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April Fool's Dayby Josip Novakovich
Synopses & Reviews
Ivan Dolinar is a man caught in the crosscurrents of senseless wars, ridiculous dictators, and the usual and unusual difficulties of just trying to get by in the Balkans. His life begins, auspiciously, on April Fool's Day, 1948. As a boy growing up in a small town in Croatia, Ivan tries to love the people's dictator, Tito, but his love is not returned. In a world of propaganda and paranoia, young Ivan quickly discovers that the best of intentions can backfire. At nineteen, full of hope and ambition, he enters medical school in Novi Sad, Serbia, but his medical career is cut short by a prank, and he is sent to a notorious labor camp to dig rocks for two years. War breaks out soon after his release, and Ivan is drafted — into the wrong army. A pawn in an absurd conflict in which rules and loyalties shift unexpectedly, Ivan finds himself in a struggle simply to survive.
From the tavern to the ivory tower to the battlefields, as Ivan's fortunes rise and fall faster than one can say "Yugoslavia," a tender novel emerges. Told with the bitingly dark humor ofttimes used to keep despair at bay, April Fool's Day is both a devastating political satire and a razor-sharp parody of war.
"Like Aleksandar Hemon and Ha Jin, short story writer Novakovich (Salvation and Other Disasters) manages the feat of writing vibrantly and inventively in a second language, shaping English to the dictates of his satiric, folk-tinged storytelling. His debut novel tells the story of Ivan Dolinar, a Croatian Everyman born in the town of Nizograd in 1948. As a boy, Ivan is a bully and a patriot (as one chapter title puts it, 'Ivan loves the state apparatus'), and he grows up longing to serve his country. After a buffoonish but successful stint in medical school, he's about to become a doctor when a foolish joke gets him arrested and sent to a labor camp on a desolate Adriatic island. He's released three years later, but his criminal record makes him unfit for everything except graduate school in philosophy. Demoralized and hapless, he's drafted into the Serb-heavy Yugoslav army to fight his fellow Croats; he soon deserts and is hustled into uniform on the other side. Novakovich gives a pithy, biting account of the Balkan wars, following it up by an even more caustic account of Ivan's marriage to a woman he raped during the war. The story culminates with Ivan's first-person account of his own death and afterlife. Novakovich's English is foreign-tinged and brash, giving a jolt of chaotic energy to this dark Balkan comedy. Agent, Anne Edelstein. (Sept. 7) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Josip Novakovich's stories have appeared in many publications, including The Paris Review, TriQuarterly, and Ploughshares. He teaches at Pennsylvania State University and lives near State College, Pennsylvania.
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