Daddy's Wings by Milena Agus
The book Daddy's Wings by Milena Agus - with English translation by Brigid Maher - is a diary according to its narrator
The book Daddy's Wings by Milena Agus - with English translation by Brigid Maher - is a diary according to its narrator, even though there are no dates. It consists of 35 interlocking stories of various lengths, some of which could stand on their own, which revolve around the microcosm of the daily life of a 14-year-old girl in a remote but idyllic part of Sardinia.
One protagonist is a mature woman known as Madam, owner of a large estate and house which she runs as a hotel, and which she stubbornly refuses to sell to the developers who besiege her, offering her tempting amounts of money.
Another protagonist is the young narrator's mysteriously vanished father, whom she senses present during the night in the breeze that comes in through her window and lifts her bed sheets high up, which then take on the shape of protective wings, hence the title Daddy's Wings - a scene reminiscent of that with the beautiful Remedios in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.
The central heroine of these simplistic, diverse and often paradoxical stories are of the narrator herself, who attempts to decode her life and its meaning by casting a sharp and unforgiving eye on everyone and everything around her. Because despite the blinding Mediterranean light that washes over the Sardinian landscape, the narrator's world is wrapped in a veil of mystery, raising many 'whys'. Why did her Father vanish out of the blue? What kind of person is Madam, who despite her generosity is lonely and cannot find happiness with any of her lovers, and when she finally marries the doctor why is she still unhappy? Who is actually subjecting Madam to sadomasochistic tortures at night - the developers or some ghosts?
The technique of using the perceptions and language of a 14-year-old is a clever if not totally original narrative technique. It allows the writer to combine - if not always convincingly - elements of realism, comedy, self parody, fairy tales and the metaphysical, creating a sense of magic realism.
To the initiated reader the voice, however cleverly disguised, betrays itself. This is not so convincing for a 14-year old, and it is especially not so when the narrator, attempting to answer a whole series of questions implies that the antidote to all this is the written word, the magical ability of literature to change the world, to make things more bearable and comprehensible. So she notes, half seriously, half jokingly, that having kept a diary since her father disappeared, has not only enabled her to face her fears and calm down, but that her constipation has also gone.
In a relatively slim volume Agus has managed to say more interestingly what many have attempted to do in larger volumes. More significantly she has done so in a way that is spare, fresh, attractive and enjoyable. If we add to this the rest of her flavoursome content - sun, sea, island life, traditional Italian cuisine, folklore, music, philosophy, metaphysics, magic realism, raw erotic scenes - it would not be hard to understand why this effort of Agus, as her previous one, has managed to be catapulted on to international best sellers lists.
Daddy's Wings by Milena Agus is available from Scribe Publications for RRP AUD$24.95. For more info visit scribepublications.com.au
* Dr John Vasilakakos is a Melbourne academic, fiction and essay writer and literary translator. He has published 15 books and hundreds of articles in Australia, Greece, America and Canada.
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