Mr B's review
In a town held under martial law, a child is shot by soldiers in the middle of the town square. As a result, the town’s inhabitants become deaf and develop their own sign language, impenetrable to the authorities. Through a narrative which is as direct as it is moving, punctuated by the intimate visual of a signed word, Kaminsky leads us to the gut of repression, silence and the fragility of our own humanity.
BBC Radio 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK
FORWARD PRIZE 2019 SHORTLIST
POETRY BOOK SOCIETY CHOICE 2019
The long-awaited new collection from Ilya Kaminsky: a remarkable parable in poems which asks us, what is silence?
Deaf Republic opens in a time of political unrest in an occupied territory. It is uncertain where we are or when, in what country or during what conflict, but we come to recognise that these events are also happening here, right now. This astonishing parable in poems unfolds episodically like a play, its powerful narrative provoked by a tragic opening scene: when soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear – in that moment, all have gone deaf. Inside this silence, their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. The story then follows the private lives of townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting their child; the daring Momma Galya, instigating the insurgency from her puppet theatre; and Galya’s puppeteers, covertly teaching signs by day and by night heroically luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the curtain. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea, Deaf Republic confronts our time’s vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them.
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