In/Half by Jasmin B. Frelih

Twenty-five years into the future, the earth has been ripped apart by a glitch in the global communications system. What remains is a world at once completely outside human possibility and alarmingly close to the pressing fears of our decade. In jolted prose that leaps across continents and voices, Jasmin B. Frelih follows three disillusioned millennials, ex-best friends who have slowly lost touch.

Evan, a theatre director based in Edo, falls into drug addiction and follows the hallucinatory back streets of Tokyo for a fix of the elusive mAk, all the while evading robot ‘minders’ and a trail of heartbroken women. Kras, an ex-Slovenian war minister, attempts to celebrate his upcoming fiftieth birthday with his extensive family, but they are rapidly descending into madness, hysteria and infighting. Zoja, an anarchist poet, stands bare-chested in front of an expectant audience in Brooklyn. Her adoring crowd is desperate for a sense of community in an increasingly dangerous, hostile city. As the novel culminates, the three friends find themselves thrown together one last time, on the edge of the world, estranged and yet haunted by the joys of their former lives.

Reading Frelih’s work is like decoding a puzzle. Sentences drop off midway through, paragraphs subvert the reader’s expectations, frequently drifting into lengthy philosophical, dream-like prose that begs to be read and re-read a second, third or fourth time. In a place of hellish, dystopian nightmare, Evan, Kras and Zoja still take the time to discuss their failures, their fears, and the lost loves they have tried to recreate. In a disorienting, pulsating debut that has now been translated from Slovenian into six languages and counting, Frelih expertly depicts a world weighted by pornography, addiction and danger; a place of near complete loneliness where no one and nothing belongs.

Caitlin Cassidy is from Readings Carlton.