In the Hold

In the Hold

by Vladimir Arsenijevic
     
 

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Set during the autumn of 1991, at the beginning of the war in the former Yugoslavia, In the Hold tells a brutal, nightmarish, and comical story of a generation taken helplessly unawares by the horrors of war. Three young people, including a young couple expecting their first child, are trapped in Belgrade, as the realities just beyond the border close in on them..

Overview

Set during the autumn of 1991, at the beginning of the war in the former Yugoslavia, In the Hold tells a brutal, nightmarish, and comical story of a generation taken helplessly unawares by the horrors of war. Three young people, including a young couple expecting their first child, are trapped in Belgrade, as the realities just beyond the border close in on them..

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Generation X meets the war in Yugoslavia in this slim debut novel that fails to illuminate either subject. Set in Belgrade in 1991, the story concerns the unnamed young narrator, his wife, Angela, a former drug dealer and heroin addict who is now in late pregnancy, and their increasingly endangered circle of family and friends. Angela's brother Lazar, a self-punishing disciple of Zen, accepts his call-up papers and is quickly killed in action, while the narrator's friend Dejan, a drummer with an avant-garde rock band, returns from the fighting missing an arm. What Arsenijevic is attempting is not so much a war novel as a tale of the bleakness and cynicism of people who have shut down emotionally in the face of chaos. But the narrator's alienation and detached irony offer little in the way of insight, and make it very hard for a reader to care about the often tragic events he unfolds. One can feel the emotional devastation of a country at war with itself hovering on the periphery of this novel, which makes it all the more frustrating that Arsenijevic has chosen to focus his attention on the clichd lives of self-conscious hipsters. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
A strangely uninvolving first novel—a muted, discursive portrayal of alienation and anomie set in Belgrade in 1991—that won for its young author the NIN Prize, the "highest literary honor" given in the now dissolved nation of Yugoslavia.

The unnamed narrator, a young husband and father-to-be, is determined to avoid being caught up in "the Serbo-Croat mutual slaughter" and indulges a self-conscious indolence. Despite the responses of those closest to him to events, he seems deeply insensitive to the national trauma. His wife Angela, a former drug dealer and heroin addict, abandons both her business and her habit as she enters the late stages of her pregnancy. Angela's brother Lazar, an endearingly muddled youngster with a passionate devotion to the passivity of Eastern philosophy, nevertheless declines to resist when he receives his "call-up papers," and quickly becomes a casualty of the war. The narrator's friend Dejan, a promising musician, loses an arm during his military service, yet returns energized by dreams of success as a businessman. All this while the narrator—unable to share or even comprehend others' acceptance of (not to say complicity with) their fates—reacts to everything around him with a jaded sarcasm that has the surely unintended effect of making him sound priggish and heartless. It's not that Arsenijevic doesn't give him human feelings—rather that the novel seems unable to make up its mind whether it's about the slow, fitful awakening of feeling in a sluggishly self-centered soul, or if instead it means simply to present a character who simply cannot believe that any cause merits his allegiance.

Either way, what results is a protagonist in whom it's impossible to take much interest, and a novel so rarefied and unspecific that it seems, despite its brevity, an ordeal to read.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679446576
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/01/1996
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
5.27(w) x 7.79(h) x 0.65(d)

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