Precious Little Shoes Made Out of Words

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Precious Little Shoes Made Out of Words

(On In My Head I Hear a Song (Lyrical Refrains) by Elizabeta Bakovska,

Skopje: Ili-ili, 2020)


The collection of short stories In My Head I Hear a Song (Lyrical Refrains) by Elizabeta Bakovska is subtitled Lyrical Refrains. Each of these short stories ends with the name of the song and its performer, in an extremely wide range of music genres, styles and performers, from Bapchorki, Vaska Ilieva, Dime Popovski, Ana Kostovska and Mizar, through Boba Stefanovic, Meri Cetinic and Haustor, all the way to Ofra Haza, David Bowie, Jan Garbarek and Bach. And each of these songs makes a direct association with a situation or emotion previously described in the story and each of them obviously has its own emotional place in the life playlist of the author. Maybe Bakovska did not become part of the school choir, maybe sometimes she is out of tune while singing lullabies to her child, but that does not stop the music from constantly calling up recollections and „pieces of memories, traces of our lives that we may share with someone before erasing them” (Bakovska, 2020: Traces of the future[1]).

Every song that Bakovska listens to in her head is in fact a nostalgic flashback to an event from the distant or recent past, a casual or meaningful, reflective or emotional connection that combines narration and music into a strong symbiosis. In it, times and points of view are intertwined at the same time, and so „the adult narrator in the first person remembers an event from the past and presents it through a double perspective – the way she experienced it as a child and the way she sees it as an adult, from the present perspective, when she understands all the meanings and implications that were present long ago, but which the girl could not recognize” (Maleska, 2020: Restless Memories with Traces of the Present).

The events stolen from Bakovska’s own memory serve primarily to evoke the childhood days as a source both of joy and of fear, but also as present traces determining the whole life. Of those memories that, unlike her father’s shirts, are restless and impatient, the author tells us the following: “I don’t have the strength to pile them up, I don’t have the will to calm them down. I can’t hide them from the world, show them, expose them with a sincerity that sometimes seems unnecessary to you. I leave them thus spontaneously, like children on a lunch-break, to rush through the corridors of my brain and knock me down. I never built a mausoleum, I never inherited any family craft. I only have these shoes made of words. Put them on before going out! – I say to the memories, and only sometimes do they listen to me (Bakovska, 2020: Memories).

But, although these shall shoes are infinitely personal, soaked with drops of love from the same blood group that colors each individual human story differently, with all the tiny, seemingly irrelevant details that confirm that these memories are special and hers only, Elizabeta Bakovska, in fact, tells the universal story of a man who faces the death of his parents, but also with the transience and meaning of life in general, with the loneliness and sorrow that awaits us unprepared, with the cracked reality and nausea in the soul that remains forever in us the moment we stop to be someone’s child. “Sometimes you ask me what death is. I dont know. I tried to understand it, but I was just a helpless witness to its tide” (Bakovska, 2020: Death). At the same time, the mastery of the author is especially visible in the way in which she paints such a complex emotional see-saw without visible pathos and excessive sentimentality, and yet through that rationalization of words and careful selection of associations, her deep sense subtly erupts.

“The short stories (short short stories, micro-stories or micro-fiction, as they might be called) in the collection In My Head I Hear a Song (Lyrical Refrains) – carefully structured, artistically effective and emotionally warm – highlight significant personal moments from the author’s life, and reveal aspects and relationships that are usually hidden or whose implications are not visible until the stories themselves reveal their potential meanings, through Bakovska’s creative paintings” (Maleska, 2020: Restless Memories with Traces of the Present). It allows easy identification with the described “transient moments” even if they are not at all similar to your reality and the opportunity for each reader to feel some connection and closeness with the author’s stories, and with school performances and the lice, but also with the fear of forgetting and all the bridges we build or tear down between us and loved ones. The delicate emotional states translated into real descriptions of the atmosphere not only have the ability to convincingly touch on essential topics, but also to provoke self-analysis of our own life choices and deep immersion in the labyrinths of our souls.


[1] The book is not paginated, so I use the titles of the stories when quoting.

AuthorAna Martinoska
2021-11-15T19:06:47+00:00 November 1st, 2021|Categories: Reviews, Literature, Blesok no. 140|0 Comments