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Category Archive for 'Slovenia'

Opening with a brief preface, purportedly written in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and in Barcelona between 1973 and 1974, the novel’s author describes himself as a “copyist,” asserting that he is trying to make sense of daily notes found in a soldier’s old green canvas rucksack containing “dog-eared exercise books, leaflets, bits of cardboard, scraps of paper covered with an untidy scrawl.” Jakob Bergant-Berk, the soldier who penned these notes during Slovenia’s World War II battles against the Germans and Italians has also included “several selected sayings, quotations, maxims, [which he] entered in the notes, sometimes for no apparent reason, and sometimes as a integral part of them.” The novel itself evolves from this introduction, and battle scenes from 1943 alternate with scenes which take place in Barcelona in 1973, sometimes shifting time and place without transitions. It becomes clear that the soldier and the man in Barcelona are the same person, and it is in Barcelona, on vacation many years later, that this man, Berk, meets a former German soldier, Joseph Bitter. In a series of local bars and tourist destinations, they discuss the war, its objectives, and its Machiavellian strategies, a technique which allows the author to expand on some of the many themes to which Berk, the soldier, has referred, however briefly, in his notes. Images of war as a dance of death – a macabre minuet – accompanied by the “twenty-five shot guitar,” mentioned in the opening quotation, are matched with the ironic rat-a-tat-tat of Barcelona flamenco dancers, accompanied by the throbbing of Spanish guitars in the background as the two men talk.

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