Posted by: koolwine | December 31, 2011

Croatia: Infidelities

The theme of betrayal infuses each of these eleven short stories about Balkan residents and émigrés.

Country Focus: Croatia (Hrvatska in Croatian)

Infidelities: Stories of War and Lust
By Josip Novakovich
Published by HarperCollins, 2005.
My edition: Harper Perennial, 2005.
241 pgs.

Acclaim: Novakovich won the Whiting Award

Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
Time period:
Various; from the eve of World War I to post 9/11

To make a long story short: The protagonists of Infidelities are as varied as the stories’ time periods and settings: a woman in Cleveland dreams that her new lover is the masked man who tried to rape her in Bosnia (“Spleen”); a cohort of Gavrilo Princip hopes to kill Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand himself (“The Stamp”); and a school boy whose terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day inspires him to join a band of enemy soldiers (“Snow Powder”) The book’s title gives away the subject common to the stories.  Protagonists betray their spouses, their country and their companions.   Some of these infidelities are merely fantasies, like the married man who daydreams about the woman who shares a box with him at the ballet (“Tchaikovsky’s Bust”). Others result in serious repercussions, like the Serb couple who abandoned their embattled Croatian home for a safer one in Serbia and are beaten by Serbian soldiers for their inconstancy (“The Bridge Under the Danube”).  


“I was a pacifist, still am, and I dodged the Yugoslav People’s Army draft.  But in Sarajevo, the park I used to gaze at from my favorite cafe disappeared.  People cut down the trees and burned them at home in pots and makeshift stoves, smoking up their apartments.  The park became a bald meadow, with little tree stumps sticking out, like severed arms, with chopped hands gone, as thought the trees had stolen – what, air? – and were then mutilated according to the Koran laws.  I thought, you can’t take trees from us, and I volunteered.”

The author:

Josip Novakovich

Josip Novakovich was born and raised in Daruvar, Croatia.  Although he immigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1970s, he visits Croatia frequently and has sent his children to school in Zagreb.  Novakovich says,  “I imagine I will never be free from being drawn back to Croatia, though, or the impulse to flee it once I am there.”  He has published several other works about the Balkans, including April Fool’s Day, Salvation and Other Disasters, Yolk, Plum Brandy: A Croatian Journey and Apricots from Chernobyl.

Overall Rating:

(On a scale of 1-5, with 1 book = turned off and  5 books = lit up)




  1. I would very much like to read this book as I like short stories and know very little about Croatia.


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