How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone - By Sasa Stanisic & Anthea Bell


How long a heart attack takes over three hundred feet, how much a spider's life weighs, why a sad man writes to the cruel river, and what magic the Comrade in Chief of the unfinished can work

How sweet dark red is, how many oxen you need to pull down a wall, why Kraljevic Marko's horse is related to Superman, and how war can come to a party

Who wins when Walrus blows the whistle, what a band smells of, when you can't cut fog, and how a story leads to an agreement

When flowers are just flowers, how Mr. Hemingway and Comrade Marx feel about each other, who's the real Tetris champion, and the indignity suffered by Bogoljub Balvan's scarf

When something is an event, when it's an experience, how many deaths Comrade Tito died, and how the once-famous three-point shooter gets behind the wheel of a Centrotrans bus

What Milenko Pavlović, known as Walrus, brings back from his wonderful trip, how the stationmaster's leg loses control of itself, what the French are good for, and why we don't need quotation marks

Where bad taste in music gets you, what the three-dot-ellipsis man denounces, and how fast war moves once it really gets going

What we play in the cellar, what peas taste like, why silence bares its fangs, who has the right sort of name, what a bridge will bear, why Asija cries, how Asija smiles

How the soldier repairs the gramophone, what connoisseurs drink, how we're doing in written Russian, why chub eat spit, and how a town can break into splinters

Emina carried through her village in my arms

26 April 1992

9 January 1993

17 July 1993

4 January 1994

Hi. Who? Aleksandar! Hey, where are you calling from? Oh, not bad! Well, lousy really, how about you?

16 December 1995

What I really want

1 May 1999

Aleksandar, I really, really want to send you this package

When Everything Was All Right by Aleksandar Krsmanović, with a foreword by Granny Katarina and an essay for Mr. Fazlagić

11 February 2002

I'm Asija. They took Mama and Papa away with them. My name has a meaning. Your pictures are horrible

Out of three hundred and thirty Sarajevo numbers rung at random, about every fifteenth has an answering machine

What makes the Wise Guys wise, how much you ought to bet on your own memory, who is found, and who is still made up

What goes on behind God's feet, why Kiko picks up the cigarette, where Hollywood is, and how Mickey Mouse learns to answer

I've made lists

Comrade in Chief of all that's unfinished


How the Soldier

Repairs the Gramophone

How long a heart attack takes over three hundred feet, how much a spider's life weighs, why a sad man writes to the cruel river,and what magic the Comrade in Chiefof the unfinished can work

Grandpa Slavko measured my head with Granny's washing line, I got a magic hat, a pointy magic hat made of cardboard, and Grandpa Slavko said: I'm really still too young for this sort of thing, and you're already too old.

So I got a magic hat with yellow and blue shooting stars on it, trailing yellow and blue tails, and I cut out a little crescent moon to go with them and two triangular rockets. Gagarin was flying one, Grandpa Slavko was flying the other.

Grandpa, I can't go out in this hat!

I should hope not!

On the morning of the day when he was to die in the evening, Grandpa Slavko made me a magic wand from a stick and said: there's magic in that hat and wand. If you wear the hat and wave the wand you'll be the most powerful magician in the nonaligned states. You'll be able to revolutionize all sorts of things, just as long as they're in line with Tito's ideas and the Statutes of the Communist League of Yugoslavia.

I doubted the magic, but I never doubted my grandpa. The most valuable gift of all is invention, imagination is your greatest wealth. Remember that, Aleksandar, said Grandpa very gravely as he put the hat on my head, you remember that and imagine the world better than it is. He handed me the magic wand, and I doubted nothing anymore.

It's usual for people to think sadly of the dead now and then. In our family that happens when Sunday, rain, coffee and Granny Katarina all come together at the same time. Granny sips from her favorite cup, the white one with the cracked handle, she cries and remembers all the dead and the good things they did before dying got in the way. Our family and friends are