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The Time of the Goats

Luan Starova; Translated by Christina E. Kramer

Publication Year: 2012

It’s the late 1940s in Skopje, Yugoslavia, in the critical year leading to Tito’s break with Stalin. Pushed to leave mountain villages to become the new proletariat in urban factories, a flood of peasants crowds into Skopje—and with them, all of their goats. Suffering from hunger, Skopje’s citizens welcome the newcomers. But municipal leaders are faced with a dilemma when the central government issues an order calling for the slaughter of the country’s goat population. With food so scarce, will they hide the outlawed animals? Or will they comply with the edict and endure the bite of hunger?
    The Time of the Goats is the second novel in Luan Starova’s acclaimed multivolume Balkan saga. It follows the main characters from My Father’s Books and the tragicomic events of their lives in Skopje as the narrator’s intellectual father and the head goatherd become friends. As local officials clumsily carry out absurd policies, Starova conveys the bonds of understanding and mutual support that form in Skopje’s poorest neighborhoods. At once historical and allegorical, folkloric and fantastic, The Time of the Goats draws lyrically on Starova’s own childhood.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Front Matter

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pp. 2-5

Translator’s Note

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pp. v-vii

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pp. 3-14

As we put down roots beside the river, the fortress drew our gaze and took root deep in our souls. We often looked up from the stone quay toward the citadel, and our gaze would rest on the remains of the last war, the old cannons now fired to mark the important holidays of the victors: May Day, the Day of Victory...

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pp. 15-21

In the course of time, the older city residents, especially those who bore the brunt of the “class struggle” and those from whom nearly everything had been taken by the new government, started to befriend the goatherds. There were, as well, some prominent officials in the new government who were understanding...

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pp. 22-28

My father was fortunate that the house had wide and deep cabinets that he could fill with the old documents, books, maps, and manuscripts he had rescued during our various resettlements, wars, fires, and floods. He came to this unknown city with only a pile of books and a family of many children, leaving...

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pp. 29-32

As she spoke, my father turned his thoughts from his books; he took off his glasses and gathered his strength to soothe my mother. He could not remember seeing her in such a state. He said, “I was promised a sack of flour tomorrow. We can hold out until the coupons and my pay next...

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pp. 33-37

My mother, exhausted from the impending birth, took note of Father’s departure, but she could not stand up to see him to the door as she always did in their life together, to give him her gentle smile, a quiet expression of hope for his safe return. In their youth, this send-off had been a small ritual completed...

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pp. 38-41

Before buying the goat, Father thought long and hard about the consequences of the “class struggle” in the Balkans. He could not understand how the idea had been transplanted from the French and October Revolutions to the Balkans, where it survived in corrupted forms and took many lives. In the name...

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pp. 42-48

The goat quickly changed life for our family as well. Not a day passed without my father learning something new about goats and their owners. For years, the neighbors had looked suspiciously at the only man in the neighborhood to wear a hat, the man who left the house every day at the same time with his black...

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pp. 49-55

Happy, he rushed to his goats, played with them, milked them, and got them ready for pasture. While they grazed, he read to the goatherds from Father’s books. The goatherds listened attentively, though from time to time they would tilt their heads, doubtful and simply unable to believe what...

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pp. 56-61

After finishing Alphonse Daudet’s story about Mr. Seguin’s goat, Changa could not sleep. He was shaken to the core by the fate of the goat that speaks up and asks her owner to let her go into the mountains, to freedom. The poor thing does not know what dangers lurk in the mountains, what kind...

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pp. 62-65

Hunger spread through the country, but in the Goatherd Quarter, a happy time was dawning with the goats. No one knew how long this time would last, but no matter how long it lasted, it was important to take advantage of it to give strength to our lives and move us from childhood to youth, from youth...

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pp. 66-71

Whenever she sensed death circling about her children, my mother, poor thing, with no strength left, surrendered herself to death and fell into a deadly fever lasting for days. She had no strength left to mourn or to weep when death coldly snatched away one of her children. Her soul remained drier than a desert. The...

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pp. 72-75

When the party learned we had named our goat Stalinka, the hardcore ideologues among them were opposed, but they could say nothing publicly or privately because they did not want to be understood as being opposed to our “big brother.” Furthermore, the party still did not want to play an active...

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pp. 76-80

We marched along proudly with Changa’s goats and with our Stalinka, as if we had scored some victory, though over whom we did not know. Until yesterday, we had watched sadly and longingly from our house as this column of goats, led by Changa and his bucks, had passed by; now...

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pp. 81-89

The Goatherd Quarter was in a frenzy as everyone anticipated a death sentence for the goats. The streets remained empty, the children sad, the goats hidden in basements. Fear reigned, just as it does before war breaks out. The...

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pp. 90-97

When Father whispered in secret to my mother, “Stalin is done for,” we immediately thought about our poor little Stalinka. With tears in our eyes, we went out to see her, to stroke her hair, to hug her. Stalinka, as always, greeted us serenely and tenderly and then turned her gaze back toward the succulent...

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pp. 98-102

When we wanted to see the most beautiful and biggest snowfall of our lives, we looked back, deep into our childhood, to the time of the goats. In the city where we were raised and planted lifelong roots, the truly great snows vanished forever. And even, if after many, many years, a big snowfall did come...

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pp. 103-115

A terrible fear gripped the Goatherd Quarter after the first news of the prohibition against the goats. This fear became even greater when word got around that Changa had vanished with his huge herd of goats. Nearly every family had a plan for saving its goats. Our family was concerned about Changa’s disappearance...

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pp. 116-122

It was as if the city were under occupation due to the unexpected appearance of Changa and the goats. The authorities and the party were at first confused, but they swiftly got organized. Instructions from the republic and federal parties arrived in short order. They left Changa to play out his swan...

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pp. 123-131

D-day was wondrously beautiful. A gift of nature. There had never been a more beautiful day. A day worth a whole lifetime. As usual, my mother woke early to put the house in order, even though she had done so before going to bed. That’s the way she closed the circle of day and night. As always, she set out...

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pp. 132-135

Following Changa’s disappearance with the goats, my father was tormented by dark thoughts. He was disturbed on both a personal and a general level. He had lost one of the best friends of his life. In this person he had discovered the importance of sincerity and how simplicity in a person could be...

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pp. 136-140

It was not difficult to discover how Father had reached the conclusion that Changa was in the fortress with the goats. After all, the most significant answers to his life’s key ideas and questions were discovered in his books. After the night during which he stayed awake anxiously searching through his books, something...

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pp. 141-151

My mother had never been so worried. As for us children, without our goats, with no thought of playing games, we helplessly followed Father’s footsteps going past us. It seemed as though he did not even see us. He was the most worried because he carried the most responsibility. How could he not...

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pp. 152-154

When my father turned once again to his books, Mother could finally relax. She believed that the family would now live as it had in the days of its former tranquility. My father continued to study his books and documents to complete his History of the Empires of the Balkans through the History of Their Collapse. He...

E-ISBN-13: 9780299290931
E-ISBN-10: 029929093X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299290948
Print-ISBN-10: 0299290948

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2012