Stillness: and Other Stories

Courtney Angela Brkic

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

The war in the Balkans provides the striking backdrop for these emotionally resonant, morally challenging, and uplifting short stories. Brkic's collection gives voice to people caught in situations beyond their control, as man, woman, and child struggle to survive and understand what it means to live beyond those you love. A man trapped in a cellar; a sniper overlooking a city street; a young woman whose father is convicted of war crimes. Each character challenges the reader's notions of conflict by living lives of surprising self-awareness, deceit, and courage.

“Great fiction can still transport us into the heart of battle and loss. For proof one need only pick up Courtney Brkic’s debut collection about the Balkan wars…Stillness beautifully dramatizes how conflict warps inner life. [Brkic’s prose] is exact, brutal and grittily poetic. It does not allow us a place to hide from its ugly truth.”
The Independent
 “A melding of the real and the imagined, of artful reportage and of an accumulation of remembered anecdotes and episodes straining to build a picture of a conflict whose broad outline remains mostly unknown and unfathomable…Stillness is a fittingly grim reminder, made all the more poignant by its many unanswered questions and dangling story lines.”
Los Angeles Times

“Brkic takes an unflinching approach here, filling her stories with evocations of rape, murder, madness, loneliness, poverty and despair. And she has a gift for shaping complicated, absorbing characters…Stillness is a provocative and all-too-timely look at the ravages of war…Evil, Brkic reveals here, is complicated, [and] her book honors that complexity.”
Washington Post
“Every war reminds us that it is essential to have writers [that] help us see into the hearts and minds of soldiers and civilians, who can describe – without excessive romance or rhetoric – bloodshed and brutality, survival and resilience. One such writer is Courtney Brkic. Her narrative ranges widely enough to offer a view of the most recent Balkan tragedy that is at once sharply focused and panoramic...the impression we're left with after reading Stillness is one of respect for Brkic's seriousness, her sympathy and her spirit.”
New York Times Book Review

“Writing with astonishing narrative grace, deep respect, and economy of both language and emotion…Brkic’s refined, surprising, and resonant stories encapsulate the truth about humankind’s capacity for violence, selfishness, and altruism.”