Lejla Kalamujić: Call Me Esteban

In the 19 stories from this prize-winning collection (the “Edo Budiša” prize for the best short story collection written in a language which doesn’t require translation into Croatian, 2016.) we follow the protagonists emotional journey from unreliable memories of her untimely departed mother, to her childhood with an alcoholic father who is never around, to grandparents who slowly fall apart and die before her eyes, to the dissolving country in a changing world, to her discovery of her sexuality, and the anxieties of making a living.

The motif of the mother seems to haunt all the stations of the journey like an omnipresent spiritus movens and it unobtrusively leads us through the protagonists emotional life, acquainting us with Sarajevo from before, during and after the war, the “cool crowd”, interethnic marriages, Šid as a place of exile, hospitalisation at the psychiatric ward – with Eros and Thanatos.

Lejla Kalamujićs collection is an authentic testimony of the fate of a family. The writing of this testimony is an act of courage of sorts, an act of facing up to that which is darkest and heaviest in humans.