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The Balkans

January 2004

In this region’s literature we find not a single “Balkan” identity, but multiple Balkans–defined not only by ethnicity but by politics, history, nature (lovely and indifferent), and personal memory. Affirming these manifold perspectives are the classic Croatian Miroslav Krleza’s surreal Banquet in Blitva, set in a distinctly Balkan Everywhere of blended places and events; the Jewish Serbian writer Ivan Ivanji’s frighteningly lyrical “Games on the Banks of the Danube”; Albanian writer Fatos Lubonja’s “Ahlem,” about a prisoner’s skewed loyalty to a dictator; and Luljeta Lleshanaku’s pastoral poetry. In “Theft” and “Cactus” the Bosnian short story master Miljenko Jergovic finds the humor in life at the outbreak of war in Sarajevo. And the German writer Juli Zeh casts her acute eye over the landscape in the aftermath of the Balkan wars.