A playful but heartfelt debut reflects multiple aspects of the Bosnian War via the perspectives of one Muslim teenager who escapes military service and another who does not.
Not just shards, fragments and brief episodes but a character who may be an alter ego or even non-existent enhance the multi-faceted nature of Bosnia-Herzegovinian-born Prcic’s brightly detailed, sometimes hallucinatory story of the shattering impact of age-old enmity and conflict on a civilian population. His central character, also named Ismet Prcic, is observed in two timelines, growing up in Tuzla and as a refugee in the U.S. Diary accounts and notebook passages are interspersed with the story of another character, Mustafa. Although young Ismet finds himself living in a war zone in Bosnia, his life has its conventional dimensions too, like girlfriends and an interest in theatre which gives him his chance to escape the besieged city, to perform at the Edinburgh festival. Mustafa’s experience is more shape-shifting. Did he die in the shelling, or witness scenes of appalling brutality while serving in the military, or is he a character in the memoir Ismet is writing to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder? Depressed, deserted, increasingly unhinged in California, Ismet sinks into despair, his story concluding with the sound of terror and Mustafa’s haunting presence.
Too long, but evidence of a spirited, soulful talent.