I Saw Her That Night – Drago Jancar

Written by one of the most well known Slovenian author, Drago Jancar and translated by Michael Biggins, this book “I saw her that night” is set during the turbulent period in Slovenian history.

Veronika – or rather where is Veronika is the question? The writing is ingenious, since the book is not in first person but the character is built based on other people’s memories and perceptions. The reader finds that each persons account adds a bit more colour to who Veronika is.

As Veronika’s lover, a cavalry man and a horse riding instructor remembers when he fell in love with a married woman and who, unpredictably, decides to elope with him when he is reassigned. After a brief period of time and another reassignment later, Stevan finds the aura of the new affair fading away and cold distance creeping between them. A part of it can be assigned to Veronika’s mothers visits, where she brings news of the cuckolded husband – who has bought a manor.

Reader then finds the mother berating herself for making Veronika go back to her husband and regretting. This is when we stumble upon the knowledge that one night Veronika and her husband Leo left with some people and have not been seen again. Mother spends her time glued to the window waiting for them to show up.

Then story moves to a German doctor, who has just received a letter requesting for information about Veronika’s whereabouts. In his recollections, we see Veronika as kind, social, empathatic person, who befriends people irrespective of their politics, which is of no interest to her. German doctor burns the missive, since the very thought that something might have befallen his friends, due to their association with him, is enough to cause him chest pain. He is fairly certain that Veronika and her husband had been taken away by Slovenian rebels “Partisans” and are no longer alive.

Jozi, who works in the house, then remembers the fateful night when the event took place – the chaos, the fear, the mayhem. The life has gone on for some and some others are still missing.

Fifth narrator is the key in bringing the story together, for he is the one, who in his ignorance and jealousy, betrayed those who were kind to him and led them to their brutal death at the hands of their own countrymen.

This book is not so much about the story or the war crime, but more about the language, the character building and the way author step by step reveals Veronika to the readers. The story does not take us right into the heart of the war but remains on the fringes, where people are trying to stay alive, live a life as best as they can. They are willing to put their faith in the illusion that they will come out of the war alright.

 

 

 

 

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