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historical novel, war novel, 20th century, World War II, communism, friendship and betrayal

I Saw Her That Night

by Drago Jančar

In I Saw Her That Night, the beautiful, headstrong Veronika appears first as a dreamy vision for a captured Serbian cavalryman who hasn't seen her in seven years, since 1937. Their affair was sparked when her wealthy husband arranged for her riding lessons with the officer. She leaves her spouse and lives in poverty with the horseman on the Bulgarian border but returns to her husband and the new manor he has bought in Slovenia. Veronika's mother and a live-in hpusekeeper from the manor each revisit their memories of her and wonder about the night she and her husband disappeared in the company of anti-German partisans. A military doctor who was among the German officers regularly visiting the manor and who once held Veronika's hand receives a letter asking if he knows what happened to her. But it is Ivan, a workman at the manor, who supplies the key missing pieces as he aids the partisans after seeing Veronika and the doctor holding hands. Each recollection establishes a distinctive character and voice and another facet of the woman who touched them all. Each also provides a different view of the war. 

Five people in the Balkans recall their lives before and during World War II and one unusual woman they all knew in this quietly impressive tale by the leading Slovenian writer. 

In Slovenian published by Modrijan založba, d. o. o.


Kresnik Award for best novel of the year 2011

Prix du meilleur livre étranger 2014

Kresnik Award for best novel of the decade 2020


  • I Saw Her That Night is Jančar's ninth novel, relatively short, yet it affords one of the finest literary texts about Slovenians entangled in World War II and in interactions among themselves. 

    Igor Bratož, Delo
  • Friendship and betrayal, hope and guilt and the torment of remembering are Jančar's themes. His liquid balancing of illusion and reality sustains this kaleidoscopic, communal war novel, which moves relentlessly towards an obvious yet symbolic act of violence. 

    Irish Times
  • The economy with which Jančar creates memorable characters and moments while never letting the reader forget the war, the tumult of Yugoslavia, or the incursion of communism is astonishing, especially compared with the U.S. vogue for mammoth tomes of modest scope. 

    Kirkus Reviews
  • Indeed, more than enthusiasm, it is love at first sight. [...] No verbose or florid passages, nor any affected and virtuoso attempts; Jančar hones his style, rids it of anything superfluous, making it into an efficient weapon for defying reality. [...] I was captivated by the out-of-breath rhythm of this Slovenian writer.  

    Charlie Hebdo
  • Jančar writes powerful, complex stories with an unostentatious assurance, and has a gravity which makes the tricks of more self-consciously modern writers look cheap [...] Whether they are psychological studies or parables, Jančar reports these episodes with a fine structural balance and, though at times clearly conversing with his literary antecedents, he wears his reading lightly [...] Throughout his stories, Jančar examines the nature of witness, personal, historical and authorial. 

    Times Literary Supplement

More books by Drago Jančar