In the Hold

Vladimir Arsenijevic, Author, Celia Hawkesworth, Translator
Vladimir Arsenijevic, Author, Celia Hawkesworth, Translator Alfred A. Knopf $20 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-44657-6
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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Generation X meets the war in Yugoslavia in this slim debut novel that fails to illuminate either subject. Set in Belgrade in 1991, the story concerns the unnamed young narrator, his wife, Angela, a former drug dealer and heroin addict who is now in late pregnancy, and their increasingly endangered circle of family and friends. Angela's brother Lazar, a self-punishing disciple of Zen, accepts his call-up papers and is quickly killed in action, while the narrator's friend Dejan, a drummer with an avant-garde rock band, returns from the fighting missing an arm. What Arsenijevic is attempting is not so much a war novel as a tale of the bleakness and cynicism of people who have shut down emotionally in the face of chaos. But the narrator's alienation and detached irony offer little in the way of insight, and make it very hard for a reader to care about the often tragic events he unfolds. One can feel the emotional devastation of a country at war with itself hovering on the periphery of this novel, which makes it all the more frustrating that Arsenijevic has chosen to focus his attention on the cliched lives of self-conscious hipsters. (Sept.)
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