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The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak
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The Sojourn (edition 2011)

by Andrew Krivak

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2262351,336 (3.67)61
Member:MeditationesMartini
Title:The Sojourn
Authors:Andrew Krivak
Info:Bellevue Literary Press (2011), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:2012/11/19

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The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
The rhythm of Andrew Krivak's writing forces his readers to slow down. The Sojourn pulled me in and kept me turning the pages because its subject matter and setting are fascinating. But I had to work to read it. Here's an example of a typical sentence pulled from about halfway through the novel:

But among the Austrian and German troops we fell in with that autumn in Kobarid, we felt the camaraderie of skill and demeanor, and so began to believe again in the possibility of victory in that war, after having lost so many battles, a victory we would soon find out, that was being mapped out in the mountains above the plateau the generals had conceded to their enemy in order to save themselves and their imperial army.

I might enjoy sentences such as this if they were used in moderation, but Krivak rarely breaks his rhythm with shorter phrases.

The novel follows the life of Jozef Vinich, who was born in Colorado but raised in Austria-Hungry. He and his adopted brother, learn to shoot with great skill because they are hunters from an early age. When World War 1 begins, their skills as sharpshooters are highly valued. The scenes from the battles and from long marches in harsh environments bring a very clear picture of a struggle to survive, but Krivak also shows the guilt surviving can bring.

I said that I had ceased to think of life or death because it seemed that I was destined to serve out the sentence of one for having delivered so well the sentence of the other, and that I saw the dead every night before I went to sleep as though they were still alive and standing before me.

The Sojourn is not a book to curl up with on a rainy day. But for readers who enjoy history and who like to work at what they read, it's a good one.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions ( )
  SteveLindahl | May 18, 2014 |
This is a jewel of a work, telling in limpid prose of a boy born in the USA who lives with his shepherd-father in what is now Slovakia, goes to fight for Austria-Hungary on the Italian front, and after the war has a touching encounter with a pregnant Gypsy girl. This is a straight-forward story appealing in all its aspects. Well worth the couple hours it takes to read it. ( )
  Schmerguls | Aug 13, 2013 |
The writing in the first half of The Sojourn does not square with its having won so many awards. Though well executed, it feels distant. Then abruptly, as WWI winds down, Andrew Krivak's stoytelling hits its stride and we finally get the measure of Jozef, the book's central character. At that point, as he starts walking across post-war Europe toward his Carpathian home, the similarity in tone between this book and Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain is quite remarkable, particularly in how each captures the essence of what it feels to be homeward bound. The Sojourn, though, is ultimately a series of unrequited homeward journeys. As Jozef moves from America to Europe and back again, the myths of both Old World and New are exposed. The New delivers nothing but exploitation and the Old is a nest of deep, tribal hatreds. One is reminded how even the most fortunate among us has likely sprung from the misery of generations of refugees. ( )
  maritimer | Apr 25, 2013 |
A debut novel, recipient of the Chautauqua Prize and National Book Award Finalist, this short 130pp tale was an intense and moving book. Very simply written with a memorial stark. Very humane treatment of the effects of war on the psyche; the ephemeral nature of family; and the process of growing into and then out of a world.
( )
  John_Pappas | Mar 30, 2013 |
Having looked at the author's website, I see that The Sojourn is undoubtedly a deeply personal novel for him, based as it is on the experiences of several members of his family. Unfortunately, I think that deep connection which Krivak feels to the novel is also the source of its greatest weakness, for in the process fictionalising his grandparents' experiences and making them part of the book's main character, Krivak forgot that most of his readers are not going to have that same instinctive interest in, and prior knowledge of, the characters.

He never put the work into making his characters seem like three-dimensional people, so this slim novel mostly consists of a (admittedly seemingly painstakingly researched) recounting of a series of events which happen to the narrator. I never got a clear sense of why I should care about all of this, about who Josef was or what his reaction to things were, or what the message of this book was (beyond "Europe's dreadful but America is awesome! Freedom, fuck yeah!"). Several parts of The Sojourn also felt very stock, the kind of Western male coming-of-age fantasy that I find particularly tedious. The whole section of the novel featuring the young, pregnant Roma girl was so intensely problematic that it would take me several paragraphs to break it all down, and I'm just not that invested in this novel, so let me boil my reaction to it down to a simple: "... no."

Krivak mentions in an article about the origins of this novel that several of its events originally happened to his grandmother. I couldn't help but feel that The Sojourn would have been many times more interesting if he'd stuck with a female protagonist. Watching a woman—particularly one with a gift for being a sniper—navigate her way through Central Europe during the First World War would have been intriguing. This merely felt stale. ( )
  siriaeve | Dec 26, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (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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Epigraph
. . . 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
Dedication
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.
Quotations
p.144
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)

(summary from another edition)

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