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THE HOUSES OF BELGRADE by Borislav Pekic Kirkus Star



Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 1978
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Arising from the last will and testament of 77-year-old ArsÉnie Negovan, Belgrade landlord and invalid: a curmudgeonly comedy as well as a canny reflection on the nature of property, architecture, and possession. Housebound for the last 27 years, ArsÉnie loves his fondly named houses--Agatha, Daphne, Barbara, Irina--with an almost mystically erotic regard: ""I take houses only when they take me; I appropriate them when I am appropriated; I possess them only when I am possessed by them."" Long ago, when a garish house named Nike caught his eye, he had to have it (love is strange) and was trampled by a mob in the street on his way to the auction. Crippled ever since, ArsÉnie has been content to care for his properties by looking out at them through fine binoculars and by reading status reports and rental incomes. Finally, in 1968, he yentures out into the city once more. There are rumors that Simonida, another favorite house, is about to be destroyed. Again old ArsÉnie gets caught in a mob, in the old disrespect for the beautiful and the permanent, for ""sculpture that is hollowed out,"" and there's little he can do. Like George Konrad, Pekic writes a new kind of urban novel, where the city itself is the subject, has a personality, is beguiling and even seductive. Better, Pekic writes with a wry grace that lets all the seriousness and thought fold inside a stubborn yet subtle farce. Accomplished and piquant.