cover image Migrations


Milos Tsernianski, Milos Crnjanski. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $22.95 (274pp) ISBN 978-0-15-159556-3

Set in the mid-18th century when Serbia was buffeted by the greed of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, this epic novel affectingly portrays two brothers striving for a sense of personal identity amid the ravages of war. Serbian author Tsernianski contrasts the careers of Vuk Isakovic, a romantic and bloodthirsty officer in the pay of the Austro-Hungarian forces, and his cynical, opportunistic sibling Arandjel, a merchant who profits from these chaotic conditions. Obsessed by the amorous relationship between Vuk and his wife Dafina, Arandjel seduces his mysterious sister-in-law while Vuk is away on a military campaign. Dafina dies after attempting to terminate the resulting pregnancy. Arandjel's remorse and his love for Dafina are set against Vuk's growing disillusionment with the pursuit of war. Tsernianski expertly describes the brutality and banality of these military campaigns, in which Slavic soldiers were promptly executed for violating their army's code of honor. Although the novel never fully integrates the drama of the two brothers, the passionate, often magical prose compensates for a somewhat unresolved storyline. Tsernianski lived in exile in London during the Communist regime in Yugoslavia; he died in 1977. (May)