A dark hot nightmare of a war novel by a Yugoslavian writer now living in exile. In the noisy Montenegrin town blearily occupied by the Italian Army in World War II, the saloon keeper Malic was the necessary jester. ""A small skinny man, with narrow shoulders and a good face,"" Malic sells drink at half price and has plastered his walls with obscene and extremely popular pictures. Irritable, trapped, frustrated, Italian officers and men simmer malignantly under the sun. As in so many European peasant tales, the shabby hero aspires to the heights, and Malic undertakes the Communist cause to drive out the Italians. Under the awesome protection of an Italian general who intends to nullify Malic by ridicule, Malic collects explosives, passes out leaflets and blows up a bridge. But in the carnage of a war where a corpse's grin is the medal of a hero, Malic is tricked and ignored by the Communists. Only the poet of war and pornography, Peduto, as he dies, understands the ultimate threat of the hero Malic who gave his life and death to his cause. The terror and unrelieved horror of war--didactic, jagged with splinters of character and incident, but moodily effective.