A Balkan Everyman's progress through the later 20th century and the afterlife. April Fool's Day follows the story of Ivan Dolinar, a man caught in the cross-currents of senseless wars, ridiculous dictators, and the usual-and unusual-difficulties of just trying to get by in the Balkans. Ivan's life begins, auspiciously, on April Fool's Day, 1948. As a boy growing up in a small town in Croatia, Ivan tries to love the people's dictator, Tito, but his love is not returned. In a world of propaganda and paranoia, young Ivan quickly discovers that the best of intentions can backfire. At 19, full of hope and ambition, he enters medical school in Novi Sad, in Serbia, but his medical career is cut short by a prank and he is sent to a labour camp to dig rocks for two years. After his release, Ivan takes up philosophy, but when war breaks out, he is drafted-into the wrong army. A pawn in a brutal conflict, in which rules and loyalties shift unexpectedly, Ivan is wounded badly, but survives against all odds. Thinking to try the quiet life of family and home after the war, Ivan returns to his hometown. However, once again, his best intentions go awry. Fate has other plans for Ivan.
From the tavern to the ivory tower to the bloody battlefields, as Ivan's fortunes rise and fall faster than you can say Yugoslavia, a tender novel emerges. At once dark and absurdly comic, a brilliant mixture of wit and humanity, April Fool's Day delivers a deeply affecting view of the human condition.
Josip Novakovich's stories have appeared in The Paris Review, TriQuarterly, Double Take, Tin House, and Ploughshares, among other periodicals. The receiver of numerous awards, Josip Novakovich was named one of the best story writers of the decade by Kirkus Reviews, and Utne Reader included him on the list of ten writers who are changing the way we look at the world.