A darkly comic recollection of a country that no longer exists, and a lyrical examination of the importance of taking a stand when it counts. Set against a backdrop of horrific world events, this is narrative non-fiction at its best.
To a young boy growing up poor but happy in an industrial town in Serbia, politics means many national holidays that result in parades, piglets roasting on a spit, and getting to see both his hard-working parents at the same time. An observant child, Dragan Todorovic quickly learns the power of words. Even before he can read or write, he is mesmerized by the squiggles made by the grownups around him and diligently recreates them in the notebooks he carries with him always. He also learns that reciting naughty limericks usually yields some chocolate.
This love of words eventually takes Dragan to Belgrade, as editor for a cultural magazine. He hopes to inspire and support the young and innovative artists of the time, but soon discovers that naughty articles do not yield the same results as limericks, and he finds himself constantly clashing with the system. His many questions get only one answer: he is drafted into the army.
Dragan survives his tour of duty, but his return to Belgrade is unsettling. Everything is changing, rapidly. Friendships are collapsing, conversations are guarded, nothing is as it seems. Bit by bit, the country he knows and loves is being torn apart.
Filled with great characters and poignant and often hilarious stories, The Book of Revenge is a superb duet of a citizen and his country, a universal exploration of just what it is that inoculates the human spirit from dangerous ideologies and toxic nationalism.
Dragan Todorovic aspired to play his material in this blues for Yugoslavia like Hendrix played his Fender. He is an award-winning writer and multimedia artist who was born in Kragujevac, Serbia, and lived in Belgrade for many years before moving to Canada in 1995. His previous books (published in Yugoslavia), include biographies of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits, and a collection of poems.
“The Book of Revenge will not be the last book to be written about the darkness that descended over the Balkans after Tito’s death. But it is easily one of the best.”
—The Sun Times (Owen Sound)
“An engrossing portrait of a guy trying to remain balanced, humane and civilized as his society spirals downward into repression, militarism and civil-war hysteria.… Todorovic’s splendid memoir is a look-back-in-sadness at his once and former country, a country that haunts him still.”
—Winnipeg Free Press
“There is a great dark humour at work in the book, combined with lyrical tenderness for his country…. Todorovic is an exceptional creative writer,
but he is also an excellent reporter.”