Croatia joins the EU this July. To understand the nation, read this novelby J A Hopkin / January 24, 2013 / Leave a comment
Our Man in Iraq,
By Robert Perišic (Istros Books, £7.99)
Robert Perišic’s wry novel Our Man in Iraq was a bestseller in his native Croatia, and its US edition has been endorsed recently by Jonathan Franzen. It’s easy to see why. With a nod to the great Ranko Marinkovic’s novel, Cyclops, in which a theatre critic and his boho-intelligentsia friends try to make sense of Zagreb during the second world war, Perišic maps and mocks the rapid changes happening to his city following the end of the Domovinski Rat—the brutal Homelands War of 1991-95 in which Croatia fought for independence from Serbia.
With formidable insight, élan and a noir-ish relish of backstreet manoeuvres, Perišic asks how a nation can move on after conflict, how citizens can overcome the feeling that “Whoever survived all that Balkan shit, whoever breathed the fumes of that hell, had to feel defeat.”
The narrator, Toni, is a newspaper hack torn between relishing the freedoms of independence and resisting the confusion and consumerism generated by a shock-doctrine capitalist democracy. What’s more, he’s just employed his cousin, Boris—the only person he knows who can understand Arabic—as his newspaper’s man in Iraq.