Ismet Prcic doesn’t make it easy in his debut novel Shards. There’s a character named Ismet Prcic, whose life may or may not parallel the author of the same name. The character (and the author) grew up in Bosnia, lived through the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, and emigrated to the U.S. to become a university student in sunny Southern California. But that’s where things start to get weird. Memory-retrieving and fiction-making intertwine. Past and present intermingle. A back-firing car outside of Los Angeles becomes a exploding shell in Bosnia.
But it’s not war, alone, that complicates this memoirish novel. It’s the nature of memory itself, as the fictional Ismet muses at one point:
Someone, I think it was Omar, said to me once that memories are like tapes and that it’s important to keep as many as you can so you can play them later on and be able to recall who you were at the time. I always considered this to be bull——. I still do. Memories are nothing like tapes. Tapes record reality. Minds record fiction.
Prcic expanded on this idea when we talked recently. “We’re all living these kinds of fictional lives,” he said. “Humans are like stories we tell ourselves, then perform ourselves. It’s all narratives that everyone believes in.”
Ismet Prcic will join us to talk about all of this: identity, war, memory and fiction.
What would you like to ask him?