Gothic is one of the most iconic all time genres of literature. Once in the realm of the genre almost any arguement could be made to name one master or another as supreme mastero or mistress. Probably the most iconic characters to come from the greats are Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula, immortalizing Mary Shelly and Bram Stroker through to current day. Other greats include the Bronte sisters, E.A. Poe, O. Wilde and R. L. Stevenson. One might wonder how such works could have been produced so masterfully as to remain as popular today as they were during their contemporary era. That was easy, their cultures were still very much connected to the stories and lore of their past. These greats also lived in times of great change in the world around them. The world was getting larger and industrialization, just like colonization were bringing out the best and worst in society and mankind. All of this gave them much to ponder and question and investigate within the pages of their novels or the lines of their prose.
Additionally, to have some excellent authors from across Europe and North America, there were and still are some places that are steeped in all the makings of gothic tales galore. Can some of those ideas and concepts find homes in the tech-savvy modern world of today? That is the idea that Mirko Marković explores in his collection of stories Poppy Seeds On A Grave. Pulling from the rich legend and lore of the Balkans, Marković weaves tales that do not have happy endings and delve into our peripheral shadows further than most would desire. In spite of our natural reluctance we follow owing to our curious nature being stronger than our caution at times. Or at least that has been the way of our nature for eons.
Poppy Seeds On A Grave is a collection of a dozen short stories set in the here and now that might tug at some long dormant fear in the readers collective memory of generations past. The collection gives the reader variety of stories so there should be at least one that grabs the attention of the reader. I will suggest that if you are like me and the first story begins to feel like getting a root canal….bare with it, or just skip it and move on. It is not, in my opinion, the best act in the book and certainly not a great opening act. Additionally, while this piece has gothic elements it is more post apocaylpse weird than gothic modern. Some may not like the fact that there are no happy endings, but life is not always about happy endings and sometimes the ending is more about how you see the world around you than what the world around you actually is, not sure what I mean, remember this when you read “In The Darkness.”
Confessing that I am an outsider Balkan girl, I would have liked to have seen more overtly Balkan lore themes in the stories, while I could see some of them in a few of the stories, owing to the title, I was expecting more undead and monsters of the dark forests to appear in the pages. Maybe that is some future work we will see.