Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Featured: Two From Dalkey Archive

Vitomil Zupan, Minuet For Guitar

 Ranking with the best novels about World War II, Minuet for Guitar is also a masterpiece of Slovenian fiction. Taking cues from the wartime epics of Ford Madox Ford and Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Zupan tells the harrowing story of partisan soldier "Berk" and his surreal experiences as a guerilla during the Axis occupation of Ljubljana. Running parallel to the jumble of Berk's wartime experiences is his no less peculiar encounter with an old enemy during a vacation at a Spanish coastal resort. Together, the two men try to make sense of their wartime memories, leading past and future into a danse macabre undermining the certainties of each. A document of the horrors and tiny comedies of war, and an exploration of the nature of beauty and morality when subjected to the absurdity of history, Minuet for Guitar is an overwhelming literary achievement.

 Drago Jančar, The Galley Slave

The Galley Slave is a tour de force of historical fiction centered on the misadventures of an Everyman of indeterminate origins named Johan Ot, who is part picaresque anti-hero, part Josef K. Driven by a restlessness that he can barely comprehend, Ot consorts with merchants, peasants, pilgrims, pagans, heretics, thieves, and prostitutes, while continually trying to evade the forces of the Inquisition. Everywhere he encounters superstition, the Church, political power, and the mob inextricably linked and wreaking pious, desperate violence on anyone who stands out. The Galley Slave paints a vivid, Bruegelesque panorama of a brutal and plague-threatened late-medieval Europe, seen through the eyes of a rebel in spite of himself as he flees across the length and breadth of the Slovenian lands, from Austrian-controlled Styria to the Venetian-dominated Adriatic coast, in an endless quest to survive.

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