Apricots from Chernobyl

Josip Novakovich, Author
Josip Novakovich, Author Graywolf Press $12.95 (204p) ISBN 978-1-55597-212-7
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The bloody rupture of Yugoslavia has stained this past half-decade with ethnic hate, and the blood still flows. The Western conscience seems to have numbed and newspapers are increasingly stingy with the copy they expend on the region. Novakovich resurrects the experience, describing, with almost clinical accuracy, the dormant chauvinism in the Croatia of his childhood and the wrenching details of the malignancy's spread. We are indebted to these accounts for revealing the stark facts of life there, the unnamed tragedies too mundane for media attention. The seeming triumph of cruelty over humanity reawakens compassion, but why are there only four such stories, a miserly fourth of this collection of 16 previously published essays? The remaining 12 are indulgently detailed remembrances--of passports and border crossings, dreams of rock-stardom, hippie crash pads in Switzerland and cliches of American life: a mugging in New York, life on the Great Western Plains and the escapades of a farm cat. Each event may well be meaningful to the author, but a larger sense is missing--perhaps what astonishes an immigrant is too obvious for a native. Author tour. (May)
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