A debut short story collection from Bosnian writer Bakic takes an off-kilter look at sexuality, death, and the power of literature.
In “Day Trip to Durmitor,” the first story in Bakic’s mysterious debut, two secretaries of the afterlife greet the dead protagonist. Her task, they explain, is to write a book of stories; if they’re good, the protagonist gets to return to the land of the living—as a zombie on the “hunt for the human brain.” After all, one of the secretaries says, “Literature is…the primary link between life and death.” Indeed, many of Bakic’s stories have writer protagonists who are in deeply strange predicaments. One wants to write an article on a cult living in a cave made of green glowing rock only to discover she has the same supernatural powers as the cult leader (“The Guest”). One is a novelist caught in a web of deception and obsession over the true author of the latest literary smash (“Passions”). Another is, with all other writers, part of a new settlement on Mars after being exiled from Earth when writing was declared “the greatest evil to have befallen humankind” (“Mars”). There is even an Orphan Black–esque narrative in which a writer named Asja has been cloned and must organize with her variants against their creator (“Asja 5.0”). Bakic’s stories are perfectly of the American short-fiction zeitgeist—dark, sometimes indeterminate, sidestepping realism—but as the afterword points out, there are few writers from the Balkans that make use of the speculative or the dystopian in their work, which makes this collection all the more darkly alluring.
The bizarre and often inscrutable worlds here should find fans among lovers of cutting-edge short fiction.