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Shardsby Ismet Prcic
2013 Oregon Book Award for Fiction
Synopses & Reviews
Ismet Prcic's brilliant, provocative, and propulsively energetic debut is about a young Bosnian, also named Ismet Prcic, who has fled his war-torn homeland and is now struggling to reconcile his past with his present life in California.
He is advised that in order to make peace with the corrosive guilt he harbors over leaving behind his family behind, he must write everything.” The result is a great rattlebag of memories, confessions, and fictions: sweetly humorous recollections of Ismet's childhood in Tuzla appear alongside anguished letters to his mother about the challenges of life in this new world. As Ismet's foothold in the present falls away, his writings are further complicated by stories from the point of view of another young man — real or imagined — named Mustafa, who joined a troop of elite soldiers and stayed in Bosnia to fight. When Mustafa's story begins to overshadow Ismet's new-world identity, the reader is charged with piecing together the fragments of a life that has become eerily unrecognizable, even to the one living it.
Shards is a thrilling read — a harrowing war story, a stunningly inventive coming of age, and a heartbreaking saga of a splintered family.
"With this frenetic debut novel set during the Bosnian war, Prcic proves that it's impossible to outrun your past. The narrator, whose name is Ismet Prcic, recounts his childhood in Tuzla before the war and his adolescent interest in theater, which led him to a drama festival in Edinburgh, and his escape to America in 1995. But Prcic's tale is complicated and nonlinear; intercut with his youthful days in Bosnia spent avoiding Serbian mortar attacks are snippets of his rapidly deteriorating life in California, letters to his depressive mother back home, and, in a most intriguing twist, the story of another young Bosnian man, Mustafa Nalic. Instructed by his American psychiatrist to 'write everything' (and take Xanax), Prcic at first seems to have invented Mustafa as a counterpart to his own life: Mustafa the soldier who remained in Bosnia. But as the fictional Prcic continues to deteriorate in the U.S., losing his girlfriend and his fragile grasp on reality, Mustafa morphs from fictional construct to flesh and blood until Prcic cannot separate his memories from what 'Mustafa' imagined. Though the intricate structure proves challenging at times, Prcic captures the insanity of war and its unceasing aftermath." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Impressive....Inventive....Pushes against convention, logic, chronology....Ambitious and deep...[Prcic] succeeds at writing an unsettling and powerful novel." The New York Times Book Review
"Fierce, funny and real, it also says much about war, exile, guilt and fear." Chicago Sun Times, Favorite books of 2011
"Prcic captures the insanity of war and its unceasing aftermath." Publishers Weekly
"A playful but heartfelt debut....Brightly detailed...[Prcic is] a spirited, soulful talent." Kirkus Reviews
"Brilliant....With verbal glee, Prcic serves up a darkly comic vision of the terrors and misunderstandings of immigration. Tight, glorious little tales-within-tales abound, rattled off with a quick, artless naturalism....The writing is packed with one original metaphor after another, language that's almost drunk with colorful, startling images....Brimming with scraps of memory, regrets, and rationalizations, Shards leaves an indelible scar on the reader's imagination. Prcic has pieced together a young man's story from the torn and exploded remains of his former life, and the sheer power of his language leaves the reader shaken." Shelf Awareness
"Brutally vivid." The Oregonian
"The experience of reading Shards — the deliberate disorientation, the layering and morphing of events that characterize the book — reveals in a more visceral way what it might be like to live always with a full awareness of the tenuousness of civil society, of the terrible precariousness of calm." St. Louis Beacon
"Compelling, sensual detail....Prcic's prose is effective both at delineating the psychological nuances of his characters, and the sometimes-dodgy circumstances of the outside world....There is a strain of dark humor running throughout, and an elastic joy in storytelling and linguistic expression that prevents this from being a simple recitation of atrocities and pain....Well-written and thought-provoking....The story it tells is as unique and individual as the author who penned it." PopMatters
"Experimental and brutal and heart-wrenching....You just give in to it, as you do when reading someone like Faulkner...What makes Shards so compelling is, first of all, the language...which has an almost ferocious beauty. Secondly, and as important, is the organization of the book, which gives it a sense of urgency....Ismet's confusion is so vivid that it becomes ours, making us participants in this story....To have had such a life when you are so young is hard to convey without becoming sentimental or pathetic, yet Prcic has done it brilliantly." The Arts Fuse
"Innovative in form and startling in its storytelling, Shards is a brilliant debut novel from Ismet Prcic." Largehearted Boy
About the Author
Ismet Prcic was born in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1977 and immigrated to America in 1996. Shards is his first novel.
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