ANA IMAGINED by Perrin Ireland


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A novel-within-a-novel whose author chooses a Sarajevo woman glimpsed on a TV newsreel as a way of exorcising her

own long-suppressed demons.

“Why Bosnia?” Anne Raynard’s friends all ask about the setting of her new novel. After all, she’s never even visited the

place, and her harrowing account of Bosnia’s descent from civilization to savagery has to compete with dozens of equally

harrowing novels and factual accounts. These well-meaning friends and critics, some of whom voice uncomfortably apt

reservations, don’t know that Anne is using Ana Gusic, her alter ego, to project her own grief and rage—about her husband’s hellish memories of Vietnam, her father’s Alzheimer’s, her own brush with murderous violence a generation ago, and her need,

despite her bookish Cambridge lifestyle, to give voice to her enduring feelings of guilt, revulsion, and terror. In drawing such

insistent parallels between an American writer sheltered by wealth and safety and a Sarajevo Muslim poet watching her country

torn asunder, first-novelist Ireland risks charges of presumption, inflation, and self-absorption; after all, what in Anne’s life can

possibly equip her to enter into Ana’s nightmare? But Ireland proves remarkably agile and sensitive in disarming these criticisms

by focusing for so long on the telltale social amenities slipping away one by one—the lack of pressed clothing, the loss of trees

to fuel for freezing neighbors, the paintings of sun and moon that replace the glass in Ana’s shuttered windows, the fruitless

search for insulin for her diabetic son, the bickering over the water supplies of the latest casualties—that by the time she gets

to the newsreel horrors, they seem chillingly logical next steps in the degradation of Ana and her homeland.

Even Ireland’s division of her unsettling evocation into a brief “beginning” and a long “middle” acknowledges that stories

like Ana’s, and Anne’s, can have no end.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-55597-300-0
Page count: 210pp
Publisher: Graywolf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2000