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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Nenad Veličković

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To purchase Lodgers

Title: Lodgers
Author: Nenad Veličković
Genre: Novel
Written: 1995 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 188 pages
Original in: Yugoslavian
Availability: Lodgers - US
Lodgers - UK
Lodgers - Canada
Logiergäste - Deutschland
  • Bosnian title: Konačari
  • Translated by Celia Hawkesworth
  • " 'Yugoslavian' is the author's preferred term for the language previously known as Serbo-Croatian (now called Bosnian, Croatian, or Serbian)"

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fine, light look at Yugoslavia at war

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Spring/2006 Michael Pinker
World Lit. Today A 7-8/2006 Aleš Debeljak

  From the Reviews:
  • "The hardships of a contemporary tragedy fail to daunt her irrepressible innocence, for, in deploying his curious cast of "lodgers," Velickovic reveals an artistry that defeats the forces of brutality with wit, indirection, and boundless good humor." - Michael Pinker, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Old-fashioned division of the novel into discrete chapters and added high-school-style comments about the rhetorical strategies that Veličković actually employed in given chapters create an originally conceived distance from the grave existential material. Lodgers is a smoothly flowing story, moving from one tragicomical situation to another, including surprising twists that the social, cultural, and linguistic particularities of various Sarajevo districts necessitate. (...) Nenad Veličković has created a first-rate work that shows the action but does not raise a moral-pedagogical finger." - Aleš Debeljak, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Lodgers is narrated by Maja, a teen sitting out the bombing of Sarajevo in the early 1990s along with her family and a variety of other 'lodgers' in the national museum, which her father is director of. She's not sure whether she wants to be writing a diary or a novel, and the book is more or less an episodic account of the daily events and her thoughts: a typical family-story (with the family including a variety of strangers and visitors) in very untypical times, personal idiosyncrasies competing with a world gone mad.
       Veličković has a nice light touch, and his Maja is neither too precocious nor too literary, what references there are to her reading and influences clever and amusing but not too intrusive. The family is a bit on the quirky side -- the mother insists on macrobiotic fare (with few sharing her enthusiasm) -- and between the ancient grand-mother and the pregnant sister-in-law there are a lot of everyday family issues (and, yes, there will eventually be both (natural) death and birth) but the fun is, of course, in the contrast to the sheer absurdity of the war going on around them. Maja's commentary revels in the silliness of who shells or shoots who for what reasons in this absurd (and highly destructive) three-way tug-of-war between Serbs, Croats, and Muslims, where there's more than enough blame to go around (with Maja distributing it appropriately).
       Everyday life in Sarajevo with all the attendant dangers is presented, though Veličković takes care not to offer a sober account, letting Maja focus instead on the absurdity of the situation. The reality -- of shelling, of snipers, of the brutality around them -- isn't hidden, but Maja can't just take it seriously: as she describes what the grown-ups do there is a sense of some of the risks and menace, but also of the sheer silliness of so much of it.
       Veličković packs a lot in, from the minor and major hardships, the absurdity of being in this temple to history (and the efforts to protect this heritage, as her father has to, for example, talk some out of appropriating entirely inappropriate ancient embroidered cloth for use as diapers in the hospital, where they've run out ...), the many different dangers, as well as the constant frustration of being in this hopelessly absurd situation. Maja is a good guide, with an amusing perspective on all of this, and her account -- presented in short bursts and often, for effect, short sentences -- is brisk, never allowing even the tragic situations to become ponderous.
       Lodgers is a sometimes unsettling mix of antic family-saga (of a typically Eastern European sort) and war-memoir. Parts are too predictable -- including the forced quirkiness of a variety of characters -- but Maja's voice is winning enough, and Veličković employs his light touch to good effect, making for a chronicle of what happened in Sarajevo that is no less powerful or damning for its apparent lightheartedness.

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Lodgers: Reviews: Nenad Veličković: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Bosnian author Nenad Veličković was born in 1962.

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© 2007-2009 the complete review

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