Natasha Sardzoska

Natasha Sardzoska

Natasha Sardzoska (Skopje, 1979), poet, writer, essayist, literary translator, interpreter (FR, IT, ES, EN, PT, CA), anthropologist, has lived in many European cities, among which Milan, Lisbon, Paris, Brussels, Stuttgart. She holds a PhD in anthropology from the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris and University of Bergamo. She is Affiliated researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies South East Europe in Rijeka in Croatia and Assistant professor at the Institute for Anthropology and Ethnology in Skopje.

She has published the poetry books Blue Room, Skin, He pulled me with invisible string, Living Water, Coccyx, essays, short novels and stories. She has published poetry books in the USA, Italy, Kosovo and her poems are translated in more than 15 languages in various international anthologies and literary reviews. She has translated more than 50 authors from Italian, French, Portuguese, Catalan and Spanish languages, among which: Pasolini, Saramago, Carnerio, Montale, Boyunga, Margarit, Sanguineti, and others. She has won the prize from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy for best translation of the book Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. She attended the literary and translation residency in the Institute Ramon Llull in Barcelona.

Her poetry readings are with performative and interactive character, combining vocal experiments, music and dance. She has performed at many international poetry festivals and literary venues: Ars Poetica Festival in the National Gallery of Bratislava: International Poetry Festival in Genova in the Palazzo Ducale; in the Museum Revoltella in Trieste; at the Macedonian Cultural Center in Sofia; at the Academy of Arts in Berlin within the Poetry Festival of Berlin; at the Sha’ar International Poetry Festival in Tel Aviv performing with sax, contrabass and contemporary dance in Yaffa Arab-Hebrew theatre; as well as many literary readings across many cities in the Balkans (Belgrade, Plav, Tirana, Rijeka, Struga etc.)

In Skopje with the French Institute she organized the poetic soirée Les rivages de l’exil for the francophone poetry on exile; with the Italian Embassy in Skopje the Italian poetic-musical evening Il vino è la poesia della terra where she has performed poems in Italian language; and the poetry reading For a World Without Walls in collaboration with the International Poetry Festival of Medellin. Her poem Doll on Strings has been published in English and Spanish in the International Poetry Anthology against child abuse. She is part of the European poetry platform Versopolis.

Her poetry intertwines sensuality, reminiscence of the flesh, exposes inner pain, exile, homelessness and reveals spiritual freshness. Her poetic memory has performative character capturing the dramaturgy of the chamber space of the human existence.

Useful links:

https://www.versopolis-poetry.com/poet/145/natasha-sardzoska

https://natashasardzoska.wordpress.com/author/natashasardzoska/

https://liberoamerica.com/2019/12/28natasha-sarzoska-quise-salvar-lo-que-se-podia-salvar-del-naugrafio-y-ver-lo-que-podia-vivir-de-los-restos-que-sobrevivieron/

TREE OF WINTER

Cold fire in the forest

Rough rinds on the edge of this window

I see, I burst shivering without thinking

in a burning interzone

That restores me and glows and wriggles my bones my womb

And yelps without my name without your recognition

A fish from a northern sea

You give me

Grasp of wheat and you spit a bit of wine in my mouth

You are my race, my unease

turgid seeds

uprooted dry layers

LACE AROUND YOUR EYES

Four men in you I saw

And when you came in I felt you were searching for me

And everybody shut up and the world around fall apart

And all movement turned slow and blind

The clock was beating with the sound of a home

Green leafs and red female tongues were burning

Hungry for your thirst you pulled up my head

With a silk string you pulled me proud to you

All those women that made you lonely reached me

Grasping my feet

But my hamstrings and cartilage were bursting into pieces

And my ankles were calling you voiceless

I do not understand why this night washes me away as wine

From where you are yowling elegantly and softly

You eject a wolf cry weaved with opal

You hit me with your tongue through your open leg

I am not afraid that I will not have you

Nor do I go away from your exit gate

I have thrown on your eyes a veil weaved with my hair

So you can see me better in the middle of a burning forest

A nomad lost in the void of his own sea

I pronounce mutely your name

I call inclement your skin

I caress you slowly in my mouth

Beauty deeper than all sensual thoughts art you

Dark knight bewildering white horses

Soft node leather rein translated into rhythm

You are coming from distant cities powerful

You are swelling down the boulevards deaf for any other luxurious inquietude

You are expelling sparkles underneath your leather shoes

While you are boiling steaming in the coffee cups of my silver mornings a

A balcony red wine raw meat and livid sunset you sip in me

birds beak

liquid breath

broken lace

satin hours

whirlwind pine trees

irritated tigers

glowing

in my womb

DOLL ON STRINGS 

Walking down the blacktop

While wild rabbits are screaming in boiling water

Slaughtered

Conspiracies

Words

Unrevealed

And at each step I take I inhale blood

fragile leaves in a Japanese garden are caressing my lips

while I am laying down in the gush of blood and thousands of bewildered flowers

flowing in my hair

You and I

Tokyo and Home

Incalculable steps of the flesh

And again those animals are screaming as if they were the forgotten pot of boiling

