[diary] bosnia and herzegovina

Dobro jutro everyone !

Ah, how hard it has been to reach the end of Archanges (roman a capella), by Velibor Čolić ! But after having had (quite) a tough time reading through it, I can proudly announce that I am extremely glad that I did finish it. A literary punch in the guts, that strikes deeply with a rare virtuosity, and that impressed me beyond words.


Four voices bearing witness to the horror of the war. One victim, three executioners. Four archangels, messengers of their forever entwined fates. Esdras is a tramp, playing the monkey on a public bench in Nice. The Duke is in jail, reduced to a torso, somewhere in northern Europe. The Son is dead, murdered in a train escaping Zagreb. And there is Senka, the 13-year-old girl, the ghost-girl, “the Shadow” who haunts her tormentors. Because Senka is dead, raped and assassinated with all the barbarism man can bear in a country at war. Senka who is not a person anymore, who is nothing now, if not a whisper on the lips of her killer. This résumé is clear and says it all : Archanges is not a light story, and even less an easy-to-read story. Archanges is a harsh story, a tortured story that aggresses directly from the first pages with its images, its message, with the frayed voices of its characters who are nothing but shadows anymore. Archanges is a polyphonic story, opposing echoes from the living and the dead, the dreams of the criminals and of their victim, taken without mercy in the middle of a war that we discover in the background. A dark story, crude and cruel, not embellishing itself with frills to describe the atrocities that it tells. Four characters, four parts in the novel, and right from the first part the tone is set. The Monkey, Esdras, remembers the raping, and he is the one clairfying the whole narrative weave of the book, that will be completed by the other protagonists. With shocking words, hammered with the detachment of the murdered who knows that there is nothing left to fear other than himself, he recounts this moment that deviated the paths of all the characters. The Duke, or the Torso, is his best friend blowed up by a shell and though still surviving, and surviving still. The Son of the Duke is dead, and has joined Senka in a space both far and close, both Hell and Heaven.

The thoughts of the four characters construct a philosophy of the absurd, life and death considered and confronted and conciliated. We are carried away in the meanders of these broken minds, and in spite of the brutality of the story, the text is upsetting of intended elegance and the style upsetting of beauty. The pertinence of the words justifies each sentence even hard, each wordshaping, and the author admirably succeeds at bringing a well honed poetry into this piece, as a counterpoint to prevailing violence. Between (and inside) the terrible memories are hidden incredible sentences, among those that print themselves in the reader’s mind in permanent ink. The characters affirm themselves with a troubling neatness as reality gets blurred through the subjectivity of the protagonists. The reader is talked to by the Duke, struck by the disarray of the Son ; we can only be moved by Senka’s story and by the anger that appears under the neutral words used by the author.

Struck is the word, and that is how I felt when I ended this book. I read it bit by bit, puzzled and lost, and then I could not put it down during the last pages. Archanges is a disruptive, denouncing, disarming novel. Never moralizing, the writing style of Velibor Čolić is impactful and serves to engrave ruthless (and unforgiving) truths on paper. A necessary read for me : a masterpiece to see the war as it is, and here it is a war that is not so far from us (in the timeline as well as in space) and on which we know not enough. Between the lines of Archanges, I have read the fury and the incomprehension of a nation, incredibly well told by an author that highlights a duty of memory for a country that will never be the same. And it turned me upside down and then brutally back on earth. Wow.

> The next review will be about The White Steamship, by Chinguiz Aitmatov.

> ČOLIĆ, Velibor – Archanges, Gaïa Éditions.
> written listening to “Intermeco” .

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