David Albahari: Pijavice (Leeches)

The latest addition to my website is David Albahari‘s Pijavice (Leeches). The novel is set in Belgrade, where Albahari used to live before emigrating to Canada.The novel is decidedly chaotic. It starts off with our unnamed narrator, a translator, who also writes a weekly column for a local magazine, sometimes on contentious issues. He sees a man slapping a woman by the river bank but does not intervene, not least because he sees another man watching the event. He will continue to see this man, who, he thinks, is following him. He follows the woman but loses track of her. From there on, the novel becomes increasingly chaotic, as he follows mysterious signs round Belgrade, receives a strange manuscript, is contacted by unusual people and gets involved with both a mathematician and Jewish Kabbalists in an attempt to find out what is going on. The more he investigates, the more complex things appear and his life becomes. One area where it is clear, however, is the rampant anti-Semitism in Belgrade, in which he gets caught up, particularly when he writes an article on the topic. He is attacked and threatened. There is no real mathematical or religious solution to the complexity or the viciousness and, like Albahari himself, we learn that he is writing this account from the haven of exile, presumably Canada, where he says, all Serbians go. It is a wonderful novel in the East European tradition of Kafka and the like.

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