The latest addition to my website is Miljenko Jergović‘s Dvori od oraha (Walnut Mansion). This novel follows the story of the entire life of Regina Delavale, who lives ninety-seven years, from 1905 to 2002. However, Jergović has opted to tell it back-to-front, i.e. starting with her death and ending the novel with her birth. She is the only girl of the family, with five younger brothers and lives through the troubled times of her region, the former Yugoslavia. Though she is the eldest, she outlives her brothers, all of whom, as does she, have unpleasant deaths, with three killed in wars, one in the Spanish flu epidemic and one dying in an asylum, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, because of the war. Jergović gives us a host of colourful stories about Regina, her relatives and some key people she comes into contact with, all of whom are witnesses to and often victims of the troubled times in the region. This is certainly an interesting way of giving a history of a traumatic century for Yugoslavia and its previous and successor states.
The latest addition to my website is Miljenko Jergović‘s Buick Riviera [Buick Riviera]. Hassan is a mild-mannered low key Bosnian Muslim who fled Bosnia as the war was starting and is now in Toledo, Oregon, married to Angela, a German actress. He is devoted to his Buick Rivera, which Angela cannot stand. She works in Salem and normally gets a lift but he offers to pick her up. It is snowing and he skids into a ditch. He is rescued by Vouko, a fellow Bosnian but a Serb who, as we learn but Hassan does not, is a war criminal. Vouko is also loud-mouthed, aggressive and is currently leaving his American wife, after having killed her puppy for defecating in his slipper. When Vouko turns up in Toledo, having found Hassan’s lost wallet, the two men clash and both men make separate, major, irrational, life-changing decisions. Culture clash, how we carry our culture with us wherever we go and, ultimately, how people can make rash decisions that have huge repercussions on their lives are the theme of this interesting but occasionally disturbing book.
The latest addition to my website is Ivo Andrić‘s Omerpaša Latas (Omer Pasha Latas: Marshal to the Sultan). This is one of Andrić’s later novels, set in Bosnia like most of his novels, only just published in English for the first time. It tells of the repression of rebellion in Bosnia in the Ottoman Empire, by Omer Pasha Latas who was born in Austria of Serb parents and fled to the Ottoman Empire to escape the disgrace of his father’s behaviour and then rose through the ranks. Andrić is Bosnian so his view of Omer Pasha and is actions is highly critical. Omer Pasha is cruel, deceitful, a sexual monster and ruthless. We follow Omer Pasha’s story but also detailed stories of several people who come into contact with him, including his wife, his staff and the man who painted his portrait. Many of these are of European origin like the Pasha himself. Andrić tells his story well and we get a detailed insight into both the Pasha’s psychology and life in occupied Bosnia at that time.
The latest addition to my website is Muharem Bazdulj‘s Tranzit, kometa, pomračenje (Transit, Comet, Eclipse). This consists of three related novellas essentially about the situation in East Europe. The first is set in the eighteenth journey and tells of the journey of the scientist Ruđer Bošković to Saint Petersburg (he does not make it but gets a long way, before falling down a well in Poland). Twice he tries to see the Transit of Venus, once before and once after his journey but fails both times. Bazdulj uses his journey to comment on various aspects of Eastern Europe, including the relationship with the Ottoman Empire, which controlled much of the region, Christianity and how the region is seen from East Europe and vice versa. The other two are set in modern times, one about an innocent Moldovan woman whose innocence and lack of opportunities in Moldova is taken advantage of and the third telling how The Writer came to write this book. It is certainly an interesting approach but it is the first story that works best for me.