Over the course of the summer of 1942 the Nazis exterminated the majority of Serbia's Jews. The speed of their deadly programme was due to a ruthlessly mechanical scheme using a hermetically sealed truck. Years later, by trying to find out what happened to his relatives, the narrator, a teacher, pieces together the horrific truth of this systematic extermination - an act carried out primarily by two soldiers named G-tz and Meyer. As he recreates the lives of these two soldiers the narrator increasingly is forced to question why he is compelled to continue his investigation. And so he presents his findings to his class of students. The school bus on which they travel becomes that hermetically sealed truck and as the ghosts of the past overwhelm them and Belgrade's lost souls return the students leave the bus shaken and disturbed, leaving the narrator exhausted. There is a detached, wry humour to the writing, an irony that is initially surprising but a welcome envelope for the content. The vision of G-tz and Meyer just doing their job, the horror of it lost on their desensitised souls, makes the narrator's discovery all the more powerful.
This is a heartbreakingly real novel written with great compassion.
David Albahari was born in Serbia in 1948. He founded, and was for many years the editor in chief of, Pismo, a magazine of world literature. He is also an accomplished translator of Anglo-American literature. He lives in Calgary, Canada.