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Leeches Hardcover – April 28, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Our hero, a writer, is drawn into a never-ending short-lived story that has him not only going in circles, but also looking for meaning in those circles; even though sometimes a circle is just a circle. Sometimes. When someone knows what I am going to do before I do, how do I know that someone really did know that? Or, was that someone just playing with my mind by saying so? Or, by denying it?
Madness is highly overrated, I am told. But, what if I was lied to? And, is that what I want? No, I really want to know if I am doing something important for the side of good or if I am being used by the side of bad. I really, really want to know the truth. The problem is, I don't know who I'd believe was telling me the truth.
Albahari has the reader become a part of this segment of Serbian society in a very tough time. While he hasn't written an easily read book, it is a book that will play with your mind. Trying to unravel that which may not be meant to be unraveled can be fun. It is worth the effort.
Albahari's Serbian hero pulls on a piece of literary yarn in a carefully knit sweater and unwinds a long, babbling thread that seemingly has no end, no paragraph breaks and minimal punctuation. Those without patience will find the book tedious but perseverance pays off for those willing to sacrifice their better judgment and stay in the game.
Various themes are covered during the tale; violence, paranoia, the Kabbalah, conspiracy theories, antisemitism, mathematics, symbolism, ethnic cleansing and, eventually, murder. And all are viewed through the heavy smoke of marijuana which is ever-present between our hero and his friend who he visits often in order to tell his day's events.
The writing is solid, even if it's mostly stream-of-conscious meandering. Some key phrases are over-used (I looked left, I looked right, etc.) but after a while they nearly become the hallmark - and could have deeper meaning.
Or am I being paranoid? Perhaps I'll ask an old Jewish man for advice.
In true beat-surrealist-deconstructionist tradition, Albahari makes this perpetually stoned newsreporter's witness take on divine proportions. Because of his attempt to stop and understand this one incident, he becomes the subject of worldwide attention and is targeted for assassination by a group of anti-semites. Familiarizing himself with the Kabbalah, he is initiated into it's rites and mysteries, even attending secret ceremonies. One cannot always tell if what happens is real or imagined.
A fascinating gem of a book that also reminds one of Denis Jonson, Albahari clearly has a future in the Brion Gysin school of fiction. Recommended for those with patience.
In David Albahair's newest novel, Leeches, his protagonist battles with the concept of what is trivial and what is significant in his life. A common enough problem for anyone, but for someone having gone through the political and ethnic war in the Balkans, it's more complex. The novel begins with him witnessing a random act of violence: a woman is slapped by a man. The shock of it sears him, yet it seems tame compared to the violence perpetrated throughout the region during the conflict. Now obsessed, he tries to find out who the woman is and why the incident took place.
As he takes on his search, he finds himself looking for clues everywhere. Suddenly everything has a broader meaning, and he feels enlightened to recognize signs that others ignore. Graffiti, scraps of paper on the ground, the angle of a door opening; all appear to him as related to his search. His closest friend Marko tries to get him back to reality, cautiously but clearly pointing out the flaws in his thinking. Is he suffering from some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder or is he simply paranoid? Or could it be as they say, that even a paranoid person is right sometimes?
The novel proceeds rapidly with him consulting a mathematical expert, Dragan Misovic ("you must get over your fear of math"), and Kabbalah mystics in order to piece together what he can accept as a reality. The Belgrade setting is perfect for the labyrinth of the story, as he seeks answers through old and new portions of the city, amid ruins and new construction.
In one portion of the novel, I came across what is possibly the best explanation for why people become racist, and why ethnic hatred is so prevalent.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I don't read much contemporary fiction and I may have picked the wrong place to start. This novel, by a Serbian writer living in Canada, is a confusing mash of domestic violence,... Read morePublished on March 29, 2013 by Doctor.Generosity
I buy a lot of the $3.99 and under books amazon offers and have been more then happy with most. I was surprised when I saw this in the Amazon cheap list and on the Swarthmore list... Read morePublished on October 7, 2012 by Gerald
Strange prose, almost Finnegans Wake-like peppered with Kabbalistic symbolism (cover art is from Qabalist Robert Fludd's diagram on memory). Read morePublished on April 19, 2012 by rareoopdvds
Leeches is the first David Albahari novel I read - I tried Gotz and Meyer a while ago but it did not hook me so I marked it for later. Read morePublished on December 22, 2011 by Liviu C. Suciu
"Leeches" by David Albahari is a powerfully poetic and surreal work of fiction. I say "fiction" although it lies on the bedrock of the ugliest of past and recent histories. Read morePublished on June 7, 2011 by dadaamericano
It's tough to review this book because I firmly believe that it is possible to dislike a book for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing. Read morePublished on May 28, 2011 by Carol S.
Words come and words go, but tiny fragments of them stay around forever. Piles of discarded words reflect light like diamonds and we can plunge in to see what we might retrieve,... Read morePublished on May 24, 2011 by Bob Newman
Several times throughout this wonderful novel the protagonist considers the parallels that his story shares with Borges' short story about a villainous and infinite text, "The Book... Read morePublished on May 22, 2011 by Alcee Arobin
I went through several different stages while reading this novel set in Serbia in the 1990s. It's written in a strange way, with long, curling, almost endless sentences and no... Read morePublished on May 18, 2011 by Alan A. Elsner