Aleksandar Tišma (1924–2003) was born in the Vojvodina, a former province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that had been incorporated into the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia after the First World War. His father, a Serb, came from a peasant background; his mother was middle-class and Jewish. The family lived comfortably, and Tišma received a good education. In 1941, Hungary annexed Vojvodina; the next year—Tišma’s last in high school—the regime carried out a series of murderous pogroms, killing some 3,000 inhabitants, primarily Serbs and Jews, though the Tišmas were spared. After fighting for the Yugoslav partisans, Tišma studied philosophy at Belgrade University and went into journalism and in 1949 joined the editorial staff of a publishing house, where he remained until his retirement in 1980. Tišma published his first story, “Ibika’s House,” in 1951; it was followed by the novels Guilt
and In Search of the Dark Girl
and a collection of stories, Violence
. In the 1970s and ’80s, he gained international recognition with the publication of his Novi Sad trilogy: The Book of Blam
(1971), about a survivor of the Hungarian occupation of Novi Sad; The Use of Man
(1976), which follows a group of friends through the Second World War and after; and Kapo
(1987), the story of a Jew raised as a Catholic who becomes a guard in a German concentration camp. Tišma moved to France after the outbreak of war and collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, but in 1995 he returned to Novi Sad, where he spent his last years.