Words Are Something Else ($49.95; paper $15.95; Aug. 1996; 200 pp.; 0-8101-1305-8; paper 0-8101-1306-6): A masterly collection of 27 stories written between the early 1970s and the present by Albahari, a brilliant Serbian writer whose obsessive identifying theme is the transformation and destruction of Jewish culture during WW II. Despite the essential gravity of his concerns, there's something of Czech master Karel apek's whimsical sophistication in Albahari's patient demonstrations of how trauma and loss change a people's very ability to apprehend reality. For example, in the superb ``Plastic Combs,'' the characters' disorientation is expressed as their failure to communicate with inanimate objects. Other stories are, by contrast, conventionally realistic and even openly declamatory (e.g., ``The Great Rebellion at the tuln Nazi Camp''), but all are accomplished and resonant tales: powerful evidence of the emergence of yet another important Eastern European writer--and a pleasurable and rewarding surprise in store for American readers.