The Peripatetic Reviewer

I WAS totally unprepared for the beauty of Slovenia, as indeed I was for so much of what happened to me in Yugoslavia. As a visiting editor in search of foreign contributors, I first, presented my credentials in Belgrade, the national capital, beginning with a reception at our embassy, where I was introduced to a number of Yugoslav writers and critics. Then, as the nature of my mission became better understood by the Yugoslavs, the Ministry of Information came to my aid. They stocked my room with novels and with profusely illustrated art books in English translation; they set up for me the informal meetings I wanted in the world of art and education, and they made it clear that any Atlantic supplement which was to do justice to the country must include the writers and poets and painters of each of the six republics, small nations with vast cultural pride, which compose the state. This was to be a sensitive quest.
From Belgrade I headed northwest overland across the vast, well-cultivated Serbian plain for Zagreb and my long-promised meeting with Miroslav Krleža, the foremost Croatian novelist (had the Croatians the choice, they would have given him, not Andrić, the Nobel Prize), and for my happy hours in the Zagreb studios and the beautiful century-old opera house. Then on to Ljubljana, which is the capital of Slovenia and of the graphic arts, and the seat of some of the most fascinating discoveries in Illyrian and Celtic archaeology. All this while, I had been patiently trundling about my fly rod in its metal tube, and at last my Slovene friends arranged that I should have the chance to use it. A fishing license was procured for me at the Hunter’s Club, and then they drove me up the valley that leads to Lake Bled and the foothills of the snowcapped Julian Alps - a landscape of timeless, breathtaking beauty with old castles or ruined country houses on the high points, cement pillboxes guarding every pass, and small shrines with fresh-cut flowers for the Partisans who had met their deaths here as they drove back the Italians and the Germans.
Tony, my weather-beaten guide, spoke Slovene peppered with a few words common to all anglers. I had telephoned ahead that I hoped he could provide me with boots, and when he produced them. I knew I should be lucky if at least one of them was dry, for they were multicolored with patches. In our Mercedes-Benz taxi, the status car in Yugoslavia, we then proceeded to the three miles of pools which only a desperate American would think of fishing as early in April as this. The Sava Bohinjka is a strong, deep stream, winding its way through the tiny alpine villages, through the deep woods and the sloping meadows with their Illyrian blue and banks of pink heather; a fine stream, and now in flood with the snowwater pelting down from the heights in an opaque green current so cool that it had driven the trout to the sunny shallows on either side. I was right about those boots. The right one was dry, the left leaked like a sieve, so I tried to do my casting from the starboard with my left foot on a rock or root. It didn’t make much difference after the first ten minutes. My shin was so numb you could have hammered it without my feeling pain.
Because of the high water I had brought along my wet flies, and Tony would have none of them. “Fish take any,”he said disparagingly, “Tony give you vino.”He watched patiently while I tried, and after twenty minutes with no follow, I thought I heard him murmuring, “Oh, Madonna! March Brown, March Brown.”
“You got one?” I asked. He had, a March Brown dry: I put it on, and on the second cast a small trout in the shallows rose and took.
“Madonna. Madonna,” said Tony. “Too small.”All the rest of that afternoon till the light fell we worked our way along the bank, Tony scouting for the “big feesh” and I as patiently hooking the little ones. There is a twelve-inch limit on these streams, which were hard hit and hand-grenaded during the war. Just before dark Tony came up with a tiny white moth. “You catch big feesh this, Tony get vino.”I put it on; and then, seeing a good rise, we moved in its general direction, and the bit of white drifted in the widening ring. It was a good fish, as we saw when he turned and went down. Since I had no net, Tony, from the bank above me, kept shouting Slovene encouragement. With my dead left leg I moved into thinner water, and slowly, slowly worked the tiring Leviathan in. At that point the leader broke. “Madonna, Madonna!” groaned Tony. “No vino, no vino.” But he got it anyway.


