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Cornelia Travnicek: Feenstaub.

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Fairy Dust
Vienna: Picus, 2020

Corneila Travnicek


The novel Fairy Dust by the renowned young story-teller Cornelia Travnicek is an extremely poetic tale, even though the hidden world gradually revealed here has nothing whatsoever to do with poetry. It is the provisional domicile of three boys from the Balkans, aged 13 to 14, who have settled somewhere on an island. Petru, Cheta and Magare live here in a dilapidated house with a large garden. They have to hand over the money and valuables, which they acquire through smaller and larger thefts, to their violent and occasionally jovial boss Krakadzil. In return, they live unsupervised, and can come and go as they please. Fairy dust – a fairly cheap drug – helps them through the worst moments, when they argue or consider breaking out of this unique captivity. Peter’s blossoming love for Maria, whom he meets on the street, and the exploitation of eight-year-old Luca by Krakadzil finally gives Petru and his pals the courage to stand up to their boss.

With Fairy Dust, Cornelia Travnicek masterfully proves that there is no topic that cannot be dealt with in highly poetic language. Here we have the milieu of the beggar, the scene of petty criminals, the fate of children sold by their parents or relatives, and the violence they face, their secret lives in the middle of a Western European metropolis. One special stylistic device used by the author to heighten suspense is brief, abrupt scenes. We suspect many developments, but a lot turns out quite differently. The sober finale puts a drastic end to poetry. Yet, the youngsters get off lightly from their unintentional adventure after all.

The fact that this short novel is neither shocking nor sentimental nor reproachful is due to its fresh style, which skillfully shifts between youthful language, realistic storytelling, and playful dreamy moments. The only open question is why it took so long for Maria, and her parents in particular, to recognize Petru’s true identity.

Short version of the review by Jelena Dabic, 24 March 2020
Translation by Ida Cerne

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