For young Aleksandar Krsmanoviæ, his grandfather Slavko’s credo-- the most valuable gift of all is invention, imagination is your greatest wealth”--endows life in Višegrad, Bosnia-Herzegovina with a mythic quality, a kaleidoscopic brilliance. So when his grandfather dies suddenly, Aleks summons this gift of storytelling to see him through his grief. It is a gift he will have to call on again when soldiers transform Višegrad--a town previously unconscious of racial and religious divides--into a nightmarish landscape of terror and violence. Though Aleks and his family flee to Germany, he is haunted by his past, and especially by Asija, the mysterious girl he tried to save. Desperate to learn of her fate, he sends manic, anguished letters out into the abyss, again turning to language to conjure all that he’s had to forfeit--his homeland, his mother tongue, his innocence. Beneath the infectious vibrancy of Stanišiæ’s voice is a sweetness and pathos that will haunt the reader long after the book ends. Powerful, vivid, funny, and devastating, How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone captures the catastrophe of war through a child’s eyes and shows how words have the ability to mend what is broken and resurrect what is lost.
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Sasa Stanisić was born in Visegrad in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1978. At the age of fourteen, he fled to Germany with his family and went on to study literature in Heidelberg and Leipzig. How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone is his first novel.Review:
"A brilliant debut novel from a young Bosnian writer . . . Stanisic's story is loaded on each page with galvanizing details, desperately making an inventory of an imperiled world. He maintains a delirious, jump-cut pace as words flash dark-to-light-to-dark, and sentences coil and snap, conjuring a macabre carnival atmosphere. . . . This crazy-quilt novel, a sensation in Europe, is a bold, questing work of art deeply rooted in the complex history of a blood-soaked, bone-planted land. . . . Stanisic is an exceptionally talented, impish and caring writer who has walked the edge of the abyss. One hopes that he will continue to grapple with the paradoxes intrinsic to the human condition and tell many more empathic, revealing and imaginative stories full of cathartic laughter and feeling." -- Donna Seaman, The Los Angeles Times
"Beyond succeeding as a compelling fictional account of the very real tragedy of a town in Bosnia-Herzegovina, [How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone] is also testament to the power of the imagination--and its limitations. . . . Stanisic's tale will remain exceptional: A gifted storyteller, he's able to translate unspeakably gruesome history into something poignant and hauntingly beautiful." -- Sidra Durst, The Village Voice
"In Sasa Stanisic's bittersweet, musical novel about a boy growing up in Bosnia-Herzogovina before and during the war, many things happen that are impossible to understand, startlingly visual, bordering on the surreal but all too real. . . . This is a funny, heartbreaking, beautifully written novel." -- Mary Brennan, The Seattle Times
"In his tale of childhood and war, Stanisic populates the river Drina with a dying grandfather, ghostly voices, a glasses-wearing catfish, discarded cabinets, and mutilated corpses. [His] story never calms, it rages, rough and broad and joyful. It contains both brutal heartbreak and whimsical delight. In short, it's great art. . . . Stanisic's prose is wildly inventive, never satisfied with too straightforward or familiar a telling . . . [and] so carefully crafted, so full of thrilling associative leaps and spinning breathlessness, that the author achieves poetry. . . . We live, we survive, we heal, the author wants us to see, by telling stories. This is a writer to watch." -- Jesse Nathan, San Francisco Chronicle
"Stanisic's debut novel How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone will convert skeptics with the sheer force of its emotional power. . . . Stanisic's perfectly chosen observations refract and amplify the horrifying, maddening surroundings, heightening both ends of the emotional spectrum, creating a story that, like war itself, is too large and chaotic to ever leave simply." -- Karla Starr, The Oregonian
"Stanisic's talent blazes off page after page. . . . That his tale contains so much natural, laugh-out-loud comedy speaks volumes for the author, whose autobiographical hero, Aleksandar, `somewhere between eight and fourteen,' is a talkative, precocious delight, determinedly optimistic in the face of heartbreaking losses, forever making startling little observations on life that somehow get it all wrong and yet sort of right. . . . Stanisic is so prodigiously full of big, open-hearted wisdom, I shudder to think what he has lived through to produce, at such an early age, such a transcendent little masterwork." -- Nick DiMartino, Shelf-Awareness
"Wildly imaginative storytelling . . . Through the eyes of fourteen-year-old Aleksandar Krsmonovic, we witness a massacre perpetrated by Bosnian Serbs against their Muslim neighbors in the town of Visegrad in 1992. . . . Madcap flights of invention and comic exaggeration clash movingly with the painfully real chronicle of terror, loss, and exile at the story's heart. . . . Far from trivializing the terrible history, the fanciful style makes it all the more acute. . . . How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone bears witness to this horror with tragicomic intensity, reflecting the possibilities and limitations of fiction in the face of atrocity." -- Ross Benjamin, Bookforum
"Even with hindsight, the Clinton-era conflict in the Balkans remains a confusing mess of clashing ethnic, national, and religious identities. A handful of compelling stories about this period have been bubbling to the surface . . . [and] How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone stands out as one of the best. . . . A challenging and haunted work." -- Drew Toal, Time Out New York
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