Cover Image: Newcomers


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Lojze Kovacic is one of Slovenia’s most acclaimed and significant authors and his 3 volume autobiographical novel the most important Slovenian novel of the 20th century. I read and enjoyed Volume 1 which deals with the protagonist’s childhood after his half-German half-Slovenian family are exiled from Switzerland to Slovenia where their life in Ljubljana becomes increasingly difficult. Volume 2 follows Bubi as he comes of age in occupied Slovenia during World War 2 and where the family never manage to integrate. It’s a first person stream of consciousness narrative and a powerful evocation of growing up in a community where you are always the outsider, always trying to navigate a new society, a new language and new customs. I did not enjoy this volume as much as the first one, however. The prose seems much more opaque, perhaps to reflect Bubi’s growing maturity, but it makes it much harder to read. Many passages are in German and although these are translated I found that for me they interrupted the narrative flow and soon irritated me. I can see why the trilogy is acclaimed but I found it difficult to engage with Bubi here, or with his family, and I felt a certain alienation from them throughout, in spite of the sympathy their harsh life requires. Definitely worth reading, but the book demands patience and perseverance.
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This autobiographical piece is said to be one of the most important Slovenian works. And I agree. It's about the authors journey going back to his homeland from Switzerland. In this novel you read about the hard times people lived through, their coping, the harsh conditions and so on. It was intense, hard to read at times, but good nonetheless. And knowledgeable. It portrays such times masterfully. Although this novel is worth the read, I found it impossible to get through to be honest. Whether it was my disinterest in the genre or perhaps the writing style, I will never know...

*A copy provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I wish I had discovered Newcomers when its first volume was on on NetGalley (if indeed it was) because I would love to experience the whole three volumes of Kovacic's novelised autobiography. As it is, for the moment at least, I am grateful to Archipelago Press for having made this English translation of the second volume available. Book Two of Newcomers essentially takes us through the years of the Second World War in Ljubljana for this half-German, half-Slovene family. Their fortunes aren't completely determined by the course of the war, but we see their decline run in parallel to that of the German army.

I loved the way Bubi understands himself in relation to his language. In the early part of this book, his spoken Slovenian is phonetically written with a Germanic accent which fades as the years pass by. Biggins has also translated all the Slovenian speech into English, but left the German dialogue in German (with English translation footnotes). As Bubi's mother and eldest sister only speak German and, seemingly, refuse to learn Slovenian this makes the whole family visible for their difference to the population surrounding them. Later, as teenage Bubi begins to try and make use of his writing talent, he struggles with feeling unable to really point his point across in either language. His childhood German is no longer his mother tongue, but he doesn't have a true breadth of expression in Slovenian yet either. This is an aspect of emigration that I hadn't given a lot of thought to before. I am aware of the difficulty of trying to make oneself understood to others in a new language just to get by in daily life. However here, Bubi cannot effectively address ideas in his own mind because he lacks the language tools.

Newcomers is written in the first person and in a kind of stream of consciousness style which I loved. I can see from other reviews that not everybody agrees with me though! I felt the prose style helped me gain a stronger understanding of what Kovacic tried to put across. There was a strong sense of being within each scene rather than viewing it as a passive observer. I would have appreciated a recap of Book One as a prologue to Book Two as, obviously, I had no idea what had gone before and previous events aren't explained as they generally are in a series novel. Instead this book simply continues from where Book One left off and abruptly stops where, I presume, Book Three will pick up the thread. That aside though, I was gripped by Newcomers Book Two. I knew very little about the Slovene war experience so appreciated the opportunity to read this compelling first hand account.
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Thank you to Archipelago and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

In terms of the geographical and historical setting, this was a book that really interested me and I tried, oh I tried - again and again - to read it. Again and again, I had to put it aside because I just could not get into it, let alone through it. My best effort ended with approx. 40% read. I consider myself bilingual (English/German), which I think is the only reason I was even able to get that far. The story as told through the eyes of a young boy, was too impenetrable for me.
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The Newcomers was written by one of Slovenia’s most acclaimed writers.  The Newcomers, his autobiographical trilogy, was voted “the Slovenian Novel of the Century” by literary critics.

Newcomers is a fascinating description of the difficulties faced by refugees. The events and descriptions are told by a young boy named Aloyze. Many of these hurdles are probably experienced today by many refugees. 

This is a translated version of the story. The writing style is different and for me difficult to get used to. Regardless the message is clearly illustrated to the reader.

Thank you to Net Galley and Archipelago Books for the opportunity to read this novel.
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I didn't realise that this was the first part in a planned trilogy but I'm so pleased it is as I didn't want this to end. Autobiographies are not at all what I normally choose to read but I'm so enjoying being introduced to new voices and genres through NetGalley. I loved this although it really challenged my knowledge of happenings around the Second World War outside of the more well-known  narratives. I'm looking forward to the next two books so much although I think you need to be in the right (read: open) frame of mind to read these texts as the subject matter is very heavy going.
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I missed the first but it is well researched and the history surrounding this families trials of learning a whole new life! The family members you learn from the child and his way of seeing things. This came to me from Net Gallery! The description of the Country and the history at the time was well written and had you believing you were with this family. Not going to tell the story but I  think you will  this series,it catches you up on what you missed and you are like me and did not'read the first one! Happy reading and be prepared for a lot of emotions!
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The Newcomers is part of a trilogy from Slovene author Lojze Kovačič. As a child, Lojze and his family were expelled from Switzerland in the early years of the Second World War. The family went to move to rural Slovenia before settling in Ljubljana. This book is autobiographic and describes the events through the eyes of young Lojze in ways of internal dialog and reflections. It reminded me of Proust, but where Proust was more of a snob, this book is more of a telling of depressing, but very real events. 
It tells of the struggles of moving, learning a new language, although the family moved back to its origins. Young Lojze felt like an outcast no matter what. 
This first part ends with Mussolini's invasion of Ljubljana.

I enjoyed the prose a lot and am eager to read the two remaining parts. Especially, looking forward to the third as it was published after the author's death and describes a trip back to Switzerland.

(My rating is more of a 3.5, but as I share the same birthday as Lajze and am Swiss, I rounded it up to four stars.)
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