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The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak

The Sojourn

by Andrew Krivak

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Very nice ( )
  ibkennedy | Sep 22, 2018 |
The protagonist of the novel, Jozef Vinich, is born in Colorado, but returns in infancy to his father's village in Hungary. With his father, through childhood and adolescence, he spends half of each year in the mountains herding sheep and learning to track and shoot.

At sixteen, he enlists in the Austro-Hungarian army, where he serves with his adopted brother as a sniper in the last years of World War I, until he is captured by the Italians and imprisoned on Sardinia. When the war ends, Jozef is pushed across the border into Austria and left to find his way in territory devastated by fighting.

Told in a quiet, restrained voice, the story still captures the anger and bitterness of a young man whose sense of loss and isolation persist throughout his sojourn in his father's country.
  Doswald53 | Jul 14, 2018 |
This coming-of-age novel focuses on the randomness of sudden death. “One never knows from where the blow will fall and that, always, in the midst of life we are in death.” A mother trapped in the path of a train throws her baby into a river to save him. A young boy falls on a mountain trail dropping his rifle and accidentally kills a hunting companion. And, especially, two young men spend much of their war as snipers. "We were trained to make head shots and aimed for the teeth.” “We might kill them, one at a time, with a silence that terrified them more than anything because it held nothing of the glory they imagined they’d find in battle."

Jozef Vinich, the narrator of Andrew Krivak’s excellent war novel, THE SOJOURN, tells of a childhood in a Colorado mining town, a return to a shepherd’s life on the far edge of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and exploits as a sniper in WWI. Despite a calm and matter-of-fact narrative voice, death and the brutalities of war are never far away in this story.

Bored with life in his isolated village, Jozef longs for wartime glory and the chance to see the world. He and his friend Zlee volunteer for the army and are assigned as snipers because of the sharpshooting skills they honed while tending sheep in the Carpathians. This provides an escape from the gruesomeness of the trenches and an illusion that death is a game, but comes at great cost for both boys. They are instructed to kill by a grizzled veteran “from the top down in order to leave an army leaderless and demoralized.” Krivak conveys the shear horror of what these young men will do in the words of their mentor—“You must find the soldier of rank, and find in yourselves the will to remain calm, silent, and alert. Then kill as though it were your only chance to live.”

Jozef and Zlee trek across the Italian Alps to hunt down an enemy sniper whose skillset may surpass theirs. This mission has unfortunate consequences for both of them and results in Jozef’s ultimate capture. He is sent to a POW camp in Sardinia where he ends the war as a disillusioned and broken man. After a long trek he finds his way to a home that never really was one.

Krivak depicts abundant violence and death with a simple and direct tone. He is especially good at conveying the ethnic and national divisions that led to the war and the place that America held as a refuge for Europeans. The brotherhood that exists between Jozef and Zlee, as well as the tension between Jozef and his father are also well realized. This slim novel deals with the contradictions of the human spirit but offers no answers. ( )
  ozzer | Feb 19, 2018 |
This novel, Andrew Krivak's THE SOJOURN, simply blew me away. I come to it several years late, but no matter. There is some flat-out beautiful writing in this book, which shows echoes and influences from THE ODYSSEY to ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, to COLD MOUNTAIN. But make no mistake: THE SOJOURN is a very special kind of work, so much more than just another war novel.

The book jacket says Krivak is the grandson of Slovak immigrants, but that alone can certainly not account for the beautiful prose styling and the historical accuracy in these pages. This guy has done his homework, both in studying literature and history. In THE SOJOURN, Krivak gives us the story of Jozef Vinich, who spends much of his early life trying to find his proper place. Born in 1899 to dirt-poor Slovak immigrant parents in Colorado, following a family tragedy, Jozef returns as a very small child to the Austria-Hungary of his parents. His father is a shepherd in the mountain country there, and Jozef learns outdoor skills that serve him well when he is conscripted into the army - on the German side - during World War I. He serves as a sniper, a specialty which will leave him with nightmares for years to come. Using special long rifles with optical sights, he is trained "to make head shots, and aimed for the teeth." Later he is demoted by a vengeful officer back into the regular infantry where he mixes with raw young recruits who see "battle for the first time, and wept, wet themselves, or tried to run." Weakened by famine, flu and dysentery, Jozef is wounded and captured by the Italians, and spends several months in a Sardinian island prison, before his release at the war's end. His journey through Italy, across mountains and still-hostile territory, back to his home, now the newly-formed Czechoslovakia, is Homeric in its scope and difficulties. Young Jozef is not sure anymore who he is or where his allegiances should lie, "a boy raised among Carpathian peasants in a Magyar culture, professing loyalty in a poor school to a Habsburg, and speaking a language in secret they spoke in a land called America."

