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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Book Recommendation "The Boy Who Stole Attila's Horse" by Iván Repila

Big and Small are two brothers who find themselves unexpectedly trapped in a deep hole in the ground while on an errand to deliver food to their mother. In this dark fairytale the pair become weaker and weaker until the limit of their love for one another is tested.

With no food and only a meagre amount of muddy water to drink, Big and Small struggle to find ways of escaping the hole. After a disastrous attempt at launching Small out of the hole, they establish a routine of foraging for bugs to eat and taking turns at shouting for help. As Small begins to suffer from mental delusions, Big knows time is limited and he must come up with a plan to save his brother. All the while, the pair are haunted by a mysterious figure who appears at the top of the hole and the reader begins to wonder whether their entrapment might be deliberate.

The story has the unfailing grimness of a fairytale, with language which is often quite grotesque. With political undertones, the novel becomes a dark allegory for modern capitalist society and the way in which citizens are kept in place by this system. This is arguably an odd concept for a book, but in putting his characters in this bizarre situation, the author explores the limits of the human mind and our enduring capacity for hope.

This piece was commissioned by Book Trust and first published here.

Buy the book: The Boy Who Stole Attila's Horse (Pushkin Collection)

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