cover image Radio Siga

Radio Siga

Ivan Vidak, trans. from the Croatian by Matt Robinson. Sandorf Passage, $19.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-9533513706

Vidak debuts with the comical story of an alcoholic loafer facing the challenges of WWII in Siga, a town on a branch of the Danube that was and remains disputed territory between Croatia and Serbia. Kalman Gubica is born illegitimate in 1920, and bounces from home to home throughout his childhood after his Hungarian father flees for America, his mother disappears, and his grandparents die. In 1940, he is struck by lightning while returning home from a brothel, causing him to hear a voice in his head speaking Hungarian, which he takes to be his father’s. Initially, he drinks excessively to escape the “Voice.” Then he starts having conversations with the Voice, and though he’s dismissed as the “village idiot,” he has premonitions about the war that prove true. After Hungarian troops occupy Siga, Kalman plays both sides, stealing guns for the communist resistance and dealing in dry goods with the fascists’ puppet government, though he ultimately fights for the Yugoslav Partisans. After the war, he briefly finds happiness and sobriety, but struggles to conquer his demons. Though long descriptions of military maneuvers weigh down the story, Vidak makes hay of Kalman’s farcical antics, which evoke Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek’s The Good Soldier Švejk. Overall, this is an enjoyable romp. (May)