The Use of Man

The Use of Man

by Aleksandar Tisma, Bernard Johnson, Claire Messud
     
 

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Four individuals from a small town in Yugoslavia find themselves among drastically different fates during World War II. Two become Nazis, one joins the Partisans, and one is sent to a concentration camp.

Set in Yugoslavia prior to and during World War II, this tale of devastation traces the lives of four friends born in the same small town. They went to school

Overview

Four individuals from a small town in Yugoslavia find themselves among drastically different fates during World War II. Two become Nazis, one joins the Partisans, and one is sent to a concentration camp.

Set in Yugoslavia prior to and during World War II, this tale of devastation traces the lives of four friends born in the same small town. They went to school together, took dancing lessons, stole kisses, were taught German by an old maid who kept a diary. But when war comes, half-Jewish Vera is sent to a concentration camp while her German cousin becomes a Nazi; Serbian boyfriend Milinko joins the Partisans; and another classmate, also a Serb, becomes fascinated by the magic of killing. Tisma's portrayal of their situation is certainly poignant, but he belabors the obvious in overly melodramatic fashion.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Aleksandar Tišma may appear to be writing yet another novel dealing with the Second World War devastation of Europe. He is not. It is an amazingly fresh and profoundly wise piece of writing. He brings the reticence of the scalpel to an examination of the nature of violence. He probes with clarity and detachment the secret areas of the human psyche where motives for violence are born. This is a seminal work of post-war fiction, and Bernard Johnson has produced not only an exemplary rendering from Serbo-Croatian, but something of a classic in English."  —Branko Gorjup, Ottawa Citizen

“Tišma’s The Use of Man is a stunning book. I have seldom read anything that authentically conveys the feel of that nightmare—the war, the Holocaust, the brutal aftermath, and the almost equally brutal dreariness of a provincial town frozen in time, caught between Mitteleuropa and the Balkans. The angle of vision—call it compassionate detachment—accounts for some of the impact, but the most impressive achievement is the range of characters. Understated, they all come to life, or to death-in-life, on their own terms.” —Ernst Pawel
 
“The novel is tough, terse, with episodes that will turn your stomach; yet, because it is written in a style of luminous detachment, it becomes hauntingly poetic and even humorous in its bitter ironies. It is a novel whose power is on a scale normally associated with our favorite (dead) authors. Whether you like what he’s got to say or not, the world will not look quite the same after you’ve read this book.” —Toronto Star
 
“The remarkable trio [The Use of Man is the first] make up a Balkan bible presided over by an ironic vision of the imagination, capable of envisioning utter barbarity but not the expiation for sins, dwelling on delusions of paranoia rather than traditional community." —Bill Marx, The Boston Globe
 
“Man has no noble use in The Use of Man, Aleksandar Tišma’s exceptional novel about the Nazi conquest of Yugoslavia.... Mr. Tišma’s deliberate unfolding of his characters’ fates serves to illustrate the novel’s underlying premise: Yugoslavia’s wartime experience—everything from the deportation of the Jews to Tito’s Communism—resulted in his country’s inevitable ruin. That Mr. Tišma manages to convey such large historical ideas without sacrificing the story’s drama attests to his abilities as a gifted and humane writer.” —Barbara Finkelstein, The New York Times
 
“As [Tišma] probes the complexities and ambiguities of people’s behavior under these terrible circumstances, he is unrelenting in his quest for the truth yet compassionate in his judgments of individuals.” —Merle Rubin, The Wall Street Journal
 
"A bleak and moving account of the tender lives of the damned.” —Kirkus Reviews
 
“A masterly evocation of fortitude, resignation, turpitude and sheer bloody-minded self-preservation in the face of fear, violent repression, and leaden-jawed dogma.”—The Times (London)
 
“This novel is written with an undeluded toughness of spirit, the spirit of a European who has seen just about everything there is to see and doesn’t blink or evade. The prose is firm and the structure is tight. Tišma maintains a consistent tone of austere detachment, yet one ends with a great deal of pity for his characters. Reading the novel, I felt I was privileged to meet a distinguished European writer.” —Irving Howe

Library Journal
Set in Yugoslavia prior to and during World War II, this tale of devastation traces the lives of four friends born in the same small town. They went to school together, took dancing lessons, stole kisses, were taught German by an old maid who kept a diary. But when war comes, half-Jewish Vera is sent to a concentration camp while her German cousin becomes a Nazi; Serbian boyfriend Milinko joins the Partisans; and another classmate, also a Serb, becomes fascinated by the magic of killing. Tisma's portrayal of their situation is certainly poignant, but he belabors the obvious in overly melodramatic fashion.Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, Md.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590177266
Publisher:
New York Review Books
Publication date:
11/11/2014
Series:
NYRB Classics Series
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
976,265
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

ALEKSANDAR TISMA was born in 1924 in Vojvodina, Yugoslavia, to a Serbian father and a Hungarian mother. He experienced the Holocaust in his native town of Novi Sad. After the war he worked as a journalist in Novi Sad and Belgrade, and later became an editor, writer, and translator. He has written sixteen works of fiction, of which the last five—what he calls a pentateuch of novels and stories—have been devoted to the subject of the Holocaust.

Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Ian Johnson is also the author of Wild Grass: Three Portraits of Change in Modern China.

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