How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone, By Sasa Stanisic

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The Independent Culture

"It's usual for people to think sadly of the dead now and then. In our family that happens when Sunday, rain, coffee and Granny Katarina come together at the same time."

Aleksandar Krsmanovic is enjoying a sociableYugoslav childhood when his beloved grandfather pops his clogs - in light of what's to come, it's a cosily normal event. When the war eventually arrives in his hometown of Visegrad, bombs drop and tanks roll in: Aleksandar has a Muslim mother, but a Serb father.

The family escapes to Germany. A decade later he returns to Bosnia to track down a Muslim friend, Asija. The events described are dire, but Sasa Stanisic's inventive flourishes, in this translation by Anthea Bell, inject the novel with a breezy bravado.