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The Sojourn Paperback – Apr 19 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press (April 19 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934137340
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934137345
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 1.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #395,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 80 reviews
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Coming of age in Austria-Hungary during the Great War April 26 2011
By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn - Published on
Format: Paperback
World War I was the deadliest conflict in Western history, but contemporary portrayals of war in literature and cinema primarily focus on examples of combat from the past fifty or sixty years. At a time when the Great War is receding into the annals of distant history, this elegiac and edifying novel has been released--a small, slim but powerful story of a young soldier, Josef Vinich, who hails from a disenfranchised and impoverished family in rural Austria-Hungary.

Josef was born in the rural mining town of Pueblo, Colorado, in 1899, to immigrant parents from Austria-Hungary who dreamed of a better life in the United States. The opening eleven-page prologue, a stunning and deeply felt family tragedy, is subsequently followed by a move back to the Empire, to his father's village in rural Austria-Hungary. Josef's father then marries a cruel woman with two young sons. They live the hardscrabble existence of shepherds, barely able to put food on the table, in the cold and brutal climate of the region. Josef and his father live for part of the year in a cabin in the Carpathian Mountains and ply their trade of husbandry in order to survive.

At the age of ten, Josef is introduced to his father's Krag rifle, and is instructed in the art of hiding, and hunting their prey. A distant cousin, Marian Pes--nicknamed Zlee--who was one year older than Josef, is sent to live with them. Zlee has an instinct for shepherding, and together they form a brotherly bond of love and respect. Josef's sleep is haunted by dreams of loss and he gradually becomes distant from his father.

In 1916, when Zlee turns eighteen, both boys go to the conscription office to join up. Josef alters the age on his identity card so that he can go, too. During artillery training, they are recognized for their skill of aiming and shooting, and are sent to train as snipers, or "sharpshooters," which in German is called Scharfschützen. What follows is a coming of age story set in the harsh climate and geography in the trenches of war--to Austria to train as Scharfschützen, and eventually to the sub-zero temperature of the Italian Alps.

Krivak writes with the precision and beauty of a finely cut gem and with the meticulous pace and purpose of a classical conductor. Every word is necessary and neatly positioned. His prose is evocative, poetic, and distilled. There is a place between the breath of the living and the faces of the dead, and that is where Josef's soul resides. When the author takes the reader to the abyss of loss and the ghosts of Time, it is riveting. However, the emotional resonance was primarily potent in the prologue and only periodically in the body of the story, and was otherwise low-timbred and somewhat distancing. The narrative is so deliberately controlled that at times it felt antiseptic and dispassionate.

Krivak's first novel is highly recommended as an addition to a library of World War I literature. This is an admirable debut, and it is evident from the prologue that Krivak is capable of crafting an emotionally satisfying story.

This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Great War Novel Aug. 25 2011
By James P. Patuto - Published on
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book reluctantly, but I never looked back. What an excellent novel. Actually it's more than a war story. It is so much better than what passes for historical fiction, and deals with a part of World War I that few know about and a section of Europe that is often overlooked. This is a serious book that should be read.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Much more than a war story. Nov. 24 2011
By Michael P Silithc - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Sojourn is much much more than just a war story. While it is one of the most descriptive and profound reflections of war without being judgemental that I have read, the novel primarily offers a generational view of a father and son. It follows their relationship through birth, death, poverty, and the horror of war, portraying their inner thoughts and their love as it changes and grows. It is the story of two men, trying to find themselves while staying true. Since they are father and son, their search represents the growth and continuation of a family lineage that I am sure continues to this day. Their reflections and revelations are enough to inspire me to think about my father and what he must have gone through, having his father fight in World War 1, or at least the Russian Revolution. The complexities and challenges of the father's and son's relationship inspires me to seek reconciliation and peace. Finally, it is a story of hope, regeneration and of being a part of something that is greater than one lifetime.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Nearly Perfect WWI Novel Dec 15 2011
By Brooks Williams - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Sojourn is about war on every level. The personal wars that we wage against ourselves, the wars within a family, wars within a groups of men and war at the global level. And what keeps coming to me after reading this amazing little book is that all of these wars are based on necessity. Sometimes we need to go to war against ourselves so that we can be free of history and the weights that others have hung around our necks. Jozef literally caries his anger and aggression with him in the form of his adopted brother, Zlee. And when Jozef finds himself without Zlee, his anger vanishes and he is forced to experience a sort of baptism by starvation, exhaustion and brutal war.

Once he comes out of the war, Jozef finds himself a prisoner of war where he is alone with himself, left to sort through the baggage of war and loss. His post-prison journey provides the opportunity for rebirth and a chance to find redemption.

I loved The Sojourn so much. The writing is gorgeous and I can see why this was put on the short list for the National Book Award. The scenes that book-end the war are beautiful and full of color while the war section is bleak, brutal and unforgiving. The book ends with redemption and hope and not in a way that seems saccharine, but very real. I highly recommend reading it for yourself.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Slim little volume packs a punch Nov. 26 2011
By Bryan - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Sojourn is not a happy story- its characters in the backwaters of the Austro-Hungarian empire lead harsh, brutal lives. But Krivak's writing is excellent; his sentences are models of economy and description that a lot of bloviating authors should emulate. It was also a nice change of pace to read a WWI novel that wasn't set on the Western Front- amazing that an empire with something like six official languages could field a cohesive army at all. The only thing I wondered about were the references to the "hated Italians". I wish there had been a little explanation of the history there.