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One take on the journey

Posted by Tom Haines, Globe Travel Writer  March 2, 2009 06:49 AM

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Reflections on movement through time and place from "How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone" , a novel by Sasa Stanisic. Stanisic was born in 1978 in Visegrad, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and fled with his parents to Germany when war arrived in 1992. In this novel that tries to build a peace from pieces of the real past and fictional future, Stanisic's protagonist, Aleksandar, describes a writing assignment he received from Comrade-turned-democrat-teacher Mr. Fazlagic:

A wonderful trip, and it has to be an experience -- not just an event! Mr. Fazlagic looks at us. Vukoje, I shall stop reading after the twentieth spelling mistake. Faruk, anything illegible will lose you marks. And Aleksandar, I don't want to know anything about your great-grandma uprooting oaks, or inauguration parties for the family bathroom, or your Auntie Whirlwind running a race with Carl Lewis over the bridge and ending up in Tokyo. You've wandered off the subject in every essay you've written this year, so kindly restrain your imagination! Mr. Fazlagic comes up to my desk and bends down toward me. And we use quotation marks for direct speech, he says, leaning his fists on the desk top, you know that, I don't have to explain it to you every time. Now, you all have an hour!

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