Drazan Gunjaca - Balkan Farewells



Balkan Farewells
- book on-line
- editor's note
- introduction
- review

- Balkan Farewells
- The Balkan Roulette
- The Shade of Reason
- Love as punishment
- Half-way o heaven
- Good night my friends
- Dreams have no price
- We are all brothers
The Balkan aquarelle



BALKAN FAREWELLS, 2nd edition, Pula, 2002

When I started reading Drazan Gunjaca's first published novel "Balkan Farewells", as its translator and the future editor I recalled an essay by the Italian psychologist and psychotherapist Giorgio Majorino entitled "Psychological effects of war" (Gli effetti psicologici della guera). It was because I saw Gunjaca's novel as a literary concretion of that emotional itinerary that war produces in people and that Majorino described in his essay from a psychological point of view. I point out that dimension of Gunjaca's novel on purpose, because it is its basic guideline. Although it is written in first person, clearly with a lot of autobiographical elements, that is not a novel about the narrator (Gunjaca or any other person) but about people who meet him or leave him, or both meet him and leave him because of war in a certain period in time. The narrator is only a connection between the numerous characters, indirect or direct. Therefore, it is not only a book about war, it is also about people whose fate was determined by the war.
Naturally, the principle chosen for its creation determined the linguistic and stylistic characteristics of the text. The first characteristic is directness: there is no affectation in Gunjaca's writing, as opposed to what we are used to with other modern writers, the language of the novel is the language of the reality described. That's why the novel is close to the American "hard boiled" minimalist stories of the end of the 1980-ies, although I'm convinced that any similarity is accidental, that is, there was no intention to get close to any genre. If we really need to define the novel we can say that it is a parable, but more about it later. On a semantic level the minimalist procedé implies a persistent, sometimes straightforward, sometimes covered, repetition of leitmotifs (a detachment from our own personality and fate) which will find their point in the closing chapter, conceived as a sort of parable which Gunjaca entrusts with the ethical message of his novel. Those repetitions are functional on the whole of the novel and create a background, depressing atmosphere in which the narrator and the characters live and which the reader can't help experiencing.
On a syntactical level the minimalist approach can be seen in the prevailing co-ordination, a preference for an inverted subordination and in the frequency of a parahypotactic construction of the sentence which adds a connotation of derangement to the mentioned depressing atmosphere.
On the lexical level, as much as the text may seem unpolished at first sight, the deeper we delve into the novel the clearer it is that there is a precisely planned construction to which Gunjaca leaves the most important of all tasks - to win over the reader and make him take the side of the tragic hero of the novel, Denis, who, in the narrative structure of the novel, is only a secondary character.
It is especially important to mention the mimetic value of this procedure: it gives Gunjaca the opportunity to transform the trivialities of everyday life into the "documentary" material of the novel not reducing it to the level of faction in the process. Although the novel is about real events and real people, Gunjaca is too aware in his writing to just tell the reader a "true story" thus emptying his parable of its universal exemplarity. On the contrary, he uses fictional elements to give his parable a referential value.
The result of that directness, forethought and awareness is the textual world of "Balkan Farewells": the readers may like it more or less, may not even like it at all, but shall certainly not remain indifferent to it.

Prof. mr. Srda Orbanic