A new book by Grumpy in Belgrade author and man-about-Belgrade, Chris Farmer, is set to hit Serbian bookshops and online stores near you from the 21st of December. Just in time for Gregorian-calendar Christmas (bet you’d never heard it called that before) and the cacophony of Serbian winter-time holidays, festivals and celebrations. So this could make your life easier if you’re still exasperated by the need to fill up space under the gaudily decorated fir tree in your living room.
As you may have cottoned on already, The Prehistory is something of a prequel to the first Grumpy book and covers much of the ground that the first book left to the readers’ imaginations – that is, what were Farmer’s first impressions of Belgrade.
The book is a collection of Farmer’s initial musings on his new home town (or, as he coins it, Kućigrad) and therefore takes place in the dark – or maybe just downright confusing – days of Serbia’s early post-Milošević transition. For those of you who don’t remember those days, it was a time when the country didn’t have a name (or at least not one with any sense of permanence) or a constitution worth the paper it was written on and nobody really knew what they were doing, least of all those who were supposed to be running the place.
As such, the book is not going to be interesting only for fans of the first instalment but will also appeal those interested in how Belgrade came to be the city it is today. It is, in other words, a great – if quirky – introduction to life in “the White City on the Danube” through the eyes of a bemused newcomer who takes nothing for granted.
The book follows much the same format as its predecessor, quick-fire pieces on day-to-day struggles with the sorts of unusual obstacles Belgrade throws up willy-nilly to make life more interesting. It is also packed with the same dry, ironic wit as the first book and boasts a cast of snow-shovellers, failed bankers, politicians (real and imagined) and counter-intuitive shopkeepers. All of which ensures that those of us who live here will be grinning knowingly and those who don’t will shake their heads in disbelief.
The thing that really sets this book apart is that there’s just nothing else like it out there (well, except the first Grumpy in Belgrade), so if you’re looking for an introduction to Belgrade life that isn’t the standard, humourless run-down of Serbian traditions or touristy places to visit, this is it.
A strange and bewildered – and frequently grumpy – look at life in Belgrade that is sure to leave you with a smile on your face and could easily put you in danger of guffawing in front of strangers if you read it on public transport.
Grumpy in Belgrade: The Prehistory is published by Komshe and will be available in Serbian bookshops from the 21st of this month.
Pre-order your copy now by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org