Giller Shortlist: Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis

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This is the first time I’ve read a book by David Bezmozgis. Marcie, on the other hand, has read several. Did this have any effect on the way we reacted to the book?

 

Here is an excerpt from Marcie’s review, which can be read in full at Buried in Print

 

Along the way, I’ve missed only one of David Bezmozgis’ books. The last novel of his I read was The Free World and, reading through the quotations I saved from that reading, I was struck by how many older passages resonate with this new collection.

Here is one which strikes me today because I’ve been thinking about how we move through patterns in the ways we relate to people and how we yearn to connect. About how many challenges to that desire exist. About the additional challenge when one must navigate that challenge while building a new home somewhere that used to be just ‘elsewhere’.

“The thrill was in saying the words and having someone say them back. The conversation was always the same anyway. You repeated at twenty-six what you’d said at sixteen. And, if you were lucky, you got to repeat it again at fifty-six and ninety-six. To see yourself through admiring eyes, to tell a woman what you wanted – what could be better? How could you tire of that? Emigration had already spoiled too many pleasures and hadn’t granted many new ones in return.”

You can spot a shift in focus between these two works immediately with the last sentence about ‘emigration’ and the title of this year’s Giller-nominated stories, Immigrant City. The former emphasizes the process of leaving one’s country to settle in a new country and the latter emphasizes the process of resettling in a new country having left another country behind. But of course these states are intertwined.

 

Here is an excerpt from Naomi’s review, which can be read in full at Consumed by Ink.

 

Although David Bezmozgis has been on the Giller list before (with Free World in 2011 and The Betrayers in 2014), this is the first of his books I’ve read. And the only short story collection on the shortlist this year.

Not only did I find his writing style engaging, it was my first experience reading about the Latvian Jewish community. David Bezmozgis himself was born in Riga, Latvia.

The title story, Immigrant City, was probably my favourite. I could connect to the narrator who is the father of three young daughters – one of which loves to go with him everywhere. He doesn’t hesitate to take her across the city of Toronto on the subway to find a used door to match his car. “Didn’t every kind of flotsam wash up on the blasted shores of the Internet, including a black 2012 Toyota Highlander front passenger-side door? Indeed, there was one, offered for sale by Mohamed Abdi Mohamed of Rexdale.”

I love the image of the father and daughter riding home again on the subway; one carrying a car door and one wearing a hijab (given to the daughter by Mohamed’s wife).

In an immigrant city, a city of innumerable struggles and ambitions, a white man with a car door and a daughter wearing a blue hijab attract less attention than you might expect.

 

Interested in more? You can find the Shadow Giller reading schedule here.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on Immigrant City. Or any other bookish thing you’d like to say! Do you read short stories? How do you feel about short story collections competing against novels for literary prizes? 

 

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