With a deteriorating grasp on the present, Arsenie's thoughts wander back over his life, which has revolved around the houses he built and owned: he gave them women's names and thought about them far more than about his wife. The episodes which have seared themselves into his memory, and to which he returns repeatedly, include a family quarrel at a funeral, an obsession with his brother's house and his attempts to obtain it for himself, air raids and riots during World War II and, going even further back, a Bolshevik pogrom in 1919. Arsenie also talks to himself, rethinks his ideas about architecture and property, looks back at his relationships with builders and architects, and rewrites his will.
The structure of The Houses of Belgrade reflects the erratically selective memory of an old man, but it is worked together in such a way that narrative drive never falters. Arsenie Negovan is self-centred, obsessed and cantankerous, but appealing nonetheless; through this unusual lens Borislav Pekic presents a strange but revealing thread of Yugoslavian history.
- Related reviews:
- Borislav Pekic - The Apology and the Last Days
- Borislav Pekic - How to Quiet a Vampire
- Borislav Pekic - The Time of Miracles
- books about Eastern Europe + Eastern European history
- more Serbo-Croatian literature
- books about architecture + urbanism
- books published by Northwestern University Press