A stunning drama of love and intrigue set against the backdrop of war in Yugoslavia, where power is used to manipulate and break people.
I saw what the mural was all about. The entire war was portrayed on it from the asylum's point of view. The tanks with predatory smiles, the civilians naked with zippers up their middles so the soldiers could open them up and remove or implant whatever they wished, battle scenes that showed soldiers with wheels instead of feet, as if they were Trojan horses or children's pull-toys.
"Who painted the wall?" I asked.
"We all did."
Dictatorship, politics and forbidden love -- welcome to Belgrade during the break-up of Yugoslavia, where anything can happen. That's why clinical psychologist Aleksandar Jovic is not overly surprised to find a government gorilla in a vinyl bomber jacket waiting in his study.
The ominous messenger brings momentous news. Jovic, who is ferociously opposed to the war, is being requisitioned to oversee a state-run clinic that has been set up to treat traumatized soldiers who have fought on the front lines. What he learns from his patients -- including Soldier 13, the pro-Muslim commando, and Tania, the mysterious forensics expert whose services have also been hijacked by the Milosevic regime -- turns Jovic's world upside down.
How war destroys and brutalizes its victims and its perpetrators, and how everyday people find normalcy in the midst of chaos, is the background for this thrilling story. But The Speaking Cure also reaches behind this shadowy place of conflict -- where the political and the personal constantly collide, and nothing is as it seems - to reveal essential truths about the nature of power and the mutability of reality.
About the author
David Homel was born in Chicago in 1952 and left that city in 1970 for Paris, living in Europe the next few years on odd jobs and odder couches. He has published eight novels, from Electrical Storms in 1988 to The Teardown, which won the Paragraph Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction in 2019. He has also written young adult fiction with Marie-Louise Gay, directed documentary films, worked in TV production, been a literary translator, journalist, and creative writing teacher. He has translated four books for Linda Leith Publishing: Bitter Roase (2015), (2016), Nan Goldin: The Warrior Medusa (2017) and Taximan (2018). Lunging into the Underbrush is his first book of non-fiction. He lives in Montreal.