KINDERLAND by Liliana Corobca
Translated by Monica Cure
There’s something inherently creepy about kids being left to fend for themselves. JG Ballard mined the idea to great effect in his eerie little book, Running Wild. Then there’s Lord of the Flies. And, my favourite, Ágota Kristóf’s masterpiece, The Notebook. Perhaps it’s the mirror these stories hold up - the kids reflect who we might be freed from the shackles of societal convention. While Kinderland shares much with its literary kin, it is all the more unsettling for its stark realism. Corobca isn’t dealing in allegory but, rather, the recent socio-political turmoil in Moldova that has seen desperate people leave their kids in order to work abroad.
With her parents gone, twelve-year-old Cristina must look after her two little brothers. Very few adults remain in their village and, though she receives money and the odd phone call, Christina must use her wiles to survive. Violence and cruelty abound. So does boredom. The unreliable kaleidoscope of Christina’s perspective makes for a strange narrative pendulum and Corobca does a fine job of riding its swings. But I was left to wonder whether this fidelity to an authentic, young voice didn’t render the whole thing a little patchy.
Kinderland by Liliana Corobca (Tr. Monica Cure)
Seven Stories, 2023