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Seeing People Off

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  262 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Winner of the European Union Prize for Literature

"One of the most important works of new Slovak prose."—SME

"Benová's short, fast novels are a revolution against normality. Unlike so many others, her novels not only claim to be a revolution but actually achieve this feat through their minimalist narratives that go against all conventions; in fact, Benová manages to subtly a
Paperback, 142 pages
Published March 14th 2017 by Two Dollar Radio (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.27  · 
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 ·  262 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
"Petržalka. An advent calendar full of chocolates. Window after window, with a common backstage. Common spaces, a common, never-silent choir."

This is a quick read, with what some people call minimalist prose. The story follows Elza and Ian, a couple who live in Petržalka, Slovakia. The place itself is very important - modern Slovakian life in close quarters with others. The stories go off on tangents with mixed feelings of reality. The fragmented prose was easy to get through but sometimes a bit
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Seeing People Off is an unconventional, compelling narrative. The minimalist structure allows the poetics and meditations of the prose to give so much to the reader. I felt like I was in the room with the Benova.

There's a playful repetition throughout of themes--the achievement is in its seamless quality. You never feel like you're reading a novel of ideas with no blood.

There's also a lovely part that references Ginsberg's Howl--my favorite poem growing up.

What I like most about the book is h
Lolly K Dandeneau
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
via my blog
“Voices are so bewitching. They bore into the body. Gradually uncover all the paths. Some of them shut gates forever, burn bridges. Close openings.”

The voices in this novel are wonderful. I hated to hold off reviewing this book until closer to it’s release date, because it’s incredibly unique. Living packed in with your neighbors, where I know I’d go mad, it’s impossible to be private. “The neighbor is an emphasized character.” The novel centers
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
lovely playful book about a quartet of artists/writers who meet at a Bratislava café. One of them works (they take it in turns with jobs like tennis line judges) and keeps the other three in coffee and booze etc. Charming. Will add some quotes (book not with me)..
I picked this up because I was looking for a book by a Slovak author and the choice in English really isn't that big. I gave up after 25 pages, because the purpose (or structure for that matter) totally eluded me. I couldn't make sense of what I was reading, although the writing seemed pretty good. Well, too bad, but life's too short for wasting time on books that you don't see the point of. ...more
Harriet Springbett
Poetic, philosophical, surprising, playful - Jana Benova's EU Literature Prize-winning novel is a thought-provoking journey through the Slovakian town of Bratislava and its suburb of high-rise flats called Petrzalka. It takes a few pages to get used to the disjointed style, which shows glimpses of life in Petrzalka without following them through. Don't let this put you off! You'll soon understand what's going on. It's the kind of book you can read and re-read, and still find something new inside ...more
SEEING PEOPLE OFF by Jana Beňová, tr. from the Slovak by Janet Livingstone, 2008/2017 by @twodollarradio

#ReadtheWorld21 📍 Slovakia

"Bratislava. A city that grips you in it's clutches... Tied up in the rhythm of your own steps. The rhythm of the city. The rhythm of lovemaking, work, parties, earning and spending, gaining and losing. Are you making money? Combining ingredients? Time, men, and money? City, wine, song, and work? Friends, love, and idiots. Pancakes! The Bratislava alchemist.
Nov 15, 2017 added it
Shelves: fiction
I’ll be returning to this slim, hilarious, acutely perceptive novel my whole life—it’s that good. Slovak novelist and poet Jana Beňová, winner of the European Union Prize for Literature, writes of four bohemian types—two couples—living a café- and apartment-anchored, coffee- and wine-fueled life in contemporary Bratislava. Plotless and postmodern, the book turns its unconventionality into as brilliant a meditation on life, place, culture, relationships, and love as I’ve read. Though there’s some ...more
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a deeply strange book. I'd never read Slovakian literature before, but at least now I can say I have!

In this slim little volume, the prose style is experimental, and there are many nice turns of phrase that catch your eye and ear. A few things make you think. But for the most part, the city is overwhelmingly bleak, the characters don't do anything other than walk around and drink, and the random elements of unreality and magical realism are more perplexing than charming.

This book lost
Interesting. I liked how a sentence relevant to telling the story was echoed later as an image or observation about a wider sphere of life, or turned a bit ironic in its repetition.
As soon as I finished reading Seeing People Off today, I turned to Google to search for any reviews by book critics which might explain what I had missed. This book won the European Union Prize for Literature, yet I rated it as average. My timing was fortuitous because NPR had just posted Michael Schaub's review, in which he described Seeing People Off as a "slim novel told in a series of brief vignettes," in which "the transitions can seem jarring, although that may well be the point." Yes, the ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it liked it
If you’re looking for a story with a beginning, an absorbing middle, a tidy ending and maybe a bit of a moral tossed in for good measure this one probably won’t be for you. It’s basically a slice of life, a couple of years (or thereabout) in the life of a quartet or artists, Ian, Rebeka, Elfman and, predominately, Elza. One in the quartet works at a time and divvies up their salary so the other three can get on with their projects uninterrupted. They live in Petržalka, the largest borough of Bra ...more
Andrew Miller
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I appreciated the experimentation in this novel, and so many of the vignettes are beautiful. That said, I finished reading it and wasn't entirely sure what I'd read. At only ~120pp it's a very fast read and worth giving a shot in support of experimental literature; but also, because the striking vignettes may well be just what you need to read. ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it did not like it
I didn't finish this book. If I had continued, I might have honestly given it zero stars. I am angry I even stuck with it as long as I did. It was a chore to even get through 1/2 of this little book. I don't understand the middling and high ratings for this book by other users. I guess Benova's writing style is meant to be rebellious and cool, but I just found it to be irritating. The idea of well-developed characters and a strong plot eludes Benova. I put this book down last night and can barel ...more
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
With prose that reads like memory, Jana Benova's "Seeing People Off" explores the tension between the individual and the whole, control and surrender.

