Our Man in Iraq by Robert Perišic
"Robert Perisic depicts, with acerbic wit, a class of urban elites who are trying to reconcile their nineties rebellion with the reality of present-day Croatia. . . . The characters' snide remarks could easily sound cynical but the novel has a levity informed by the sense of social fluidity that comes with democracy." —The New Yorker
"This jivey—and I should say x-rated—story stays with us." —Alan Cheuse, NPR's "All Things Considered"
"A must-read... brilliantly captures modern-day Zagreb." —The Guardian
"Robert Perisic is a light bright with intelligence and twinkling with irony, flashing us the news that postwar Croatia not only endures but matters." —Jonathan Franzen
Saddam is a young villager from the outskirts of Basra, named after the president. What can he do? He spreads his hands wide like a scarecrow, and I spread mine too, and we chat like two scarecrows in the field, except there are no crops, no grass, and no birds for us to scare away, only sand and scrap iron, and his village, said Saddam, is in a bad place. So he stuck all his goats in a pickup truck and took to the road like Kerouac, except there’s no literature here, and no shade.
2003: As Croatia lurches from socialism into globalized capitalism, Toni, a cocky journalist in Zagreb, struggles to balance his fragile career, pushy family, and hotheaded girlfriend. But in a moment of vulnerability he makes a mistake: volunteering his unhinged Arabic-speaking cousin Boris to report on the Iraq War. Boris begins filing Gonzo missives from the conflict zone and Toni decides it is better to secretly rewrite his cousin’s increasingly incoherent ramblings than face up to the truth. But when Boris goes missing, Toni’s own sense of reality—and reliability—begins to unravel.
Our Man In Iraq, the first of Robert Perisic’s novels to be translated into English, serves as an unforgettable introduction to a vibrant voice from Croatia. With his characteristic humor and insight, Perisic gets to the heart of life made and remade by war.
Born in 1969 in Split, Croatia, Robert Perišic has published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry titles in his native country, many of which have been translated into other languages. He began writing short stories in the 1990s with a clear anti-war sentiment and quickly became a popular voice among youth against the war as well as earning a reputation as a rising literary talent. Perišic is now considered one of the most important writers and journalists in the country. He currently lives in Zagreb, Croatia.