My rating: 2 stars
The blurb of Panorama by Dusan Sarotar promises it to be a book that “blurs the lines between fiction and journalism”. Journalistic texts are supposed to be informative and grab the attention of the reader. However, I didn’t detect any of these characteristics in this book. In fact, I found it to be unnecessarily confusing and, thanks to the writing style, almost impossible to retain information. The narrator, a writer from Slovenia, travelled around Europe, where he encountered and spoke to immigrants from various countries. The concept is interesting, but the final result is far from engrossing.
The 45-year-old narrator starts by recalling his travels around Ireland. He describes, occasionally in great detail, what he saw there and remarks on certain historical facts and past events. His guide, Gjini, was an Albanian man who had moved to Ireland many years beforehand. Unfortunately, his thoughts on immigration and on immigrants’ feelings are just thrown in amidst the narrator’s ramblings and, thus, don’t have the impact they deserved. Moreover, a few minutes after finishing a couple of pages, I couldn’t remember anything of what I had just read.
The narrator also went to Belgium and Sarajevo where he met with other people. He had various conversations with them, but they don’t sound genuine, which I blame on the writing style. There are no proper dialogues, despite the narrator reporting on what other people said. In certain occasions, it got to the ridiculous point of having the narrator saying that someone said that another person had said something. I’m specifically using the verb ‘say’, because it’s the only reporting verb used throughout the book, which at times was exasperating. Occasionally, I didn’t even know whether the narrator was reporting on someone else’s thoughts and actions or his own.
The book reads like a bunch of thoughts written down without much cohesion and no desire to achieve any kind of plot. A passage from it appears to describe such style – “like an eternal dream that comes to us on the invisible stream of consciousness”. I have a difficult relationship with stream of consciousness. It can work well for me when there is an interesting plot to support it, or when the characters and their feelings are compelling. None of these is the case, however. Certain passages are interesting, but overall almost all of the facts and characters are forgettable.
The only redeeming quality is the mention to certain current events and issues, such as the financial crisis and the reliance on technologies.
“I had stopped and got off the bicycle, and with the tablet on my knees was waiting for the satellites to find me, for only thus would I exist again.”
Reading this book was a chore, not made easy by the massive paragraphs (some as long as four pages) and the lack of quotation marks or any other elements that would indicate the existence of a dialogue. The various photos in black and white present throughout are not particularly appealing either. The harsh truth is that the main reason why I finished Panorama was that it helped me feel sleepy before going to bed.