Istrosbooks, p/b, Â£8.99 www.istrosbooks.com
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
Bosnia, in the immediate aftermath of the war.Â Our unnamed protagonist spends nine months of depression in bed following the end of his marriage, before finally emerging to investigate a friendâ€™s disappearance.Â He is helped by the friendâ€™s daughter, the missing manâ€™s strange diary, and a variety of weird characters.
There are spirits, demons, apparently supernatural gangsters, and cracks in the walls that let reality leak out.Â The structure of the book is complex, with stories within stories, and because of the dreamlike prose style itâ€™s easy to lose track of which level of unreality youâ€™re on.Â This could be deliberate, or it may be a side-effect of a slightly clumsy translation.
Although itâ€™s hardly mentioned except as background, this book is all about war and its consequences.Â The narratorâ€™s uncertainty and imbalance is resonant in a newly formed country just recovering from civil war.Â All the rules have changes; you can no longer tell your friends from your enemies and all your moral certainties have drifted away.Â Everything that your life was built on is gone.Â In this context the supernatural elements fit – they make as much sense as anything else.
Surreal and compelling â€“ a fascinating and disturbing insight into how lost a man can become when his life vanishes from under his feet.