Adios, Cowboy (aka Farewell, Cowboy)

"Dada's life is at a standstill in Zagreb—she’s sleeping with a married man, working a dead-end job, and even the parties have started to feel exhausting. So when her sister calls her back home to help with their aging mother, she doesn’t hesitate to leave the city behind. But she arrives to find her mother hoarding pills, her sister chain-smoking, her long-dead father’s shoes still lined up on the steps, and the cowboy posters of her younger brother Daniel (who threw himself under a train four years ago) still on the walls.

Hoping to free her family from the grip of the past, Dada vows to unravel the mystery of Daniel’s final days. This debut by a poet from Croatia’s 'lost generation' explores a beautiful Mediterranean town’s darkest alleys: the bars where secrets can be bought, the rooms where bodies can be sold, the streets and houses where blood is shed. By the end of the long summer, the lies, lust, feuds, and frustration will come to a violent and hallucinatory head."

Note: This book may be listed under the title Adios, Cowboy or Farewell, Cowboy.

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44 Months in Jasenovac

"An eyewitness account of a prisoner in Jasenovac, a concentration camp in the former Yugoslavia [now Croatia] during WWII. 

For every 100,000 people in the Jasenovac camp during its horrifying four-year existence, there was only one—literally one—who survived. Those were the odds in the balance of life and death: 100,000 dead and one alive.

And there is a witness who found the strength to reminisce, to go back to the place of his torture, to break the psychological barriers, and to lead us step by step through his nightmare, through waves of terror that exceed every notion of horror. From the beginning of his time at Jasenovac to the end, Egon Berger was witness—and victim—to a rampage without limit. Of those who survived, he is the only one who told the story.

Berger does not bring us a literary masterpiece—he brings us only the experience, a story about 44 months of his life in a camp, told simply. The story is enough—a story that calls images to mind and makes us tremble with the thought, 'Are such things possible?'"

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Beauty of the Beast (aka Beauty of Beast)

Though not a gruesome book, this is a dark, gritty novel written by the award-winning "Croatian Queen of Horror" and beloved by many. Different from the other vampire books out there, this novel centers on the Balkan conflicts of the early 1990s with gothic, war vampires drawn by the slaughter on battlefields.

"Viktoria, a young and not particularly talented painter, comes across war vampires in the middle of war-torn Croatia in 1992. She becomes obsessed with them, but socializing with vampires is dangerous. One of them attacks and infects her with what she believes is AIDS. To save herself, she leaves with the oldest of the vampires on an adventure that will prolong her life forever...or end it."

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The Hotel Tito

"The Hotel Tito is an award-winning autobiographical novel of the Serbo-Croatian War.

Author Ivana Bodrozic was born in the Croatian town of Vukovar, just across the Danube from Serbia. In 1991, Vukovar was besieged by the Yugoslav People's Army for 87 days. When the army broke the siege,  women and children were allowed out of the city, but the army bused 400 men to a farm on the outskirts where soldiers massacred them. Bodrozic's father was among those taken and murdered. In The Hotel Tito, after fleeing the war zone their town has become, the mother and two children are housed along with other displaced persons at a former communist school. For years, they share a single room just large enough for their three beds, waiting to hear whether the narrator's father survived and when they'll be granted an apartment of their own.

In the meantime, life goes on for the teenage protagonist, first loves bloom and burn quickly, new friendships are acquired and lost, new truths emerge. But she never loses her shy, insightful voice, nor her self-deprecating sense of humor. The Hotel Tito is a sensitive and forthright coming of age novel in a time of atrocity and loss."

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Karoke Culture

"Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in the category of Criticism.

Over the past three decades, Ugresic has established herself as one of Europe's greatest—and most entertaining—thinkers and creators, and it's in her essays that Ugresic is at her sharpest. With laser focus, she pierces our pop culture, dissecting the absurdity of daily life with a wit and style that's all her own.

Whether it's commentary on jaded youth, the ways technology has made us soft in the head, or how wrestling a hotel minibar into a bathtub is the best way to stick it to The Man, Ugresic writes with unmatched honesty and panache. Karaoke Culture is full of candid, personal, and opinionated accounts of topics ranging from the baffling worldwide-pop-culture phenomena to the detriments of conformist nationalism. Sarcastic, biting, and, at times, even heartbreaking, this new collection of essays fully captures the outspoken brilliance of Ugresic's insights into our modern world's culture and conformism, the many ways in which it is ridiculous, and how (deep, deep down) we are all true suckers for it."

A special thank you to book club member, Neha Mehta for the suggestion.

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Zagreb Noir

"Eastern European history is filled with harrowing tales, and Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, certainly has its fill. Continuing its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies, Akashic Books again sets its series of dark crime stories in a distinct neighborhood with a curated group of diverse and powerful narratives that offer tremendous insight into the perspectives of modern day Croatians.

'Zagreb's noirish underbelly comes from a new nation familiar with both war and war crimes. Mr. Srsen's handpicked selections are anything but ordinary.'
- New York Journal of Books

'An inherently fascinating and entertaining read from beginning to end.'
- Midwest Book Review"

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