Sunday, November 29, 2015

Yugoslavia, My Fatherland – Goran Vojnović

What would you do if after years of believing one of your parents was dead, 
you then found out that they were alive & that your other parent had lied?

What would you do if you found out that one of your parents was a fugitive war criminal, one of those people you see on the news photographed smiling next to a mass grave?

Would you want to know more?

Would you want to meet the person?

How would you react to this individual, this fugitive, this killer --- your parent?

When Vladan Borojević Google's 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 also finds out 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 strings and juxtaposes images of the Balkans past and present, but mainly deals with the tragic fates of people who managed to avoid the bombs, but were unable to escape the war.

Vladan’s tale starts the day his father is seconded, this is also the day that an eleven year old Vladan deems his idyllic childhood is over. From this moment his father becomes an ever decreasing figure in his life till the day his mother claims news of his death and he disappears from his life for what he thought would be forever.

In 213 pages Yugoslavia, My Fatherland, documents the effect of the war in the Balkans. Through Vladan’s personal family crisis, we follow a nation’s past and its attempts to understand, reconcile and forgive itself collectively and as individuals. This is also a tale of identity as a nation and Vladan try to work out who they are and how that perception fits in to a modern state.

Goran Vojnović (b. 1980) graduated from the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television in Ljubljana, where he specialised in film and television directing and screen-writing. The film Good Luck Nedim (he co-wrote the script with Marko Šantić) won the Heart of Sarajevo Award and was nominated for the European Film Academy’s Best Short Film Award in 2006. He has directed three short films himself and his first feature film Piran/Pirano premiered in 2010. Vojnović is considered one of the most talented authors of his generation. Film magazines and newspapers regularly publish his articles and columns. His bestselling début novel Southern Scum go home! (2008) reaped all the major literary awards in Slovenia, has been reprinted five times and translated into numerous foreign languages. A collection of his columns from a Slovene daily newspaper and weekly magazine have also been published as a book under the title When Jimmy Choo meets Fidel Castro (2010), which was translated into Serbian.

Dr Noah Charney is a professor of art history at American University of Rome and University of Ljubljana. He is also an award-winning writer for numerous publications, including The Guardian, The Atlantic, Salon, The Times and Esquire. He is the best-selling author of many books, including The Art Thief and The Art of Forgery. He lives in Slovenia, where he collaborates with local authors and publishers on books such as this one.


Brian Joseph said...

The Yugoslav civil war was seemed like it happened just yesterday. It was such a brutal conflict.

It is ironic that worthwhile fiction so often comes out of such barbarism.

The plot of the book sounds very interesting and it sounds like it is worth reading.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Brian, this is one of those books that somehow covers the all the conflicting ideologies through the main protagonist & does so without making blame at one door. How do you cope with a life as led during a conflict such as this, come out the other end? Then find out that your father was some barbarous war criminal?