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Category Archive for 'Croatia'

In what is the most excitingly creative and unusual group of stories I have read in many years, Bosnian author Asja Bakic not only captured my attention totally, but kept it through several readings of her ten stories – so much so that I could sit down and reread the entire collection right now and still find new ideas and new sparkle to enliven my day and my reading life. Translator Jennifer Zoble obviously plays a strong role, too, in making these stories feel bright, lively, often humorous, always ironic, and bursting with life, however different Bakic’s characters may be from anything a reader has encountered before. Translator Zoble’s contribution is so smooth and feels so comfortable that it is as if she is channeling the author in a direct line to the reader. It is no surprise to discover that Zoble, the translator, is also an author, and Bakic, the author, is also a translator. Together they provide a perfect match for these unique stories. High on my Favorites list, this is the most intriguing collection of short stories I’ve read in a long time.

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Croatian author Josip Novakovich crafts a novel here which bursts the bounds of genre. Both naturalistic in its depiction of the Yugoslavian war and its atrocities, and fantastic and darkly absurd in its depiction of the life of main character Ivan Dolinar, the novel seesaws between the horrific and the hilarious. Surprising in his ability to wrest unique images from universal experiences, Novakovich writes with such clarity and directness that the reader immediately identifies with Ivan in his predicaments and empathizes with him as uncontrollable forces buffet him throughout his life. The novel follows him from childhood to his fifties, and the conclusion is a blockbuster, sixty pages of the most absurd, farcical, and hilariously ironic writing in recent memory, a section which comes close to slapstick at the same time that it is indescribably bleak.

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