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Comment: Former library copy with standard library markings.There is no highlighting or writing inside with a nice tight spine.
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The Sojourn Paperback – April 19, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Krivak follows his revelatory memoir (A Long Retreat) with this lush, accomplished novel. After Jozef Vinich's mother dies while saving his life as an infant, Jozef and his widowed father relocate from a small Colorado mining town back to their Austrian homeland. Though Jozef's boyhood is marred by lingering feelings of abandonment, resentment, ingrained sadness, and two bullying stepbrothers, his life is enhanced by frequent dreams of his mother and a close friendship with troubled distant cousin Zlee. Both boys revel in the family hunting trips, which hone their sharpshooting abilities, expertise put to use when both go off to fight in WWI as marksmen, over Jozef's father's objections. Krivak dexterously exposes the stark, brutal realities of trench warfare, the horror of a POW camp, and the months of violent bloodshed that stole the boys' innocence. Once home from war, the author's depiction of Jozef's arduous return to life, love, and family is charged with emotion and longing, revealing this lean, resonant debut as an undeniably powerful accomplishment. (May)
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WASHINGTON POST Notable Book of the Year

“Splendid . . . a novel for anyone who has a sharp eye and ear for life.” —NPR All Things Considered

“[A] powerful, assured first novel . . . Packed with violence and death, yet wonderfully serene in its tone, Andrew Krivak’s The Sojourn—shortlisted for this year’s National Book Award—reminds us that one never knows from where the blow will fall and that, always, in the midst of life we are in death. . . . If the early pages of The Sojourn sometimes recall Cormac McCarthy (especially The Crossing), the heart of the book is a harrowing portrait of men at war, as powerful as Ernst Junger’s classic Storm of Steel and Isaac Babel’s brutally poetic Red Cavalry stories.” —Washington Post

”Surging in pace and momentum, The Sojourn is a deeply affecting narrative conjured by the rhythms of Krivak’s superb and sinuous prose. Intimate and keenly observed, it is a war story, love story, and coming of age novel all rolled into one. I thought of Lermontov and Stendhal, Joseph Roth, and Cormac McCarthy as I read. But make no mistake. Krivak’s voice and sense of drama are entirely his own.” —Sebastian Smee of the Boston Globe

“Novels set during World War I (think of The English Patient or A Long Long Way) possess a desolation, violence and a desperate longing to go back, to return to life as it was lived before the war. . . . [The Sojourn] is an ever-hopeful series of fresh starts and dashed hopes, a beautiful tale of persistence and dogged survival, set in the mountains, villages and battlefields of a Europe that exists only in memories and stories.” —Los Angeles Times

“A captivating, thoughtful narrative . . . and poignant reminder of how humanity was so greatly affected by what was once called the war to end all wars.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[The Sojourn] can be read as a classic of war. It is beautifully plotted, as rapt and understated as a hymn. . . . [Krivak] writes hunting scenes as evocative as those in The Deer Hunter. Then he outstrips that film in rending the harrowing and seductive elements of war.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer

“[The Sojourn] deserves to be placed on the same shelf as Remarque, Hemingway and Heller . . . Krivak has written an anti-war novel with all the heat of a just-fired artillery gun.” —Barnes and Noble Review/ Christian Science Monitor

“Hope for the future, the conversion of tragedy into meaning—lurks throughout The Sojourn’s lush and lyrical prose.” —IMAGE: Art, Faith, Mystery

“An engrossing narrative that goes beyond a war novel into a character study of loss and redemption.” —Rain Taxi Review of Books

“Krivak writes of war with the skill of a mature novelist/observer. Death, dysentery, starvation, chaos, amputation, prison. All are here in elegant prose—plus touches of rare beauty and tenderness as Jozef comes full circle with is past, his father, his country—even the idea of his father’s reverse migration. All of this in less than two hundred pages.” —CounterPunch

“Unsentimental yet elegant . . . with ease, [The Sojourn] joins the ranks of other significant works of fiction portraying World War I—Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front or Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“The ghost of Hemingway informs some of Krivak’s notes from the front lines, while several other literary influences seem to be evident in his slender book, including the Italian novelist and memoirist Primo Levi, himself the veteran of a very long walk through Europe, and, for obvious reasons, the Charles Frazier of Cold Mountain. Yet Krivak has his own voice, given to lyrical observations on the nature of human existence.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Deftly wrought, quietly told . . . Krivak studied all the Great War novels before writing, and the result is a debut novel at home amongst those classics. Highly recommended.” —Historical Novels Review (Editor’s Choice)

“Rendered in spare, elegant prose, yet rich in authentic detail, The Sojourn . . . stands with the most memorable stories about World War I. Krivak’s tale has an archetypal quality; it is a retelling of the hero’s inner and outer journey through impossibly rugged landscapes, toward survival and wholeness.” —ForeWord Reviews

“Inspired by oral histories of the “ol’ kawntree” passed on by his Slovakian grandmother, Krivak, who once dreamed of a career in music and spent eight years in a Jesuit order, has crafted a novel of uncommon lyricism and moral ambiguity that balances the spare with the expansive. He juxtaposes the brutality of Jozef’s environment, both natural and human, during his childhood in the Carpathians and his military service on the Italian front and after with the beauty of mountain vistas and moments of love, sacrifice, and compassion between his finely drawn characters.” —The Chautauqua Prize committee

The Sojourn is a work of uncommon strength by a writer of rare and powerful elegance about a war, now lost to living memory, that echoes in headlines of international strife to this day.” —Mary Doria Russell, author of Doc and The Sparrow

The Sojourn is a fiercely wrought novel, populated by characters who lead harsh, even brutal lives, which Krivak renders with impressive restraint, devoid of embellishment or sentimentality. And yet—almost despite such a stoic prose style—his sentences accrue and swell and ultimately break over a reader like water: they are that supple and bracing and shining.” —Leah Hager Cohen, author of House Lights


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press; First Edition edition (April 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934137340
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934137345
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By "switterbug" Betsey Van Horn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 26, 2011
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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As other reviewers have noted, this is a coming of age novel about a couple of young Austro-Hungarian boys (ethnic Slovaks) during World War One. The setting was interesting because we have a plethora of novels in the US about the Western front (since most English and Americans were fighting that front), but few concerning the Southern front. So naturally, I found this interesting.

What I didn't really find all that interesting were the characters. Jozef in particular seemed very 'flat'. The novel is set as if an older Jozef is remembering his past. The story is told in a very matter of fact manner. It is almost a documentary style, revealing little emotion. Though the style is reminiscent of Hemingway (more on that in a moment), I feel that Hemingway seems to draw the reader in with his wonderful characterization.

The novel is less than 200 pages and on a pretty small page, so it's a pretty quick read. Often there are short flashes of brilliance in writing, such as the line "...and I hoped, for his sake, that Lieutenant Holub would see battle soon and that it would be fierce and unrelenting and that he would die quickly and well." See what I mean about Hemingway though?

The middle of the book is marred by exceptionally long run on sentences. The only reason it bothers me is that often they are totally unnecessary and strain the overall reading/thought process.
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