If there’s a silver lining to the tragic loss of Croatian great, Daša Drndić, it’s that some of her earlier books are seeing the light of day in English translation. In this fragmentary, autobiographical novella from 1998, Drndić turns her fierce mind to the plight of refugees from the former Yugoslavia. Bouncing between Serbia, Croatia and Canada, Canzone Di Guerra explores ideas of home and belonging while rubbing our noses in the despair, humiliation and, at times, exploitation experienced by those displaced and dispossessed by war. It is a quest for dignity as much as meaning, with many of the narrative devices that would come to define Drndić as a writer in full swing: unexpected tangents, obsessive focus on detail, transcribed interviews, moments of authorial intervention and, of course, lists.
Whether the fragments ultimately form a cohesive whole is open to debate, but it hardly matters. Like all of Drndić’s writing, Canzone Di Guerra is a fireball of righteous indignation. By scratching off the scab of our collective humanitarian failings, she delivers an excoriating indictment on us all that is just as relevant in 2022 as it was when first published two decades ago. Pretty bloody depressing.
Canzone Di Guerra by Daša Drndić (Tr. Celia Hawkesworth)
Istros Books, 2022
New Directions will be publishing Canzone Di Guerra in the USA under the translated title Battle Songs later this year.
How we all miss Daša...We have to keep telling the still sleeping majority of the world about her work!