He joins forces during his months-long journey with a young, pregnant Gypsy girl. The scene in which she gives birth is as movingly gripping and gritty as any you're likely to find in modern prose. Here's part of it -

"I saw the gush of fluids then and moved around quickly to take the child from her and keep it from strangling. The head had crowned and with each push more of the face emerged, though there was no wiping away or staunching of blood, so much blood it was, as though the child must swim through it as both test and augury, for she had torn, as I had seen sheep tear when the lamb was large or ill-positioned, and I knew later, when the bleeding wouldn't stop, that something had ruptured inside."

I cannot emphasize enough what a beautifully-written and important book THE SOJOURN is. Read it. My highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
1 vote TimBazzett | Mar 4, 2017 |
An engrossing and moving story of a young man's life through his military service in WWI. Born in the US but taken to his father's native Austria-Hungary as an infant, Jozef and his adopted brother Zlee grow up a shepherds and hunters and, as young men, leave their father and village to join the Emperor's army as a spotter/sniper team. Their experiences are somewhat different than the average foot soldier's, as they roam the hills looking for officers, gunners and other important targets in the Italian army. After the war, following a stint in an Italian concentration camp, Jozef struggles to return to his father and to find a path for his own future. ( )
  auntmarge64 | Jul 23, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
... Andrew Krivak, nominated for a National Book Award for The Sojourn, has created a gripping and harrowing war story that has the feel of a classic. Jozef evolves convincingly from an eager young soldier indifferent to the lives he takes, to a wreck of a man who fully understands all that has been lost in the endless fighting. Like all classic war stories, this one can't help but make you wonder about the futility of war and the devastation it leaves in its path...
added by Jcambridge | editNPR, Lynn Neary (Jan 1, 2012)
“Charged with emotion and longing . . . this lean, resonant debut [is] an undeniably powerful accomplishment.”
added by blpbooks | editPublishers Weekly (starred review)
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. . . That was how things were back then. Anything that grew took its time growing, and anything that perished took a long time to be forgotten. But everything that had once existed left its traces, and people lived on memories just as they now live on the ability to forget quickly and emphatically. —Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March
It's difficult with the weight of the rifle.
Leave it — under the oak.
—David Jones, In Parenthesis
For Irene
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She rises before sunup without waking her husband or the child still asleep in the Moses basket at their bedside and walks through the dark of the small shack into the kitchen.
After a time, I asked, “What is left to be afraid of?’
And he said, “the possibility that a life itself may prove to be the most worthy struggle. Not the whole sweeping vale of tears that Rome and her priests want us to sacrifice ourselves to daily so that she lives in splendor, but one single moment in which we die so that someone else lives. That ls it, and it is fearful because it cannot be seen, planned, or even known. It is simply lived. If there be purpose, it happens of a moment within us, and lasts a lifetime without us, like water opening and closing in a wake.
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Book description
Inspired by the author’s own family history, The Sojourn is the story of Jozef Vinich, who was uprooted from a 19th-century mining town in Colorado by a shocking family tragedy to return with his father to an impoverished shepherd’s life in rural Austria-Hungary. When war comes, Jozef joins his cousin and brother-in-arms as a sharpshooter on the southern front, where he must survive a perilous trek across the frozen Italian Alps and capture by a victorious enemy. 
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Uprooted from a nineteenth century mining town in Colorado by a shocking family tragedy, young Jozef Vinich returns with his father to an impoverished shepherd's life in rural Austria-Hungary. When war comes, Jozef is sent as a sharpshooter to the southern front, where he must survive the killing trenches, a perilous trek across the frozen Italian Alps, and capture by a victorious enemy.… (more)

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