Kin

Miljenko Jergović, trans. from the Croatian by Russell Scott Valentino. Archipelago, $25 trade paper (928p) ISBN 978-1-9398-1052-6
Bosnian writer Jergović (Mama Leone) pulls off an intricate and innovative narrative encompassing biography, history, travelogue, and fiction. In it, Bosnian author Miljenko Jergović has lived as a “foreigner” in Zagreb since 1993, where, as narrator, he channels stories of Sarajevo and the ways in which the city has embodied the 20th century’s major flash points—religious intolerance, virulent nationalism, and world wars. Leitmotifs and locales introduced early recirculate throughout: Miljenko’s great-grandfather’s exile from Dubrovnik in 1920, an ancestral house on Kasindol Street in Ilidža, a Temple where his family members and fellow expatriates have worshiped since the 1930s, the apartment on Sepetarevac where Miljenko grew up and lived until the war began in 1992, his grandfather’s apiary in a village near Dražnica, work on the railroads that sustained his forefathers, and his uncle Mladen’s death while fighting in the German army in WWII. Jergović devotes the first section to quotidian ancestral history, but even here the scope widens with soaring chapters on the geopolitical changes after WWII, such as the proliferation of German guest workers in Sarajevo from the East and West, who would be abroad until “their countries lifted themselves up, renewed.” Miljenko’s mother’s battle with cancer, detailed in a long metafictional section titled “Mama Ionesco,” becomes the book’s magnetic center, and dozens of shimmering vignettes build to the hallucinatory novella-length capstone “Sarajevo Dogs,” in which Jergović returns in 2012 to visit his sick mother and reflect on the “city that had spit [him] out.” Jergović’s exhausting and astonishing project offers endless rewards. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/22/2021
Release date: 05/26/2020
Genre: Fiction
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