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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Second Book

Muharem Bazdulj

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To purchase The Second Book

Title: The Second Book
Author: Muharem Bazdulj
Genre: Stories
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 139 pages
Original in: Bosnian
Availability: The Second Book - US
The Second Book - UK
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  • Bosnian title: Druga knjiga
  • "Initial translations were produced for two of the stories by Nikola Petkovic and the rest by Oleg Andric. Andrew Wachtel then revised all of the translations, which were sent to the author for his comments and approval."

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Our Assessment:

B+ : appealing, and crisply written, but don't do quite enough

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
World Lit. Today . 3-4/2006 Robert Murray Davis

  From the Reviews:
  • "Not yet thirty, Muharem Bazdulj is both erudite and inventive. (...) Readers looking for a sober examination of the Bosnian situation should look elsewhere. Those expecting an artful and ingenious look at the ways in which the mind can work will read The Second Book with great care and greater delight." - Robert Murray Davis, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Second Book is a collection of ten stories, many based on historical figures (as well as a few invented ones). As Bazdulj writes in an Author's Note, the stories cover a lot of ground -- a span of some thirty five centuries -- and their settings are also spread across the earth. Still, there are some connexions between them -- a few thin threads, as well as a few stronger links.
       The stories tend to be essayistic, both descriptive non-fiction as well as more speculative or analytic pieces. Person is central in many of them, and whether describing only a few days in the life ('Tears in Turin', about Nietzsche) or trying to sum up an entire life-time (several of the pieces) there is a strong sense of trying to get at the essence of the (person-)subject. Tellingly, however, these are elusive lives, or ones about which the facts are uncertain: when writing about Nietzsche, it's the point where he's losing his mind, while other subjects include the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep IV as well as several invented writers around whom there is considerable mystery.
       The title piece imagines a man obsessed with collecting second books; here and elsewhere the jokes, no matter how broad, are often buried deep, 'inside' knowledge necessary to 'get' it, the serious-literary tone throughout throwing readers off of what is sometimes outright silliness -- as in a listing of second books from this Ian Tishri's library which includes, for example, Das zweite Buch by Otto Waalkes. The same library also includes Muhamed Dzenetic's Druga knjiga -- the Bosnian title of Bazdulj's book -- the author, Dzenetic, himself the central figure of an earlier story, a letter to the editor about 'The Poet'.
       'The Story of Two Brothers' looks at brothers William and Henry James, in Cain and Abel variation; 'Fiat Iustitia' is a number (36) -obsessed play on the theme. Here and elsewhere the stories are steeped in history and example, as if precision and familiar agreed-upon facts lend credence to invention; 'A Twilight Encounter' is certainly a representative example of what Bazdulj can and does do.
       These are well-crafted stories, pleasing in how they unfold and the jumps and connexions Bazdulj makes. There's an interesting mind at work here, and one that can express itself well. And yet they're not entirely satisfying, too often having the feel of art for art's sake (or for play). They're substantial, and yet except for the delicate handling feel almost bloated; ultimately Bazdulj seems almost to be showing off too much.
       There's talent here, and perhaps that also adds to the slight disappointment -- the feeling that some of that talent is being wasted. Still, certainly of interest.

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The Second Book: Reviews: Muharem Bazdulj: Other books by Muharem Bazdulj under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Muharem Bazdulj was born in Bosnia in 1977.

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