by Ismet Prcic
Ismet Prcic is a Bosnian refugee who has escaped the ethnic persecution of his war-torn country and his dysfunctional family. He’s a theater actor, a dramatist with a personality adept at taking on roles. With the rhythm and insight of a Dostoevsky with acute anxiety disorder, he recounts his tale in diary entries that touch on his life and the characters that populate it. Characters such as Mustafa Nalic, a callous and coldly humorous soldier who fights against Serbs, take on lives of their own so much that the reader isn’t sure whether they are inventions of Ismet or some strange warping of his personality. Ismet is splintered by the trauma of war, a trauma that cuts through time with its hallucinations and merges disparate elements of Ismet’s life until he doesn’t know just exactly who he is or when he is. Combine this background with his proclivity for finding and losing love, and it adds up to a man lost in time, lost in guilt for the family he’s left behind, lost in remorse for love-lost, and lost in violence and displacement that eat away at his sanity. Ultimately, he’s left to assemble the shards of his identity (as is the reader) as it exists in Bosnia, in the war zone, in a Los Angeles sprinkled with pop-cultural grittiness of Tom Waits, in the mind of a soldier, in the theater, as a son who has abandoned his mother. But all this description doesn’t do the novel justice. This is a challenging but intriguing read that goes places in the mind with depth and a range that can’t be related here.