Our man in Iraq by Robert Perisic
Translator Will Firth
Source review copy
Robert Perisic was born in Split in Croatia ,he studied philosophy at university ,he then took up Journalism and later on became editor of the croat magazine New year .in the mid 90’s he start publishing poems and short stories then in 2008 came his first novel our man in Iraq (although the Google translate has the book title translated this as our man on the ground ).
Our man in Iraq obviously from its title has slight overtones to Graham Greene’s seminal work our man in Havana .In the Greene novel James Wormold is drawn in to being a spy for MI6 during the cold war .So in this book follows Boris he is sent by his distant relative Toni a reporter that should have gone to Iraq to report on the war but he has stayed behind , because he is having huge problems in his relationship to a well known beautiful actress Sanya .So it is a satire on journalism in some ways .I ve read a couple of other books over the years .The most recent was Tom Stacey’s the man who knew everything which I review here ,which was also set in the middle east during a crisis in the fifties thou .Of course it is hard not to mention Waugh both scoop and in someways Vile bodies both touch on the newspapers and Journalism ,in scoop also reporting from a war zone .But that said there is also a large part that follow Toni and his girlfriend in everyday life in Croat almost mirror what might happen in Iraq after the war you see how Croat is recovering after it’s own war .
The place is full of camouflaged Yanks and Brits ,the biological and chemical carnival has begun ,and me ,fool that I am ,I haven’t got a mask ,They’re expecting a chemical weapon attack and say Saddam has got tons and tons of the shit .
From Boris first report to toni .
Any way all starts well with Boris his reports and faxes are coming back.They are ropey some what his grammar is rather like mine basic but the reports add to the colour of the war that is going on .But then suddenly the faxes and reports stop appear and Toni still unwilling to go out to Iraq to report has to draw on his own past and the Croatian Serbian and Bosnian wars after Yugoslavia fell apart .This rather remind me of the comic series blackadder goes fourth where blackadder is forced to go over the top of the trench and describe the scene which he does but gets it wrong and this in some ways is what happens to Toni .As people also see news reports from the region .
A Croatian reporter is missing in Iraq ,they repeated on the radio as I was driving back .
Later in the office ,I found myself sitting at the computer in the role of missing reporter I had get to write one of his texts .It was almost as if he’d offically taken me over .
Toni struggling to keep it all together .
This book manages to be partly a love story at its heart that of Toni and his girlfriend Sanja ,a satire on Journalism and reporters ,a war novel and a look at how Croat has moved forward since the war and how the war has impacted on all that were involved in the war .Perisic is considered a leading light of Croatian fiction the well know Croatian Slavenka Drakulić has said of the author: “‘Robert Perišić is considered one of the best writers of his generation. In fact, he is one of those rare things – a writer loved by both the critics and the readers .He seems to sum up what it is to be croatian for a man of my age he is only three years older than me ,so it is interesting to see how different the worries and how similar the worries are for a middle aged Croat .I must say Will Firth and Istros books have yet again managed to dig up another gem of Balkan fiction .
Have you a favourite book from the Balkans ?