This splendid first novel that comes in under 200 pages, but tells a much larger story,
a story — yes, let’s invoke Tolstoy — of war and peace.
Krivak’s main character, an American born Slovak boy named Jozef Vinich, comes into the
world on the western frontier at the turn of the 20th century, but because of a fateful
accident, gets whisked back to the old country by his Slovakian father. There in the cold
mountains of the Austria-Hungarian empire, Jozef learns the ways and wiles of a hardscrabble
life and discovers his gift for sharpshooting. He volunteers to go to war-- this is World
War I, of course-- and finds himself on the other side of the front from that Italian
army most American readers know best from Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.
Though this compact and powerful novel never so much celebrates war as it does the power
of the mind to recall it and the power of language that can describe it, which is the
beginning of the making of peace. Sharpshooter Jozef's winter sojourn in the battle ravaged
mountains of his homeland is truly a story that celebrates, in its stripped down but
resonant fashion, the flow between creation and destruction we all call life.
— Alan Cheuse and April Smith
2012 finalist judges
* * *
Excerpt from the book
One morning as I looked down at the river flowing below through a valley already turning
into a tapestry of greens, yellows, and whites as far as the blue of the Adriatic, and back
to the still snow-capped and windblown mountain range behind, rising sheer and all at once
far into the Alps, I realized that I had no desire and no drive to fight anymore, no rage
at having been wronged somehow, no belief in the right and purpose of kings. I only longed
to turn back and climb and begin life all over again in a place where I might find the peace
I once knew in mountains of another time and another place, and I wondered once again – if
I could slip out of camp unobserved – if I just might be able to stay hidden and uncaptured
until this war came to an end.
[Excerpt from The Sojourn. Copyright © 2011 by Andrew Krivak. Published by Bellevue Literary
Press: www.blpress.org. Reprinted by
permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.]