NTENEGRO by Milovan ilas


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, violent and often deeply affecting work by a celebrated political prisoner, at present serving a term in Yugoslavia for being a too active critic of the state with the publication of his Conversations with Stalin. In three parts, the first, the battle, tells of the last battle fought by the Montenegrans as the Austrian-Hungarians marched into Serbia in 1916. The men of Montenegro -- that unique society- bound by a name, pride and tribal loyalties perish, because as one leader 'says, ""when Monte-negro perishes, I perish with it... I cannot do without my soul"". In the second part, three persons await execution -- a young student of philosophy, an Army Captain and an old peasant. After the fear and anguish, the temptation offered by the captor, the self-judgments, the three reach their separate and united understandings of their deaths. In the final part, new and old leaders struggle for control and in the inevitable upheaval destroy themselves. Although the translation offers masses of stilted prose in which blood is often rendered bloodless, the classic ""execution"" section is memorable; here the principles of historical determinism shaping personal sacrifice is in striking contrast to the more personal, mystic understanding of sacrifice in the West. This alone is worth contemplation. At times characters are dwarfed in the looming shadow of the Idea but as a testament of belief, this will be of real interest to all students of Communist and neo-Communist mores.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1963
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World