B. Wongar


This passage from B. Wongar’s new novel, Raki, comes from Chapter Eleven. It depicts in a surrealistic manner the forced movement and destruction of Serbian peasants during World War II. Through the novel's dual narrative, parallels are drawn between the persecution of the Aboriginals in Australia and that of the Serbs in Yugoslavia. What emerges is neither political nor polemic but an imaginative work that examines humankind's tyranny over its fellow humans — a condition that knows no historical or national bounds. B. Wongar states in the "Author's note" that the Serbian parts of the novel are "historically factual." Because the Serbs are generally known today, after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, as the region's villains, the sympathetic treatment accorded them in this novel may not be fully appreciated. However, Alex N. Dragnich points out in his book, Serbs and Croats, The Struggle in Yugoslavia (1992), that 500,000 to 700,000 Serbs were killed by the Croats and Germans during World War II. Once the Germans invaded Yugoslavia, the Croats cooperated and set out to fulfill their stated policy toward the Serbs: "One-third we will kill, one-third will be driven out of Croatia, and one-third we will convert to Catholicism."

Whatever the political or historical background of Raki, the universality of human suffering emerges in powerful tones.