The Book of Blam

Aleksandar Tisma (Author) Michael Heim (Translator)
& 1 more


The Book of Blam, Aleksandar Tisma's "extended kaddish . . . [his] masterpiece" (Kirkus Reviews), is a modern-day retelling of the book of Job. The war is over. Miroslav Blam walks along the former Jew Street, and he remembers. He remembers Aaron Grün, the hunchbacked watchmaker; and Eduard Fiker, a lamp merchant; and Jakob Mentele, a stove fitter; and Arthur Spitzer, a grocer, who played amateur soccer and had non-Jewish friends; and Sándor Vértes, a lawyer who was a Communist. All dead. As are his younger sister and his best friend, a Serb, both of whom joined the resistance movement; and his mother and father in the infamous Novi Sad raid in January 1942--when the Hungarian Arrow Cross executed 1,400 Jews and Serbs on the banks of the Danube and tossed them into the river.

Blam lives. The war he survived will never be over for him.

Product Details

New York Review of Books
Publish Date
February 09, 2016
5.0 X 0.6 X 7.9 inches | 0.5 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Aleksandar Tisma (1924-2003) was born in the Vojvodina, a former province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that had been incorporated into the new kingdom of Yugoslavia after the First World War. His father, a Serb, came from a peasant background; his mother was middle-class and Jewish. The family lived comfortably, and Tisma received a good education. In 1941, Hungary annexed Vojvodina; the next year--Tisma's last in high school--the regime carried out a series of murderous pogroms, killing some 3,000 inhabitants, primarily Serbs and Jews, though the Tismas were spared. After fighting for the Yugoslav partisans, Tisma studied philosophy at the University of Belgrade and went into journalism. In 1949 he joined the editorial staff of a publishing house, where he remained until his retirement in 1980. Tisma published his first story, "Ibika's House," in 1951; it was followed by the novels Guilt and In Search of the Dark Girl and a collection of stories, Violence. In the 1970s and '80s, he gained international recognition with the publication of his Novi Sad trilogy: The Book of Blam (1972), about a survivor of the Hungarian occupation of Novi Sad; The Use of Man (1976), which follows a group of friends through the Second World War and after; and Kapo (1987), the story of a Jew raised as a Catholic who becomes a guard in a German concentration camp. Tisma moved to France after the outbreak of war and collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, but in 1995 he returned to Novi Sad, where he spent his last years.

Michael Henry Heim (1943-2012) was a professor of Slavic languages at the University of California, Los Angeles. Fluent in eight languages, Heim was the recipient of many awards and translated such writers as Anton Chekhov, Milan Kundera, Günter Grass, Bohumil Hrabal, Danilo Kis, and Dubravka Ugresic. He is the subject of The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim & A Life in Translation, edited by Esther Allen, Sean Cotter, and Russell Scott Valentino.

Charles Simic is a poet, essayist, and translator. He has published some twenty collections of poetry, six books of essays, a memoir, and numerous translations. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and a Mac-Arthur Fellowship. Among Simic's recent works are New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012, The Lunatic, and Confessions of a Poet Laureate, a book of essays that was published by New York Review Books as an e-book original. In 2007 Simic was appointed the fifteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.


"One of the most stirring novels to come from the Balkans."--Larry Wolff The New York Times

"A startling, extraordinary creation." --The New Yorker

"Tisma has made Novi Sad a microcosm for the most painful developments of 20th-century history. It is a city of tiers, one tier the actual city in which Miroslav survives, the other filled by the possible lives of those who perished. Yet life on the edge of the abyss is surprisingly normal...The intersection of this high intellectual refinement with the most brutal incidents in history gives the novel, which has been published to acclaim in France and Germany, its great, eccentric pathos." --Publishers Weekly

"A Balkan bible presided over by an ironic vision of the imagination, capable of envisioning utter barbarity but not the expiation for sins."--The Boston Globe

"Tisma is unrelenting in his quest for truth yet compassionate in his judgments of individuals."--The Wall Street Journal