“Blue Hunger” by Viola Di Grado, translated by Jamie Richards
You can’t stop thinking about it.
It’s been rolling around in your mind since it happened and you can’t stop. You replay it over and over, how it started, how it progressed, and why it ended. You wonder if it’ll happen again and in the new novel “Blue Hunger” by Viola Di Grado, you wonder if you truly want it to.
Shanghai was not her first choice to live. Sometimes, she wasn’t really even sure why she came there, except that it was Ruben’s dream.
For months and months, he spoke of Shanghai, showed her maps, talked of life as a chef living in a high-rise apartment, and he taught her a little bit of the language. She never fully understood why Ruben loved China and she never thought to ask before her other half, her twin brother, her only sibling died.
She was brushing her teeth when it happened. Now, weeks later, she was in his favorite city, a teacher of Italian languages in Chinese culture, alone, friendless. Then she met Xu.
It happened at the nightclub called Poxx and she later wondered, with a thrill, if Xu had been stalking her. Xu claimed that she was a student in the Italian class, but though she was usually good with faces, she didn’t remember the slender, “glorious” woman with milk-white skin and luminous eyes.
She did remember the first place she and Xu had sex.
It was a hotel, but Xu liked it outside, too; in public, on sidewalks, in abandoned buildings, and in crowded nightclubs. They took yellow pills together, and slept together in Xu’s squalid apartment; she told Xu she loved her but never got a reply except that Xu started biting.
Xu had used her teeth all along but she started biting harder.
Soon, she was bleeding, bruising from Xu’s bites, and seeing people in the shadows, and she began to understand that Ruben wouldn’t have liked Xu at all…
You know what you want. You’re someone with determination. And you may want this book, but there are a few things you’ll need to know first.
Reading “Blue Hunger” is like watching a Stanley Kubrick movie. It’s surreal, kind of gauzy, and loaded with meanings that are somewhat fuzzy until you’ve read a paragraph several times – and even then, you’re not quite sure about it. Author Viola Di Grado writes of sharp, unfinished mourning with a grief-distracting obsession layered thickly on top, of control and submission, and while the chapters are each brief, they feel too long but not long enough. There are so many questions left dangling within the plot of this story, so many small bits unsaid, but also too much information of the mundane sort. You’ll feel somewhat voyeuristic with this book in your hands until you notice that the sex scenes here are humidly uber-fiery but not very detailed.
Overall, then, “Blue Hunger” is different but compelling, short enough to read twice, quickly. It’s lush, dreamlike, and once started, you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.