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Slaves to Desire

by Eli Gilić

Rating: *****

Slaves to Desire is a collection of eleven, erotic short stories in which both fictional and non-fictional literary characters, artists and composers are depicted in settings where the facts and reality of their lives and loves are woven with re-imagined settings, consequences and actions.

I thought Ms Gilić’s writing was truly beautiful. The skill in creating this collection through her knowledge, understanding and the wonderfully adroit use of language was second to none. The Muse was a lovely beginning. The writing was poetic, charged and metaphorical; completely Baudelaire. I thought the change in point of view was clever and provoked interesting comment; did the Muse hold the power? It reminded me of Anäis Nin. Wasted Flame fed completely into the myth of Rasputin without becoming pantomime and despite his point of view, to the reader, he becomes a rather pathetic figure. The Sinners was the standout; absorbing, magical and captivating like a fairy story but one that slowly becomes poisonous and rotten. It was utterly spell-binding. Personally, I loved the Kathleen Winsor quote too as Forever Amber is my all-time favourite novel and yet rarely recognised. Dying Desire was achingly poignant, shot through with pathos and a very imaginative take on Romeo & Juliet.

The Writer’s Apparitions I thought was weaker than the previous five but they had set a very high bar. In this as in Ode to Love and Rendezvous, the paragraphs are separated by dates in American formatting. It’s a minor point, but I would have liked to have seen the dates written out in full; the American formatting seemed anachronistic.

The ending to A Borrowed Life should have been obvious but Ms Gilić cleverly distracted from it and I ended up wryly smiling. Ode to Love was again, very clever. I am not overly familiar with the life of George Sand but after reading this story, which is one of the shortest, I had a good idea of her life and romantic struggles in a way that did not seem obvious or didactic. It was also less intense than the other stories which was a skilful change in tempo. That change continued with Study of Loneliness, it was more cerebral and filled with pitiful self-loathing.

Lover in the Land of Peyote was my least favourite but it could be because I knew nothing about either of the protagonists. This collection is very subjective and that is both its brilliance and could also, for some readers, be its downfall. For example, the next, Rendezvous was very James Joyce but may appear a little rambling and incoherent in parts to readers that are not that familiar with him. Farewell was a good, sharp end and educated me to a side of Dali that I did not know existed.

There was very little repetition in the stories and a few follow similar lines. Yet the narrative voices were distinctive from each other and differently inventive in each tale. For some reason, I kept wishing Madame Bovary had been included, I think Ms Gilić could have had a lot of fun with her. I was sceptical of this collection; unsure yet curious of how the premise would work.

My scepticism was unfounded and I am incredibly pleased to have read this breath-takingly accomplished and exquisitely written compilation.

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