Idioma original: Serbocroat

Original title: The Bronze Age
Year of publication: 2015
Translation: Luisa Fernanda Garrido and Tihomir Pistelek
Valuation: Highly recommended

The evil tongues of this blog, of which there are some, baselessly accuse me of a certain fondness for strange “Yugoslavian” writers. Well, you’re going to shit yourself!

Because this time I bring you the novel by a Croatian author belonging to the minority of German origin who moved to Slavonia (what today would be the eastern part of Croatia) at the end of the 18th century and who speaks, at least in its central part, of the experience of one of the members of that minority during the Second World War.

It is a novel of almost six hundred pages with which the author covers more than two hundred years of European history, although the bulk of the action takes place between 1942-1948 (approximately). and its main protagonist is Georg/Djuka/Jurej/Yuri Kempf, a young Croatian of German origin who will be forcibly enlisted in the Wafen-SS.

Voluntary or involuntary, German who is not 100% German, Croatian who is not 100% Croatian… all this strangeness will follow him throughout his life and will make him an individual subject to the hazards of destiny and of History in turbulent times. Because History does not know the category of justice and does not suffer from mercy. Hence one of the main reflections that the novel leads us to: what proportion of faithful, converts or mere survivors constitute movements such as fascism, nationalism or communism?

Kempf was a disappointment in everything. In the opinion of the local Swabians, he was a bad German; In the opinion of the Croatian “Frankists”, he was a bad Croat. In the opinion of the communists, it was nothing.

Beyond the above, the novel has undeniable biblical reminiscences. The arrival of the first Kempf to Slavonia, resembling the flight of the Israelites from Egypt, ideologies that function as new creeds and, above all, guilt, that mark of Cain that pursues Kempf during his youth and maturity, are the clearest examples of these echoes. fundamental to understanding the novel.

This does not mean that it is a 100% classic narrative. Snajder introduces “modern” elements in the narrative (a kind of Greek tragedy chorus, fragments that border on magical realism, more lyrical passages, fables, etc.) that separate him from authors who have treated similar themes in a more “harsh” way. like the great Aleksandr Tisma.

Perhaps the only thing that can be attributed to the novel is a certain disproportion between the “World War II part” and the “Tito’s Yugoslavia part.” Obviously, the first are the formative years and the experiences lived in them constitute the crux of the novel, but surely pro-Yugoslav geeks like yours truly (people, that Jugoplastika in Split did a lot of damage) will be left wanting more.

Be that as it may, The Bronze Years is a magnificent novel, with good stories and good characters. Don’t let her pass!


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