“Civilians chopped down park trees, got buried in soccer fields, burned books and furniture, kept chickens on balconies, duct-taped their footwear, caught and ate pigeons, made makeshift stoves out of washing machines, grew mushrooms in basements, replaced broken windows with murky plastic, went nuts and jumped off buildings, drank rubbing alcohol diluted in chamomile tea until it was no longer flammable, rolled herbal tea cigarettes in toilet aper, suffered, hoped, waited, fucked. Authorities emptied the jails and mental institutions because they couldn’t provide for the inmates and patients. Thieves and murderers went back to their families. Lunatics walked around town doing funny things like comparing people to watermelons and sad things like freezing to death behind churches. Soldiers fought for all of them and for themselves. My father, a chemical engineer, got lucky and came up with a contraption that turned industrial fat into edible fat and got paid ten thousand German marks by a small business enterepreneur and war profiteer, which saved us. my mother ate just enough to survive, because she felt so guilty about not being able to quit smoking. She rationed her cigarettes as much s she could, walking aorund the apartment like a resltess ghost, playing her solitaire, counting seconds before the next one. SOmetimes my brother and I stole a cigarette when the pack was close to full and hid it somewhere in the apartment just to pull it out, unexpectedly, when she didn’t have any left, just to see her eyes light up for a moment. Later, it would break our hearts to see her fingering the wool of the large tapestry in the corridor, looking for our stash, her forefinger touching her lips, her eyes on fire. ”
Ismet Prcic was on OPB this morning as I drove in. His recount of the impetus for this novel was so compelling that I picked it up on my way home and am already elbow deep.
I love the transition from macro to micro, from very general ideas to intimate personal accounts. I’m going to have a hard time leaving this book tonight. And probably also a hard time sleeping with this book on my mind.