How The Soldier Repairs The Gramophone

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How The Soldier Repairs the Gramophone by Saša Stanišić

Translated from German by Anthea Bell

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, June 2008


Saša Stanišić’s novel is a portrait of the Bosnian conflict as seen through the eyes of a child. As such, the barriers of race and background are seen for the absurd constructs that they are – why are his neighbours who laughed and drank and sang together suddenly fighting, even killing each other? Why must a little girl hide because she has the ‘wrong’ name? As an adult, the protagonist returns to Visegrad and makes lists, lists of all those who have disappeared and everything that has been destroyed. How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone does not take sides – it shows how atrocities were committed by all parties in the war and how the survivors live with silences in the post-conflict world as a means of overcoming the past.  It is a novel that highlights the senseless and brutal nature of ethnic violence, juxtaposed with the innocent and humorous child’s eye view of the world, where fishing and football co-exist with soldiers taking away families. Charm and tragedy sit side by side, as well as beautiful descriptions of the Bosnian landscape. 


Saša Stanišić was born 1978 in Višegard in Bosnia-Herzegovina and lives in Germany since 1992.  He has published short stories, audio plays and essays, is engaged in literary performances and theatre. How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone is his first novel and was shortlisted for the German Book Award as well as winning several other major prizes with translations into 24 languages forthcoming. Stanišić is also the recipient of the prestigious Graz and Iowa writing fellowships.


Anthea Bell was born in Suffolk and educated at Somerville College, Oxford. She has been a translator from French and German for many years. Her translations include works of non-fiction, literary and popular fiction, and many children?s books, including from the German a number of works by classic authors, and from the French (with Derek Hockridge) the entire Astérix le Gaulois series by Goscinny and Uderzo. She has received a number of prizes and awards, and has served on the committee of the Translators Association and the jury panel of the Schlegel-Tieck German translation prize. She now lives in Cambridge.

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