In Peanik (hourglass), Danilo Ki returns to the loss of his father in World War II, a theme with which he began working in an earlier novel, Basta, pepeo (1965; Garden, Ashes, 1975). Although not considered to be strictly autobiography, the novel has enough autobiographical elements in it to justify connecting it with the author’s personal life. This interpretation, however, is not absolutely necessary for an understanding of the novel. Eduard Sam (called Eduard Scham in Garden, Ashes), a Jew and a retired railroad official, figured in Garden, Ashes as the youthful narrator’s often-absent but still-dominating father. The focus in Peanik shifts to Sam himself, even though the narrator of Garden, Ashes is once more present. By shifting his focus, Ki allows Sam to tell his own story, so that his last days are seen from a slightly different perspective from that of the earlier book. This dual vision is symbolized by a drawing in the novel of a white hourglass silhouetted against a black background, the sides of the hourglass clearly showing the contours of two faces confronting each other.
Peanik begins with a detailed, realistic account of a man lost in a snowy wilderness, attempting to find his way (“Pictures from a Journey”). This passage is followed by the musings and ravings of an unidentified person—who turns out to be Eduard Sam (“Notes of a Madman”)—and by an...
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