I am usually unfazed by books with disturbing bits in them. Actually I have never been affected, however Drakulic has managed to break this cold exterior of mine. Now I don’t know whether it’s because i’m getting older and more sensitive or that the Balkan conflict was something on the news all the time so I had a (faint) idea on what was going on.
S. is a 30-year-old school teacher, who’s half Bosnian and Serb and is leading a cozy life in her mountain village. That is until a soldier arrests her and takes her to a camp in Bosnia. From there onwards S. is subjected to sexual tortures that are quite shocking to read as they are brutally realistic. Finally after a few months she is ‘exchanged’ and goes to a new camp in Zagreb, where she finds out that she has become pregnant through a gang rape. S. then heads off to Stockholm in order to give birth to the baby and debate whether she should give it up for adoption.
Although, as I said earlier, the bits about rape, torture and war are not exactly pleasant reading, It is S.’ personal war with the baby which is the focus of Drakulic’s novel. It seems that a pregnancy caused in those circumstances can cause as much suffering and dread. Despite this the last two chapters are the most heart rendering part of As if I am not there and is bound to create a surge of emotions.
As you can see a flurry of feelings came rushing through me whilst reading this book and I’m glad that it effected me this way. Drakulic’s prose (like a lot of writers i’ve been reading lately) spares no punches and rendering every character as an initial is an interesting touch. Also it is a very well translated book ( well I don’t know Croatian but when a book does not feel like it’s been translated I take that as a good sign) and I was able to integrate myself into the story.