Book Review – Dead Europe

by Christos Tsiolkas (Atlantic Books) ISBN: 978-0-85789-1-228

Dead Europe was published in Australia in 2005 and awarded the 2006 The Age fiction award. It took the success of The Slap to have Christos Tsiolkas’ 5th novel to be published in Great Britain in 2011.

In Dead Europe, Isaac, an Australian photographer, takes us on a disturbing journey through various European cities. He starts in Greece, the place where his mother was born. In most cities he ends up at the dark side of town, populated with boy prostitutes, drugs and hopelessness.

The other story in the book also begins in Greece but during WW II. Isaac’s grandparents look after a Jewish boy. The grandmother gets pregnant by him and then has her husband kill him. From that moment the family is haunted by a demon that even follows Isaac’s mother to Australia. The stories collide when the demon resurfaces in Isaac forcing him to go on an unsettling quest for blood.

Reading the novel requires a strong stomach; there is anti-Semitism, sex and bodily fluids in excess. Persevering, it brought me uncomfortable insights about Europe within its soil, “The dust of death, life, death, life, endless death and life, repeating, repeating.”

The stark realism of his journey combined with the magical realism of the demon do an expert job of bringing a tough message home.

Josine Overdevest

Posted on: 5th February 2012