change?), the same concentrate of suffering in instant capsules, dissolved in the second for twenty years already. The taste of the same pain, served in different “plates”, served in different (plot) sets. At the beginning I had my suspicions that the story is the same with the eponymous one from the first collection, until I checked every detail meticulously. I thought that the subheading after twenty years wants to tell us that nothing has changed, that the years have gone by without touching the story, that literature has no age. But, then I saw it. It is the piling on of sentential and literary time over something that cannot be cured with words. It is an excellent act of caring for one’s own work; a case of an adult writer returning to her young self, not to correct but to comfort herself. To embrace herself and her old pain with new words. Just this aspect from Bakovska’s two books is enough to inspire a whole essay about time, emotions and prose; about the timeless, the rational and the never soothed… The relation between the first and the second collection is very interesting in general. To look into the matrices of the one and to see how it overlaps with the matrices of the other comprises a truly exciting literary game.
We can find civic activism in the broadest possible context in “How I Missed My Best Chance to Kill My Lady Boss”; an original, different and authentic view of the Skopje 1963 earthquake in “Sounds of Dying”, a literary noir-atmosphere in “The Lover”, a folkloristic subtle didacticism in “A Pot of Gold”, etc. The standard of the prose in all 19 short stories is at a very, very high level.