MILOVAN DJILAS has played a commanding role in the liberation of Yugoslavia, first in the fighting against the Germans, in which he lost his father, two brothers, and two sisters, and then in the resistance to Soviet hegemony. The son of a Montenegrin farmer, born in 1911. Djilas was a bright spark at the University of Belgrade; and his first arrest came in 1937, when, as a young lawyer, he was sentenced to a three-year term for leading the demonstrations against the monarchy. While in prison he learned to speak and read Russian. His friendship with Tito began on his release, and it was Tito who sent him to Moscow in 1944 to plead with Stalin for arms and for a clearer recognition for the Communist Party in Yugoslavia. Twice again he led urgent missions to the Soviet Union, in 1945 over the question of Albania, and in early 1948 on the eve of the break between the Soviet and Yugoslav leaders.
Djilas was one of Tito’s three closest confidants. He twice addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations protesting against the Soviet pressure on his country, and His articles and editorials on the subject were outspoken. In 1953 he was chosen president of the Federal People’s Assembly, and that was his highest rung. The following year, after repeated warnings, Tito removed him from office. Downgraded, stripped of his decorations, he was ultimately imprisoned in the same cell he had occupied in the 1930s. His book The New Class, written while he was in disgrace, was smuggled out to publishers in the West, and its appearance. naturally, increased his sentence. He was actually in jail four years, and during this time began the writing of his autobiography. Paroled to what might be termed “house arrest,”he began the writing of a new work, CONVERSATIONS WITH STALIN (Harcourt, Brace & World, $3.95), and although it could have been no secret to the authorities. at the announcement of its publication Djilas for a third time was committed.
Conversations With Stalin is the most powerful and intimate attack on the Russian leader I have seen in print, and to American readers it may seem strange that a Yugoslav author following up the denigration begun by Khrushchev should land in jail. This book certainly gives the devil his due. It speaks admiringly of Stalin’s competence in his direction of the Red Army and of the promotions which he gave after the purges to the abler, younger officers loyal to him. It quotes Stalin as saying, “whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system. ... If the Slavs keep united and maintain solidarity, no one in the future will be able to move a finger.” And he shows that Stalin foresaw better than any of his subordinates the swiftness with which the Germans would recover industrially.
What gets Djilas into trouble is his saying, “The more I delved into the Soviet reality, the more my doubts multiplied.” He is offended by the heavy drinking of the Russian leaders (“I don’t know what the devil is wrong with these Russians that they drink so much plain decadence!”). He naturally resents, as did Tito when he was in Moscow, the malicious taunts of Stalin aimed at the Yugoslav fighters, He was swift to perceive that Stalin distrusted the creation of revolutionary centers outside of Moscow, since they would imperil the Russian leaders of world Communism. And he was profoundly shocked when a Red Army commander confided to hint that not until Communism had triumphed in the whole world would wars acquire their ultimate bitterness — in short, that the sectarianism within could only lead to reckless destruction. At a time when the economy of Yugoslavia is in such precarious balance, when its exports to the West are threatened by the Common Market, and when it may have to return to a sterner liaison with the Soviet Union, it is not convenient to have such things said.


DEARLY BELOVED (Harcourt, Brace & World, $3.95) is the first book we have had from ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH since her delicate collection of essays. Gift from the Sea. It is a short novel, serious in intent, about a house wedding uniting Sally McNiel and her conservative New England heritage with Mark Gallatin, whose French affiliations might be a little more frisky. The mood is one of reverie. Under the spell of the familiar yet provocative pledges of the marriage service, the elders present review their own adventures in matrimony: wistfully, as in the case of Deborah, the bride’s mother, who has had security but too little real intimacy with her severe and angular John; skeptically, as with Uncle Don, the psychiatrist; philosophically, as with Grandfather Gardiner, who has known the harmony and growth of lifelong happiness; distractedly, as with Frances, the mother of the groom, who has lost her husband to alcohol and her lover because he would not face up to a divorce. These soliloquies extend to Great-aunt Harriet, the spinster, set and critical in her resignation; to Andre, the best man. from France, who can take a more detached view of the proceedings than any of the others; and to Chrissie, Sally’s roommate and bridesmaid, who recalls the boys they picked over and typed: “Sparklers, Twinklers, Worthies, and Lumps,”and who wonders when her turn is coming and what it will be like. The best of the soliloquies are deft and searching, and I like particularly the self-revelation of the psychiatrist, the integrity of old Theodore, and the practicality of Beatrice, divorced and so much better set with her second husband. The bridal couple never speak for themselves, and this perhaps accounts for the letdown at the close, when the bubbles have evaporated from the champagne.
In The Caine Mutiny and in Marjorie Morningstar,HERMAN WOUK needed a large and a larger canvas to contain his stories, and in YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE (Doubleday, $7.95) he takes the largest of all. This huge, ungainly novel, so full of animal spirits and clever dialogue, follows the rise and fall of a compelling young Kentuckian who at the age of twenty-six stampedes New York with his first novel, Alms for Oblivion, written while he served in the Seabees, and who is determined to make his first million and the Nobel Prize before he is fiftyone. “Art" Hawke, as he is known back home in Hovey, Kentucky, has the power to write half through the night, and a sublime confidence, inherited from his mother, in how to handle money. His battles with his publisher, Hollywood agents, and theatrical producers occasion a multitude of lively, if repetitious, scenes, and his financial entrapment with his disingenuous friend, Scotty Hoag, like his physical entrapment with Frieda Winter, his mistress, are two of the main ropes that keep tugging us through the fine print.
Tom Wolfe has, I suppose, served as the prototype of Youngblood Hawke, and if you can transfer what you remember of Wolfe’s genius to what you are asked to believe of Mr. Wouk’s hero, the story may be plausible. I have found it easier to believe in Hawke’s financial manipulations than I do in his writing, just as I find it easier to believe in his zany mother and his exacting editor Jeanne than I do in the preposterous Frieda. In so many scenes there is a kind of insidious vulgarization, an exaggeration which makes the effect either more or less than the truth.