The Apology and the Last Days

Borislav Pekic

translated from the Serbo-Croatian by Bojan Misic
Northwestern University Press 2012
A book review by Danny Yee © 2013
In prison in West Germany for murdering his employer, Yugoslavian Andrija Gavrilovic has steadfastly refused to explain his actions — to the investigator, to his defense lawyer, or to the comrade from the embassy who wants to use his case to help war reparation claims. Reading Plato's account of Socrates' last days, however, inspires him to write his own apologia.

He spent years working as a lifeguard on a river, living happily with his wife and son, with his greatest disappointment that he had never had to rescue anyone. When his chance finally comes, however, the drowning man turns out to be a high-ranking German officer, whose rescue doesn't endear Andrija to his neighbours at all. The result is separation from his family and a life in exile.

Andrija's account reveals him to be something of a simpleton, a man with a straightforward morality and a limited understanding of the world, whose tragedy is to be caught up in events beyond his comprehension. This perspective provides Pekic with a way of stripping issues of collaboration and retribution down to an elementary level — and with an opening for the dramatic irony that runs through his darkly comic tale. It also means that the more philosophical elements of his story are necessarily indirect, but that is probably a good thing.

At just over a hundred pages, The Apology and the Last Days is a slender work in comparison to Pekic's other novels, but it is a fine one.

November 2013

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%T The Apology and the Last Days
%A Pekic, Borislav
%M Serbo-Croatian
%F Misic, Bojan
%I Northwestern University Press
%D 2012
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9780810128231
%P 119pp