By Miha Mazzini
(North Atlantic Books, Paperback, 9781556437267, 288pp.)
Publication Date: June 17, 2008
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Abandoned at birth because he has the face of a “prize boar,” the unnamed narrator of Guarding Hanna knows only a local Berlin gang as family. Patriarch Maestro acts as surrogate father, employing him to collect debts and perform thuggish tasks. Except for brief moments interacting with the gang, “the beast” spends his life alone, wandering Berlin’s streets and sleeping in its vast housing projects. This changes in a flash when one of Maestro’s sons is implicated in a crime. The only hope of saving him is to protect the sole witness, beautiful but eccentric Hanna Wyoczik. Maestro calls on “the beast” to move in with her until the trial. But never having spent more than five minutes in a social situation with any human being, much less a woman, he quickly finds the basic tasks of human interaction and social intercourse insufferable. Yet Hanna’s unfazed reaction to her guardian, and her witty account of philandering ex-husbands and a nympho mother, soon confound and captivate him. Could love be rearing its head? Miha Mazzini weaves simple scenes into a meaningful and darkly hilarious novel, relentlessly poking and prodding at the human condition without losing sight of the characters’ humanity.
Miha Mazzini’s first book, The Cartier Project, is Yugoslavia’s all-time best-selling novel and won the 1987 Best Novel of the Year award from both the state and opposition presses. The author of twenty other books, as well as the Golden Palm-winning screenplay Sweet Dreams Are Made of This, he lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
"In ... Guarding Hanna, [Mazzini] has created a bestial protagonist ... a gargoyle of a man [who] struggles heroically with his own nature only to find that life has played him one horrific joke."
"[Hanna's] a wonderful creation: vulnerable, lonely, trying to keep her mood upbeat but not always succeeding. In fact, she's just the thing to melt the Beast's hostility-or drive him, with her chatter, to homicidal distraction....Throw in the narrator's grim musings on his lot in life and his occasional urge to strangle Hanna, and you have a tonic mix of menace and comedy that keeps things hopping right up to the book's twist ending."
"Mazzini is a multi-talented writer. ... He is a true talent in a wide variety of writing styles, and the opening chapter of Guarding Hannah could stand alone as a short story worthy of inclusion in The New Yorker."