“A brilliant debut novel” about a young Bosnian War refugee who finds the secret to survival in language and stories (Los Angeles Times).
For Aleksandar Krsmanović, Grandpa Slavko’s stories endow life in Višegrad with a kaleidoscopic brilliance. Neighbors, friends, and family past and present take on a mythic quality; the River Drina courses through town like the pulse of life itself. So when his grandfather dies suddenly, Aleksandar promises to carry on the tradition. But then soldiers invade Višegrad—a town previously unconscious of racial and religious divides—and it’s no longer important that Aleksandar is the best magician in the nonaligned states; suddenly it is important to have the right last name and to convince the soldiers that Asija, the Muslim girl who turns up in his apartment building, is his sister.
Alive with the magic of childhood, the surreality of war and exile, and the power of language, every page of this glittering novel thrums with the joy of storytelling.
“Wildly inventive.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Poignant and hauntingly beautiful.” —The Village Voice
“A funny, heartbreaking, beautifully written novel.” —The Seattle Times
Stanisic's debut novel is the moving story of a young Bosnian refugee named Aleksandar Krsmanovic. Aleksandar is the apple of his family's eye, but his sheltered childhood ends when ethnic wars brewing in the surrounding republics make their way to his hometown in the spring of 1992. As Serbian troops storm the village, Aleksandar's family hides, but nowhere is safe. The violence forces the family to Germany, where they struggle to adjust to their new lives as refugees. In the depths of their despair, Aleksandar's grandmother makes him promise to \x93remember when everything was all right and the time when nothing's all right.\x94 Aleksandar keeps his word, and the memories pour out of him like a river. The author organizes Aleksandar's recollections as a stream of consciousness, operating on no distinct linear time line and often stopping one story and starting another in the same breath. It is difficult to keep up with this frantic pace, but it pays to be patient because a remarkable life's journey unfolds.