THE WHALE CALLED GOLIATH
In 1960’s, in the middle of the Cold War, a finback whale travels to Bucharest, Romania. It is suspiciously the same size as a Ballistic missile.
Not far from Bucharest, in a small commune called The Red Village, a father decides to take his two sons to see the whale. That day changes the lives of these two boys: later, one will leave to the U.S. as the happy winner of the Green Card Lottery, and the other will fall in love with a blue-eyed Finn, eventually becoming a philosopher in Helsinki.
The narrator of this story is Alba, born and raised in Helsinki, the daughter of the philosopher. Now in her thirties, she works as an interpreter, helping out immigrants when they run up against the authorities. She is struggling to make sense of a long-distance relationship with the older Romanian philosophy scholar who has the mahogany leather bag smelling of encounters and departures, of airport terminals and train stations.
Alba has not been back to the Red Village in years, despite having spent the best part of her childhood summers there. Suddenly her grandfather dies, and she must return. In the midst of the wake – the grandfather lying on the kitchen table in the dim light, the local burial rites gathering the whole village together – she is entangled in her family’s dark and fascinating past,as well as in the history of the village itself. A history which includes an earthquake, the arrival of a bride from a faraway land and the whale that travelled the world.
A rich and multi-layered debut novel where life becomes steeped in legends, myths and fairy tales.
“What a tour de force of prose writing bordering poetry... (The novel) echos more sound and fury than any poetry ever could. The most sympathetic work of this autumn.”
“If a debut reaches even a fraction of the lyrical, graceful and melancholic beauty present in Cristina Sandu’s THE WHALE CALLED GOLIATH, or of the exotic reality she weaves from golden fairy-tales, then one can expect a great deal…
The story is intertwined with unimaginably exquisite senses and feelings, the delicate and brittle question of what is the world in which we live… This debut is beautiful as a prayer.”
The novel exquisitely describes the pains of multiculturalism ... THE WHALE CALLED GOLIATH is at its most luscious in its linguistic expression ... It is a pleasure to travel through its delicate, melancholy atmosphere.
A clever and poetic debut… Comparisons to Pajtim Statovci are inevitable as both authors write colorful, sensual and physical narratives, but Cristina Sandu has a voice of her own, and a very skillful one at that… This is exactly how memories, youth and the past should be written. - Helsingin Sanomat
The debut novelist Cristina Sandu creates both a photographically precise and magical story of what it is like to live between two different cultures. The best thing in the novel is its language: dense, poetic, and sensually beautiful. How far will this young author end up reaching?
I want as many readers as possible to read Alba’s story and to discover a talented new voice in Finnish literature. Cristina Sandu’s writing is delicate, poetic and authentic. She writes beautifully about nostalgia, memories and love. Her characters and stories enable her to discuss past and current issues but also more personal matters, all set against a historical background. It makes the novel both intimate and universal.