“In Sasa Stanisic’s bittersweet, musical novel about a boy growing up in Bosnia-Herzogovina before and during the war, many things happen that are impossible to understand, startlingly visual, bordering on the surreal but all too real. . . . This is a funny, heartbreaking, beautifully written novel.” Mary Brennan, The Seattle Times
How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone
978-0-8021-4422-5 • $14.00 • Paperback • May 2009
Heralded as a “sorcerer of narrative” (Foreign Policy) with an instinct for “poetic and intoxicating language” (Freie Presse), twenty-nine-year-old Sasa Stanisic bounded onto the international literary scene to great fanfare and acclaim. How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophonethe tale of a boy who experiences the war in Bosnia and finds the secret to survival in language and storieswas the only debut novel to be short-listed for the top literary prize when it was published in Germany, and indeed every page of this glittering, exuberant tale thrums with the joy of storytelling.
For young Aleksandar Krsmanovic, his grandfather Slavko’s credo“the most valuable gift of all is invention, imagination is your greatest wealth”endows life in Visegrad with a kaleidoscopic brilliance. Neighbors, friends, and family past and present take on a mythic quality; even the River Drina courses through town like the pulse of life itself. So when his grandfather dies suddenlyjust as Carl Lewis races to the finish line on their television screenAleks calls on this gift of storytelling to see him through his loss and grief. It is a gift he will have to call on again when soldiers transform Visegrada town previously unconscious of racial and religious dividesinto a nightmarish landscape of terror and violence.
Though Aleks and his family survive by fleeing to Germany, he is haunted by his past, and especially by Asija, the mysterious girl he tried to save. Desperate to learn of her fate, he sends manic, anguished letters out into the abyss, once again turning to language to conjure all that he’s had to forfeithis homeland, his mother tongue, his innocence.
Beneath the infectious vibrancy of Stanisic’s voice is a sweetness and pathos that will haunt the reader long after the book ends. Powerful, vivid, funny, and devastating, How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone captures the catastrophe of war through a child’s eyes and shows how words have the ability to mend what is broken and resurrect what is lost.