David Albahari's Snow Man

by Shaun Hunter

Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

YYC (Photo: Blair Carbert)

YYC (Photo: Blair Carbert)

A writer arrives at the Calgary airport after a turbulent overseas flight. He has left his home in war-torn Yugoslavia to serve as writer-in-residence at the university. From the passport control area, he spots the driver holding a sign with his name. He joins the throng of passengers leaving the transit area, and walks down “the narrow, partitioned passageway like a funnel emptying into the world.”


In the beginning, as we left the airport, I tried to follow our route, memorize the sequence of turns, as if I were entering a labyrinth from which I would later have to work to extricate myself, but soon I gave that up. The city was too big, night was descending incredibly swiftly, the street names flitted by too fast, there were no city squares, and to my side the city center swept by, as if on a movie screen, dozens of skyscrapers packed with light like glowing stars. Several times my head slumped to my chest, my eyelids lowered from exhaustion, my jaw went limp and dropped into emptiness, but each time I managed to recover, with a jolt, and with the hope that the driver hadn’t noticed anything. Only later, when I was alone in the house, did my exhaustion catch up with me, and I felt as if I were falling apart, and I thought, “I will grow old here.”


David Albahari, Snow Man (Douglas & McIntyre, 2005)