Late in the Day: A Novel by Tessa Hadley:
In Bratislava he had begun to remember things, standing with his mother outside their old apartment on the second floor of an austere nineteenth-century tenement – inevitably now repainted candy pink – and then outside the school he’d attended, and in a little park where once he had played on the swings. For a few uncanny minutes it was as if two epochs of their lives were superimposed and coexistent, the present transparent and the past showing through behind it. Then the superior solidity of the here and now was bound to prevail over fragile memory; a different generation of children, born into a different politics, came pouring out through the school gate, jostling and calling. Margita’s shy cousin was a radiographer and read poetry, her tiny apartment hadn’t been updated yet to the new more affluent reality, was still lit by forty-watt bulbs, decorated with sample squares of carpet nailed to the walls, faux-bronze reliefs of Bohemian castles. The family were invited up from the country one Sunday to meet the visitors, and arrived full of curiosity and welcome, brnging dishes of prepared food and their own wine from the farm, in yellow plastic bottles. They toasted the homecomers gravely, courteously. But after the first warm rush of reminiscence they didn’t have much to say to one another. Alex could just about follow their conversation in Slovak, but he knew his speech sounded alien and formal to them. He and Margita wanted to know more about tumultuous events and political change, but it was clear that the questions they asked seemed banal and outdated to their relatives. Any passion about the country seemed exhausted too, even the idea of the new Slovakia.