Can stories reclaim the past? Does the imagination survive in the face of great suffering? Is there magic left in the world? The answers are yes, yes, and yes, based on the evidence of this exuberant first novel by Saï¿½a Staniï¿½ić. Born in Viï¿½egrad, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1978, he fled to Germany with his family at the outbreak of fighting in 1992, and now he has produced a book, originally written in German, that draws on his memory and his considerable powers of invention. ï¿½I want to trace the patterns of the past,ï¿½ Staniï¿½ić writes. ï¿½There's a box in my grandmother's bedroom containing ninety-nine unfinished pictures.
Saï¿½a Staniï¿½ić: photo credit Peter von FelbertSaï¿½a Staniï¿½ić: photo credit Peter von Felbert
I'll go home and finish painting every one of them.ï¿½ But where is home? On the page, of course, and in the stories he tellsï¿½of the huge catfish he caught in the Drina River, of his attempt to set fire to a blackboard, of a soccer match between the warring Serbs and Bosnians. Nothing escapes his notice. And nothing is too small to merit a story, which can break your heart.