The United States at risk of balkanization

Imagine the current political wrangling in the United States escalating into civil war. Imagine that Americans would then flee in large numbers and create enclaves, “mini Americas”in foreign countries.

These migrants would live in an extremely precarious situation, their resident cards could be withdrawn at any time. But even as they try to get back on the right foot, the divisions that caused them to flee will reappear in their host countries.


Here is the postulate of 2 AM in Little America [2 heures du matin dans la Petite Amérique, non traduit en français]. This new book by Ken Kalfus echoes current events. The action takes place mainly in one of these enclaves, located in a non-English speaking country whose name is not mentioned.

“It’s not a prediction, it’s a warning”, the author explained to me recently as we picnicked in leafy Peterborough, New Hampshire, where Kalfus, who lives in Philadelphia, was in artist residency. I was eager to find out his reasoning, so I decided to spend a whole day with him. Wearing a slouch hat, he greeted me in his thick Bronx accent.

He inherited this accent from his parents, both natives of this New York neighborhood. Kalfus was born there in 1954 and grew up on Long Island. He dropped out of New York University – to have time to finish Ulysses of Joyce, he jokes – then he drove and started a career as a writer.

2 AM in Little America is his fourth novel. I ask him first how the idea came to him. “I was thinking of the Yugoslavs”, he replies. In 1991, Kalfus and his wife moved to Belgrade for a one-year stay. Shortly after their arrival, war broke out between the Serbian nationalists and the Croats.

Yugoslavia began to crumble – and with it the idea of ​​a union of South Slavs, with different religious and ethnic identities. “I’ve seen people get trapped in their own speeches, their own stories,” he recalls.

Twenty-five years of gestation

As the violence escalated, Kalfus saw people on a frantic flight, ready to go to any destination. A permanent diaspora – of mini-Yugoslavia – has taken root. “At that time, I thought there was no reason

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