The Book of Blam (New York Review Books Classics)

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9781590179208: The Book of Blam (New York Review Books Classics)

The Book of Blam, Aleksandar Tišma’s “extended kaddish . . . [his] masterpiece” (Kirkus Reviews), is a modern-day retelling of the book of Job. The war is over. Miroslav Blam walks along the former Jew Street, and he remembers. He remembers Aaron Grün, the hunchbacked watchmaker; and Eduard Fiker, a lamp merchant; and Jakob Mentele, a stove fitter; and Arthur Spitzer, a grocer, who played amateur soccer and had non-Jewish friends; and Sándor Vértes, a lawyer who was a Communist. All dead. As are his younger sister and his best friend, a Serb, both of whom joined the resistance movement; and his mother and father in the infamous Novi Sad raid in January 1942—when the Hungarian Arrow Cross executed 1,400 Jews and Serbs on the banks of the Danube and tossed them into the river.

Blam lives. The war he survived will never be over for him.

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Review:

The Balkans: a seething cauldron of centuries-old racial hatreds and periodic massacres perpetrated by one ethnic group upon another. The newspapers fill with one atrocity after another, and eventually the mind and heart numbs to the sufferings of whichever unlucky group is being victimized this time. Perhaps the only way to truly appreciate the horror of the tragedy is to scale it down from the general to the specific, from the anguish of the many to the agony of one. This is the approach Aleksandar Tísma takes in The Book of Blam, originally published in 1972. Set in post-World War II Yugoslavia, in the city of Novi Sad, the novel chronicles the despair of Miroslav Blam, the only member of his family to survive an infamous Hungarian slaughter of Jews and Serbs on the banks of the Danube in 1942.

Blam survived the roundup only because a traitorous journalist who was once his mother's lover vouched for him with the Hungarians. Now it is after the war, and though Novi Sad has seemingly returned to normal, Blam is beset by the ghosts of those he has outlived. As he walks the streets of his city and goes through the motions of his life, he remembers the woman he loved, the friends he lost, and his own failure to "face the rifle barrels like his father and mother, the search patrols like his sister, Estera; he has failed to go down to the Danube like Slobodan Krkljus and bend over an old man on the ground, deaf to all warning and moved only by the thought of the moment, the thought of assistance. He had seen nothing, learned nothing." Tísma offers neither consolation nor redemption for his protagonist. Instead, Blam is left only with the hollow expectation of a future war in which he will, at last, be able to make the supreme sacrifice, thus "committing an act of the most profound truth," while the reader is left with the uncomfortable realization that in a world riven by sectarian violence, Blam's tragedy is not unique. --Alix Wilber

About the Author:

Aleksandar Tišma (1924–2003) was born in the Vojvodina,  a former province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that had been incorporated into the new kingdom of Yugoslavia after the First World War. His father, a Serb, came from a peasant background; his mother was middle-class and Jewish. The family lived comfortably, and Tišma received a good education. In 1941, Hungary annexed Vojvodina; the next year—Tišma’s last in high school—the regime carried out a series of murderous pogroms, killing some 3,000 inhabitants, primarily Serbs and Jews, though the Tišmas were spared. After fighting for the Yugoslav partisans, Tišma studied philosophy at the University of Belgrade and went into journalism. In 1949 he joined the editorial staff of a publishing house, where he remained until his retirement in 1980. Tišma published his first story, “Ibika’s House,” in 1951; it was followed by the novels Guilt and In Search of the Dark Girl and a collection of stories, Violence.  In the 1970s and ’80s, he gained international recognition with the publication of his Novi Sad trilogy:  The Book of Blam (1972), about a survivor of the Hungarian occupation of Novi Sad; The Use of Man (1976), which follows a group of friends through the Second World War and after; and Kapo (1987), the story of a Jew raised as a Catholic who becomes a guard in a German concentration camp. Tišma moved to France after the outbreak of war and collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, but in 1995 he returned to Novi Sad, where he spent his last years.

Michael Henry Heim (1943–2012) was a professor of Slavic languages at the University of California, Los Angeles. Fluent in eight languages, Heim was the recipient of many awards and translated such writers as Anton Chekhov, Milan Kundera, Günter Grass, Bohumil Hrabal, Danilo Kiš, and Dubravka Ugrešić. He is the subject of The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim & A Life in Translation, edited by Esther Allen, Sean Cotter, and Russell Scott Valentino.

Charles Simic is a poet, essayist, and translator. He has published some twenty collections of poetry, six books of essays, a memoir, and numerous translations. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and a Mac­Arthur Fellowship. Among Simic’s recent works are New and Selected Poems: 1962–2012, The Lunatic, and Confessions of a Poet Laureate, a book of essays that was published by New York Review Books as an e-book original. In 2007 Simic was appointed the fifteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.

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Book Description The New York Review of Books, Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Main. Language: English . Brand New Book. The Book of Blam, Aleksandar Ti ma s extended kaddish . . . [his] masterpiece (Kirkus Reviews), is a modern-day retelling of the book of Job. The war is over. Miroslav Blam walks along the former Jew Street, and he remembers. He remembers Aaron Grun, the hunchbacked watchmaker; and Eduard Fiker, a lamp merchant; and Jakob Mentele, a stove fitter; and Arthur Spitzer, a grocer, who played amateur soccer and had non-Jewish friends; and Sandor Vertes, a lawyer who was a Communist. All dead. As are his younger sister and his best friend, a Serb, both of whom joined the resistance movement; and his mother and father in the infamous Novi Sad raid in January 1942 when the Hungarian Arrow Cross executed 1,400 Jews and Serbs on the banks of the Danube and tossed them into the river. Blam lives. The war he survived will never be over for him. Bookseller Inventory # AA99781590179208

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Book Description The New York Review of Books, Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Main. Language: English . Brand New Book. The Book of Blam, Aleksandar Ti ma s extended kaddish . . . [his] masterpiece (Kirkus Reviews), is a modern-day retelling of the book of Job. The war is over. Miroslav Blam walks along the former Jew Street, and he remembers. He remembers Aaron Grun, the hunchbacked watchmaker; and Eduard Fiker, a lamp merchant; and Jakob Mentele, a stove fitter; and Arthur Spitzer, a grocer, who played amateur soccer and had non-Jewish friends; and Sandor Vertes, a lawyer who was a Communist. All dead. As are his younger sister and his best friend, a Serb, both of whom joined the resistance movement; and his mother and father in the infamous Novi Sad raid in January 1942 when the Hungarian Arrow Cross executed 1,400 Jews and Serbs on the banks of the Danube and tossed them into the river. Blam lives. The war he survived will never be over for him. Bookseller Inventory # AA99781590179208

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