David Alba­hari; Ellen Elias-Bur­sac, trans.
  • Review
By – August 31, 2011
One slap is all it takes for a Ser­bian news­pa­per colum­nist prone to the cere­bral to descend into mad­ness. The novel’s unnamed nar­ra­tor stum­bles into a con­spir­a­cy after spot­ting a man hit a woman on the shore of the Danube. Intrigued, he fol­lows her, unwit­ting­ly set­ting off down a trail of shad­owy anti-Semit­ic attacks and ignit­ing a fran­tic search for signs around Bel­grade to decode the mys­te­ri­ous, repeat­ing pat­terns he sud­den­ly can’t escape. When a stranger slips him an inde­ci­pher­able man­u­script about Kab­bal­ah and the his­to­ry of the Jews of Zemun and Bel­grade, he calls upon a math­e­mati­cian and a group of Jew­ish artists and intel­lec­tu­als to make sense of it.

His search for mean­ing unmasks the ram­pant anti-Semi­tism per­vad­ing past and present Bel­grade, and he uses his news­pa­per col­umn to denounce it. The nar­ra­tor, who is not Jew­ish, becomes a marked tar­get for anti-Semi­tes as he con­tin­ues his jour­ney into Belgrade’s secret soci­eties and con­spir­a­cy theorists. 

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the stream of con­scious­ness nar­ra­tive is writ­ten as one 300-plus-page para­graph with­out line breaks or chap­ters, mak­ing the book dif­fi­cult for the eye to fol­low.

Read David Alba­har­i’s Posts on the Vis­it­ing Scribe

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