In rebellion against the mundanity of city life in Bratislava, four young writers pool their money so that each may devote less time to office jobs, and more time to their craft. The writers - Ian, Elza, Rebeka, and Lucas - meet daily at Cafe Hyena to drink wine and tell stories, share feedback and advice.

Although a seemingly idyllic arrangement,
Jo Wilcox
I can't decide if I liked this book or not it maybe a 4 star but I am not getting feel-good-vibes. It is a pretty grim view of Slovakia, more specifically Bratislava, more specifically Petržalka, and not an advert for relationships or life really. I am an expat teacher living in Slovakia and want to read as much slovak fiction as I can but with no mastery of the language so having to search for translations (quite a challenge I can tell you). So far much I have read is bleak. The style takes som ...more
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jana Benova reveals moments of unique beauty and dry comedy in the enduring of everyday traumas of modern life--caring for an elderly mother or a childhood with alcoholic parents. It's rooted in a contemporary Central European time and place, in Bratislava, the largest city in a small country, and for the characters feels like a turgid backwater. You should read it, because it's short and says something true about modern life in a voice that is fresh and original. ...more
Jan 02, 2021 rated it liked it
I sought out this book primarily because so few Slovak writers are available in English translation (as opposed to Czech books, which are readily at hand). Benova's reputation was another enticement. However, I found the jumpy prose style, mixed with flights of fantasy, to be not quite to my liking. By contrast, the final one-fourth of the book, where the author makes use of a more traditional style to tell the poignant story of a parent's demise, was quite moving. ...more
Steven Felicelli
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
starts strong, stylistically rich, but never coalesces or gets anywhere imo
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is something incredibly charming and pleasant about the odd, acerbic voice.
Dec 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no idea what this was, but am delighted to see a Slovak author gaining recognition!
This was so strange but extremely engaging and a very fast read. I would recommend.
Brian McCabe
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fast-pace, clean, fun.
Nov 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
very obviously written by a poet, in that the clarity and delicacy of its images is often negated by an unwillingness to even approach cohesion.
Tyler Bosma
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thumbs up. I know not everyone likes getting to the end of a book and being like "What?", but quirky writing works for me, so I loved it. ...more
from the moment i saw this book at the bookstore until a point about 3/4 of the way through reading it i was thinking of the title as "*telling* people off." for no reason. so, this is *not* a book about telling people off. it's also not *really* a book about seeing people off, or maybe it is, i don't know. this kind of read like a book of poetry. i *think*. i've never read a book of poetry. but i enjoyed reading this book. ...more
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
“When Elza asked Ian why she had constantly felt like crying for three days, he said, because she’s grown up. Life isn’t only about putting on a smile, he smiled. The crying passed.”

Seeing People Off is a quirky read that is written in a fragmentary style that can be a bit confusing, but I soon got used to it. I’m not sure if this book will be very memorable for me, aside from an animal cruelty scene that I would rather forget. I liked the above quote, though, and wanted to remember that. This w
Dec 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: favorites
A thoughtful, short read. Feel as though I'm peeking into a world I'm not familiar with; it's not quite accessible. However the feelings, relationships, and life events described in prose are universal enough to be used as a connective tissue. Beňová describes just the notes of what happens to the characters in the town, but all assembled, the greater picture can be pieced together. The moments are frequently bitter sweet, and occasionally comical.

According to Dr. Typhoon, CarlSolomon emerges m
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Yeah good. Let's chat about it. It was good. There were multiple characters, and some interesting people who weren't quite characters like someone named Kalisto Tanzi, and CarlSolomon (italicized), Allen Ginsberg's version of the person Carl Solomon. ...more
"Just wait until I write a book about love," threatened Elza.

A rambunctiously image-driven, darkly cacophonous collection of vignettes about a quartet of Slovakian artist friends in the first decade of the 21st century. They live in Petržalka, a crowded borough of Bratislava which is, as Wikipedia informs me, "the most densely populated residential district in Central Europe" and which has "the highest suicide rate in the country." It's not a pretty book, but it has a sort of elegance in the ima
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Jana Beňová (born 1974) is a Slovakian poet and novelist. She studied at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Bratislava, graduating with a degree in dramaturgy in 1998. She wrote for a number of local publications, including Dotyky, Fragment and Slovenské Pohľady. She also worked for the daily newspaper SME under a pseudonym. At present, she works at the Theatre Institute in Bratislava.

Her f

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“What should I do if I love two men?" a young woman asked her girlfriend helplessly at the next table. "Write a novel," said Elza, turning toward her. "Make it a story where there's little talk and a lot of sorrow.” 1 likes
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