Tendai Huchu’s review of Marina Lewycka’s Two Caravans

by Tendai Huchu

I haven’t read much of Ukrainian literature. It is often eclipsed by that of its giant neighbor to the east. When Marina Lewycka’s debut A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian was released, I was as much drawn to it by the unusual title as I was by the enthusiastic critical reception it received. I was not disappointed.

Her latest work Two Caravans is more ambitious stylistically and retains Lewycka’s trademark quirky humor. The story is centered on the experiences of migrants in Britain’s black economy run by vicious gangs, unfamiliar to mainstream society. The characters are drawn from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, representing a survey of the third world experience.

Yevhen Hudz′ (left) in the Ukrainian translator role in the 2005 film adaptation of Everything Is Illuminated

Lewycka weaves through her characters with effortless, pitch perfect prose. There is a familiarity with different cultures in her work which works well on the page. The adventures of the immigrants as they hop from strawberry fields, to factory farming, with glimpses the sex industry is both informative and inspiring. Ultimately the triumph of the book is the humanizing of peoples who often find themselves smeared and misinterpreted in the mainstream media. I look forward to reading more of Lewycka’s works.

Francesca Segal adds in her review for The Guardian:

As in her bestselling first novel, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka’s talent for comic writing is apparent from the beginning. With their assorted levels of English, the strawberry pickers have echoes of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Ukrainian translator in Everything Is Illuminated, as language is creatively mangled, often stretched to fit images that could not otherwise have come to life.

Yevhen Hudz’s multicultural critically acclaimed New York Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello’s video Immigraniada:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKoQgODwveE]

Tendai Huchu is a Scotland-based Zimbabwean author. Tendai Huchu‘s novel The Hairdresser of Harare was reviewed by Steppes in Sync in our post The Russian Barber of Harare.

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