The Great War
BY Aleksandar Gatalica. Translated from the Serbian by Will Firth
A whirlpool of a book that draws in the reader, moving ambitiously across place, class and profession yet tying all into the dreadful pull of the first global conflict. A war that began in the Balkans now has a fitting literary epitaph from a giant among Balkan writers.
Tim Butcher - bestselling British writer and author of The Trigger
‘The Great War’ is a novel that comprehensively and passionately narrates a number of stories covering the duration of World War One, starting with the year 1914 – the year that truly marked the beginning of the twentieth century. Following the destinies of over seventy characters, on all warring sides, Gatalica depicts the experiences of winners and losers, generals and opera singers, soldiers and spies; managing to grasp the atmosphere of the entire epoch, not only of these crucial four and a half bloody years, but also in the innocent decades that preceded the war, and the poisoned ones that followed.
The stories themselves are various but equally important: here we find joyful as well as tragic destinies, along with examples of exceptional heroism. Yet ‘The Great War’ never becomes a chronicle, nor a typical historical novel; above all it is a work of art that uses historic events as means to tell stirring stories with unbelievable and unthinkable convolutions. It is commendable in its breadth, its vision and its relevance to modern history.
‘...Aleksander Gatalica’s novel arrives from Belgrade in Will Firth’s excellent translation without much contextual baggage for Anglophone readers. But this hardly matters anyway, for ‘The Great War’ (Veliki rat, 2012) cleaves to no national traditions. Gatalica’s panoramic novel rides high above the conflict, dipping down for close-ups of this or that character in Istanbul, Galacia, Belgrade, Flanders, St. Petersburg, London and a score of other locations.’
‘The narrative sweeps along: its sheer self-assurance is endearing... he refreshes an over-familiar history, weaving surrealist fantasies into the documented record.’
‘This may be the most noteworthy comic novel on the First World War since Jaroslav Hašek’s ‘The Good Soldier Švejk’...’
Mark Thompson, Times Literary Supplement, March 13, 2015
'Tim Butcher, author of The Trigger, describes The Great War by Aleksandar Gatalica as a 'whirlpool of a book'. I couldn't agree more – 'whirlpool' so perfectly captures the essence and energy of this startling book. Translated from the Serbian by Will Firth, The Great War is an award-winning novel which plugs a considerable gap in the modern understanding of World War One by providing the Balkan perspective.'
Eleonor Baggley, Centenary News
'This is an immensely important, layered narrative ... A huge bestseller in the Balkans, Will Firth’s translation is no less than heroic... rewarding and insightful, a characteristic piece of bold publishing from the independent Istros press.'
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