Originally published in 1987 and therefore predating the fragmentation of Yugoslavia and subsequent civil war: a brooding, curiously prescient saga from journalist and novelist Tima (The Use of Man, 1988) of a Holocaust survivor—a dreaded Kapo in Auschwitz, still living in mortal terror of exposure decades after coming home. Lamian, now a slovenly old man, is also a loner with a lifetime of keeping a low profile, thanks to his bestial activities as a guard under the watchful eye of the Nazis. Not overly fond of killing fellow Jews, he nevertheless found a reward in his position above and beyond that of mere survival. With the approval of the camp commandant, he brought a series of female prisoners into a secret corner of the toolshed, there to bait them with morsels of food in exchange for sex until he wearied of them and left them to their fate. Years later, learning by chance that one of his favorites, Helena Lifka, was not a foreigner but a Yugoslavian Jew like himself, his ever-present paranoia reaches a fever pitch, leaving him no rest until he tracks her down. With his physical health deteriorating and his grip on reality diminishing until he can do nothing without being reminded of his unforgivable past, Lamian finds her; after a night with a prostitute in which he does nothing but observe her sleeping, he decides to reveal himself to Helena, only to learn that he has mistaken her cousin for her, and that she died several months before. A probing, exceptional study of a man as both victim and tormentor, and more—Lamian's coldblooded yet fevered attitude reflects many of the same barbaric impulses now tearing Tima's country apart.
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