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S. by Slavenka Drakulic

S.

A Novel About the Balkans

By Slavenka Drakulic (Author) , Marko Ivic (Translator)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-670-89097-9
Publisher: Viking

Justly acclaimed as a journalist and an essayist, Drakuli—chose the novel for her latest tale of the terrors of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. While the author’s reputation in the US is largely based on her reporting (Cafe Europa, 1997, etc.), work typically marked by a certain dry, black humor, her fourth novel (after Holograms of Fear, 1992, etc.) is somber, relentlessly bleak, until its disappointingly predictable life-affirming close, which is regrettably rather flat. S., the title character, is a young schoolteacher living and working in a small Bosnian village when the Serbs overrun it in late May 1992. She and all of the town’s women are taken prisoner and removed to a concentration camp, where she’s raped repeatedly by Serb soldiers. When the survivors of this nightmarish experience are exchanged for Serb prisoners, S. finds herself pregnant, goes to Sweden, and gives birth to a boy whose father could be any of the many men who brutalized her. The story opens in the hours after the infant’s delivery, as S. fights against her nurturing instincts toward the child, whom she plans to put up for adoption. This grim account will be familiar to anyone who’s been reading the newspapers in the past decade or who’s dipped into the copious literature of the Holocaust. Sadly, Drakuli— is unable to give voice to S.’s plight in a fashion that doesn't continually remind you of other, better works of this sort. S.’s narrative, in first- as well as third-person, never rises above the clichÇs of the genre, and Drakuli— is ill-served by a translation that is both banal and clumsy. It’s always depressing when a serious book by a gifted author on an important topic is a failure. This one is more painful than most.