Fiction Collective Two is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction.

Three Blondes and Death


Three Blondes and Death
by Yuriy Tarnawsky

Paperback
1993
Price: $14.95

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Based on a complex mathematical scheme that the author, a computer scientist and linguist, developed as a substitute for the traditional architecture of a novel, and written in a deliberately sparse and structured syntax that ruthlessly compartmentalizes reality, Three Blondes and Death is an hermetic and hypnotic treatment of the classic themes of love and death. Its strange protagonist, with the literally unspeakable name Hwbrgdtse, searches for meaning in life through the three women with whom he successively falls in love. He finds, however, only life's absurdity, ending in death—a death to which his quest eventually reconciles him.

Three Blondes and Death takes place in an ambiguous time and geography that turn out to be present-day America. The relations between the protagonist and the objects of his love are totally perverse and destructive; the texture of their lives is deceptively simple but implies a dark and undecipherable complexity; and the angst of mortality hangs over every gesture. A lunatic simplicity governs the behavior of Hwbrgdtse, which enables him to face issues of love and death more directly than is usually the case with romantic heroes.

Tarnawsky's third work of fiction is unusually readable, even magnetic, once we are drawn in by its hypnotic repetitions. The logical clarity of its style contrasts with the irrational, often dreamlike content. The action is stark and at the same time mysterious. Whether the strange sensibility that suffuses this story can be traced to the mathematically rigorous mind of its author, or to his Ukrainian roots, or to his multilingual background, Three Blondes and Death is an intriguing and unique work.


"Short sentences, like the dots that appear on photograph hugely blown up, materialize Tarnawsky's obsessive catalogues … As a registrar of mostly indifferent sensations, Tarnawsky is intriguing … when he allows conflict and emotion into his work, we are drawn." —Kirkus Reviews

"Tarnawsky's work shows a brilliant style and artistic mind … impressive as to form and content, a rare combination in today's experimental but otherwise dusty and dry world of art."Alan Brilliant, owner of Unicorn Press

"Yuriy Tarnawsky's book captures [the tragedy of death] with a power not frequently seen in our poetry." —Ukrainian Literary Gazette

Excerpt

In this dream Hwbrgdtse is on a plain. He doesn't know how he's gotten there. He doesn't remember getting there. It's as if he's always been there. The horizon can be seen in the distance. There's hills on it. They aren't very tall however. The sky above the plains is gray. Or actually it seems colorless. The same seems to be true of the plain and the hills on the horizon. This is so in spite of the ground and the sky being of different colors. There's no sun to be seen. There's plenty of light however. Hwbrgdtse looks down. He's standing in the middle of a railroad track. He's standing on a railroad tie. There's rocks between the ties. Hwbrgdtse knows the railroad track stretches in a straight line in both directions. He's facing one of them. This is the direction of the hills on the horizon. Hwbrgdtse knows the railroad track disappears on the horizon. He doesn't want to look in that direction. He turns around. He looks down again. He sees his feet. They're in high-laced hiking shoes. The shoes look old. They're dirty. Hwbrgdtse looks at the rocks between the ties. He sees them very clearly. It's as if strong light were shining on them. This is so in spite of Hwbrgdtse's knowing there's no sun in the sky. The rocks cast black shadows on each other. The edges of the rocks are sharp. There's something beautiful about all this. Hwbrgdtse feels a glow of pleasure in his chest. He also feels a little sentimental. It's as if he were starting to want to cry. He looks farther away. The rocks there are just as clear-looking even if a little smaller. Hwbrgdtse feels the same way about them as about the ones close up. Eventually Hwbrgdtse sees the whole track ahead of him. It has no end. Hwbrgdtse finds the sight exquisitely beautiful. There's an endless amassment of clear and fine patterns stretching before him. It looks a little like the pattern on a man's fingertip magnified and multiplied many many times. Hwbrgdtse feels very tender toward what he sees. He feels like falling on his knees and kissing the rocks. He feels his chin start trembling. He knows he'll start crying any minute.