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Daša Drndić, trans. from the Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth. New Directions, $18.95 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2848-0

The 20th century is revealed as a parade of horrors in this harrowing novel from Drndić (1946–2018), one of Croatia’s most acclaimed contemporary authors. Writer and psychologist Andreas Ban has reached the end of his life. He drifts into reminiscence, cataloging his work as a novelist, his aborted emigration to Canada, and the case histories of his psychiatric patients. Drndić’s defiance of narrative continuity allows the novel to flow freely from these personal remembrances to historical catastrophe: Ban lists the many chess players who died by suicide, details the complicity of Latvians and Croatians in the Holocaust, and revisits the Siege of Sarajevo. Drndić finds no redemption in this “human dross.” Her aim is instead to explicate “the century of cleansing, the century of erasure,” and so, even when Ban arrives at a “refuge for writers” on a Tuscan estate, he finds not relief but rather that he is a “prisoner of glaring, voracious beauty.” More than the specifics of Ban’s life or psyche, Drndić’s subject is the squandered lives she catalogues. At one point, Ban visits a cemetery for victims of the genocide of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica, moaning, “From now on I must drag all this after me.” This is an intense, sometimes riveting novel. (Apr.)