Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Like Eating a Stone" by Wojciech Tochman

I recently read Like Eating a Stone: Surviving the Past in Bosnia, a new English-language version (ably translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones) of a series of Polish-language articles by journalist Wojciech Tochman published between 2000-2003.

I hesitate to describe this book in too much detail for fear that my clumsy prose might diminish the emotional impact of this spare, tender, achingly humane piece of reporting. The book consists of a series of vignettes as Tochman travels through Bosnia, interviewing people (mostly women) who are trying to move on and understand the past. Most of the subjects are Bosniaks, but he also visits a refugee camp for Bosnian Serbs, who are trapped in lives of absolute torpor and psychic immobilization.

Much of the narrative is centered around Dr. Ewa Klonowski, a Polish-American scientist who works at identifying the bones of Bosnia's innumerble primary and secondary mass graves so that the lost souls who haunt this book may finally bury their loved ones.

This book has a spare elegance which is overwhelming at times. I have been waiting over a week since reading it to decide how to "review" it and I have finally given up. There is no point. I can only highly recommend that anyone interested in the human stories behind official statistics on refugee returns and the identification of discovered human remains steel themselves sufficienty to read this small masterpiece.

No comments: