"Knife," by Vuk Draskovic, createda furor when it was published in 1982, long before the beginning of the Balkan Wars of Succession. The novel was condemned by the Communist Part and subsequently banned. "Knife" is the first of his novels to appear in English.
Alija Osmanovic, the protagonist of "Knife," was orphaned during WWII as an infant. He was raised as a Bosnian Muslim and came to believe that Serbs killed his family. When, as a young medical student, he goes in search of the identity of his murdered birth parents, a sense of thwarted justice motivates him, and expresses itself as a burning passion for revenge. Alija seeks out Sikter Effendi, an eccentric and reclusive Muslim cleric, to help him interpret the clues pointing to his identity. Through his mentorship, Alija discovers the truth: that his heritage is Serbian; that he was born not far away but in a neighboring village; and that his adoptive family was guilty of murdering his birth-family. A crisis of identity ensues. Each possible course of action open to him is bad. How is he to go on?
Alija's story is counterpointed by Milan Vilenjak's. He has been training all his life to exact revenge from Atif Tanovic, an Ustashi who single-handedly murdered Milan's entire family. But once Milan has the opportunity to end his enemy's life, he recoils, having discovered that Atif is a human being, a man who exists apart from his monsterous acts, a man who is troubled by his bad conscience. Tanovic, an avowed war criminal, is a repulsive villain who is to be prosecuted and punished, but Draskovic persuades us to sympathize with him. Who cannot admire the profound transformation that occurs when Atif argues against war and the slaughter of innocents? He embodies Draskovic's underlying theme: each act of revenge is a suicide.
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Vuk Draskovic is Serbia's most controversial novelist. Knife (1982), his second novel, was banned by Communist authorities. Draskovic abandoned literature in the early 1990s to form an opposition political party called The Serbian Renewal Movement to introduce democracy to Yugoslavia. He served briefly as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs from January until April 1999, when he was dismissed for suggesting that UN troops could monitor a peace agreement in Kosovo. He survived an assassination attempt in October 1999 in which four of his aides were killed. He also served as Serbia's Minister of Foreign Affairs (2003-2007).
Knife is the first of Draskovic's novels to appear in English.
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Serbo-Croation
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