Synopses & Reviews
Taking cues from the wartime epics of Ford Madox Ford and Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Vitomil Zupan tells the harrowing story of partisan soldier "Berk" and his surreal experiences as a guerrilla during the Axis occupation of Ljubljana. Running parallel to the jumble of Berk's wartime experiences is his no less peculiar encounter with an old enemy during a vacation at a Spanish coastal resort. Together, the two men try to make sense of their wartime memories, leading past and future into a danse macabre undermining the certainties of each. A document of the horrors and tiny comedies of war, and an exploration of the nature of beauty and morality when subjected to the absurdity of history, Minuet for Guitar is an overwhelming literary achievement.
"Built upon his own experience, Zupan (1914 1987) masterfully renders the partisan experience in WWII Slovenia, beginning in 1943 when narrator Berk joins the resistance struggle against the Germans. Berk has already fought with the Liberation Front and was imprisoned in an Italian concentration camp. In spite of the brutality he's endured, the novel begins gently with Berk, a smug daydreamer and womanizer, meeting Anton en route to his first posting. Anton, battle-wizened and nostalgic after fighting in the Spanish Civil War, and Berk fight side by side, witnessing the death of comrades, tending to each other's wounds, and saving each other time and again. Against the backdrop of partisan sacrifice, Zupan lays out the deadly political situation in conflicted Yugoslavia, foreshadowing the bloodbath and tyranny that will follow. An intertwined narrative set in 1973 Spain finds Berk and a German who'd fought against the partisans debating war, warriors, and governments. Disappointingly, Berk's predatory view of women fails to evolve, but other insights deepen. Zupan's literary gifts are on full display in passages that range from startlingly lyrical to graphically realistic, achingly surrealistic to boldly philosophical. An intensely imagined exploration of war, translated well by Leeming (1920 2004)." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Ranking with the best novels about World War II, Minuet for Guitar is also a masterpiece of Slovenian fiction.