Year of publication
Number of pages
France (Editions du Seuil)
Italy (La nave di Teseo)
Netherlands (Uitgeverij van Gennep)
Spain (Ediciones Siruela)
USA (Archipelago Books)
English pdf, German pdf, French pdf
autobiography, childhood, war, World War II, immigration, exile, 20th century
Newcomers, a three-part autobiographical series, begins in 1938 with the expulsion of the Kovačič family from their home in Switzerland and their settlement in the father’s home country of Slovenia, then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It is narrated by a ten-year-old boy, a perennial outsider, a boy who never fit in in either Switzerland or Slovenia and was viewed with suspicion by adults and his peers. The work includes haunting, deeply thought-provoking descriptions of this estrangement as seen through the eyes of the child – in many ways a naïve boy, yet one who was forced to become an adult at an early age. Newcomers are Kovačič's central work on the vortex of World War II and the post-war period, covering all the political, ideological and social conflicts of the 20th century and standing as a tragic chronicle of the recent past.
First published in Slovenian in the 1980s, today this family chronicle is considered a literary masterpiece of the 20th century and without a doubt one of the best Slovenian novels. A canonical, extensive and difficult autobiographical work, it is oftentimes compared to the oeuvres of popular modern authors such as Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgård, as well as classic authors, among them Nabokov and Tolstoy.
Župančič Award, the highest recognition of the City of Ljubljana for outstanding creation in the field of art and culture, 1986
... this work achieves the panoramic effects of H.G. Adler’s Shoah trilogy by way of Joycean stream of consciousness.
A powerful chronicle of conflict and upheaval within both a family and a country, as told, and experienced, by a young, engaging, clearsighted boy ... Kovačič skilfully depicts a tough, nomadic, hand-to-mouth existence in a city gripped by ethnic tension, rampant nationalism and the threat of war ... This fine novel is not only accessible, but deeply memorable.
A haunting account of the harmful effects of adult behavior on the impressionable minds of children ... The plot may restrict the setting to a Slovenia decades past, but to Alojz and the reader, it is a dangerous, yet strangely vital world, imposing its bleak and unjust order on all witnesses.
Epic and panoramic ... Newcomers turns stereotypes on their heads, as novels of the century should do – stereotypes such as the dignity of rural poverty, the unifying sanctity of the Slovenian language, and the noble heroism of resistance.
Kovačič impressively catches the mood of the early years of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The volumes are masterpieces. They are bitter, but grippingly intense in their description … Newcomers is a mnemonic sleight of hand of botanical exactitude, a weighty historical document whose significance will only grow.
... its style simultaneously lacks the effete and awkward self-consciousness that is so prevalent in the postmodern novels of the period in which it was written ... Kovačič builds up a gritty naturalism, directing our attention to a single criterion of truth: the bearing of witness to the cataclysms of history, and the trauma of their aftermath.
Kovačič’s book gives us a social, cultural, and political portrait of Slovenia in the 1930s until the Axis aggression against Yugoslavia (from 1941 to 1945). .... [Kovačič's] outsider status allowed him to depict this controversial historical phase in a way that a Slovene-born peer could never do.
Newcomers is an emblem of what memory — personal memory, political memory, a place’s memory — can create from erasure ... Curiously hypnotic.
Between the fetishized ordinariness of Karl Ove Knausgård and the theater of Elena Ferrante, Kovačič unfurls a ream of anecdotes and character descriptions, rambling, yet tightly told chronology of his family’s undeserved perdition as they descend deeper and deeper into moral and literal penury.