Yugoslavia, My Fatherland
Author: Goran Vojnović. Translated by Noah Charney
When Vladan Borojević googles the name of his father Nedelko, a former officer in the Yugoslav People’s Army supposedly killed in the civil war after the decay of Yugoslavia, he unexpectedly discovers a dark family secret. The story which then unfolds takes him back to the catastrophic events of 1991, when he first heard the military term 'deployment', and his idyllic childhood came to a sudden end.
Seventeen years later, Vladan’s discovery that he is the son of a fugitive war criminal sends him off on a journey round the Balkans to find his elusive father. On the way, he begins to understand how the falling apart of his family is closely linked with the disintegration of the world they used to live in. The story of the Borojević family deals intimately with the tragic fates of the people who managed to avoid the bombs, but were unable to escape the war.
‘Vojnovič is influenced by American movies, and Yugoslavia, My Fatherland uses cinema’s generic conventions to address the theme of war crimes head-on . . . A gripping narrative that requires no allegorical decipherment, its author employs a noir style to capture the seaminess and stupor of Yugoslavia and traces these early symptoms to the country’s disintegration. In this milieu, national or ethnic identity is a giant Rubik’s cube made of razors.’
Mark Thompson, Times Literary Supplement
At last comes a work which will become required reading both within and beyond the Balkans. It is profound and important and, quietly published in translation from a small publisher, it is far more convincing then many more imagined and over-hyped works which simply lack the essential truths which only an insider can bring to a narrative.
A brilliant, sharp and human story of common people and their tragical destiny after the Balkan wars in the nineties of the past century. The story is told in rich, fluent language and in conversational tone. It is an extremely well thought-out novel because the author knows the material, the ethnic and linguistic nuances and uses a lively sense of humour. It was awarded the Kresnik Prize for Novel of the Year in 2013.
Librarians’ Comments, International Dublin Literary Award 2017
This is one of the most impassioned novels I have read in a long time. The author, Goran Vojnović, is a Slovenian poet, screen writer, and film director. He draws on this background to roll out a complex story that deftly weaves back and forth in time, negotiating the highly charged ethnic and geographic divisions that have long defined and divided the Balkan region.
J.M. Schrieber RoughGhosts Blog
The bleakness of this story is redeemed by the searing honesty, un-sentimentality and insight of the storyteller. There’s also a wonderfully wild wordiness and exuberance to his language.
Rosie Goldsmith, BBC journalist
A wonderfully insightful look at that period of history in a subtle, yet tormenting work, a book that takes the struggle of identity and truth and aligns a nation to a family history...
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