Late in the night, a small company of soldiers is dropped off without communications at an isolated checkpoint deep in the forest. Their objective is unclear, as is their enemy. So begins Albahari’s surreal novel, a dark and comically absurd take on modern conflict. The largely nameless cast of soldiers swirls around two key figures: the commander, a high-minded, pensive, and ultimately ineffectual man, and his most-trusted soldier, Mladen, who quickly adapts to the chaos of their unknown frontier. Soon, soldiers are found dead, dispatched in mysterious, gruesome ways, with all clues leading back to the impenetrable wood. As their situation grows dire, the checkpoint is called into action by the appearance of a group of refugees who speak an unrecognizable language. As losses and confusion mount, one thing becomes clear: they must escape the checkpoint or die. Albahari (Every Night in Another Town) unfolds events like a fever dream, seamlessly weaving brutality and comedy. His vision of war is a grim fairy tale without a moral lesson, and a warning for an age of reconstituted borders. (Sept.)
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