water

And I wash your feet so you can lie down underneath my skin

To become a city like any other city that we walked

And we did not know

And we did not know each other

And we did not know

When all those energies were fermenting in us as in bewildered rabbits

slaughtered but alive in the vertiginous water

The tongues of the dead kites to tell us to tell you

I am here

I follow you from each airport pathway and I know when I hear your name

It is music with unknown rhythm

And nobody knows that music

But I tremble from your gaze and I lost my voice when you came to me

And my skin was becoming darker after each bewildered step that you were taking

towards my chests

Growing nipples burning lips in winter

I knew we were one same city one same shadow one same rain and same skin

And the night before I met you I was crying like a child because all crazy plans crashed

down

And before you came in the Japanese garden

In me I could hear screaming all the slaughtered animals

And I was growing shamelessly mute

With open legs underneath you

As a layer of fertile wheat in your overwhelming whispering

humble and perverted

you arise above the eradicated overcoats of the purple passion

ONE SAME CITY 

Something begin to grow and beat

Unclear and innocent

While we were drinking wine with strange girls

I could hear you smiling in the rhythm of an African candombe

When they serve you with a glass of wine

I weave myself around one moment imprisoned in confused kernels

I spit seeds

I stay awake at every dawn to feel your beats

Heartbeats

How can one fear to grasp the night and then to throw it away?

The violet flowers with morning dew and the mad recalcitrance were not enough?

Leave I cannot

I come to you without knowing if this path has an end

But I know wild berries are flowing in my blood

And I weave a spider’s nest with black spit

A layer of tiny boats

is your promise to me

when you are not here

you are present as never

and your silence is hurting

louder than a cup of black tea breaking through the white wall

you are in my kernels a fish bone valves interstices in between my teeth

black sperm on someone else high heels

night porter that knows all my secrets

strange angel that does not talk but says it all

that on this soil someone else’s blood is boiling

RAW MEAT 

I close the venetian blinds

And the closet full with socks so sad miserable and weak

Reflections of this and each and every city

Where we are not but we could

We could, but in this world there should be a balance

Blood and vein that explode

And all those violins should promise peace

Indeed?

And you will take a bow

And your head will bend down

As if you were sucking blood from a finger

As if you were soaking up

As if you were pulling out a nail from alive meat

IN THE RHYTHM OF HIS HEART 

I got air stuck in my throat at each alarm signal

because you strangled me.

You came into my dream secretly

You twisted my spatial dimensions

You pulled me as a servant to your decision

You thread me in your leg

You stamp a burn-mark against evil thoughts

You discovered me in the middle of the screaming mouths and evil eyes

You slip me up as a woolen sock in the middle of war times

I was shambling around your neck like a goat on a hill

Very lonely chewing wild grass cracking my teeth

And I am holding on my vision and my breath in one fixed point every time I see you

sweating

You are splashing around vertiginous cognitions

And so I stopped counting down the illusions

And as an act of rebellion I decided to miss all my flights

To wait, to grow my hair pale, to darken my skin

To impel myself as a hyena on your sex

Finally alone

Translated by the author, edited by Sinead McMorrow

IZTOK VRENČUR

IZTOK VRENČUR

Iztok Vrenčur (1985) was born and grow up in Titovo Velenje, town renown for coal mining and heavy industry located in the central-north Slovenia, part of former Yugoslavia. After Gymnasium, he moved to Ljubljana, where he studied Archaeology. He continued his postgraduate research at Filozofski fakultet Zagreb and Freie Universität Berlin and defended PhD work focused on Iron Age Archaeology of Eastern Alps and Balkans in 2018. He published two novels: Odrekanje svetlobi (2013) and Urnebes (2016); several pieces of short stories, poetry and an illustrated book of archaeological fairytales for children. He’s singer and guitarist for 2nd bsx murder.

III

Father’s voice is muted as if he has just woken up. It can often happen that the whole family glides into a collective dream. I suspect my parent is drunk again and is calling me without even knowing the real reason. This is always happening. A lot of my mornings are ruined like this. But now I get the impression my father knows what he’s talking about, though he’s not sober. He asks:

“How quickly can you come?”

“What are you talking about?”

“About speed, my son. It’s all about the day and what we make of it, before the night falls and everything goes to hell again. So, how quickly?”

“I have to wake up first.”

“You can wake up later. Or as far as I’m concerned never if you want. A quick reaction is what I need now.”

“Oh, it is?”

“Very much so. Don’t be stiff, please, just come running, do as your father asks!”

“So I won’t brush my teeth, I’ll just wash my face, I won’t drink my coffee, just a glass of water, and I’ll be there.”

“That’s the word, son. You’re the pride of the family.”

“Am I really?”

“Definitely. Our only pride. There’s no other. So, you’re coming?”

“On my way, dad.”

“Great. You know where to find me. Try to make it before dawn.”

I know where to find him. How do I know that? How can a man know anything at all? It’s freezing cold. I see the world in a negative. The remains of the snow are black patches. It could be an evening or a morning – there’s fog everywhere and everything’s grey. There’s no real light yet. A walk down a macadam road. By the stream. Crabs are whistling quietly. Like the voices in your head, humming slowly; they’re difficult to hear. I whistle myself and answer them with their own melody. The creaking of boots on limy gravel reminds me of walking.

A black Mercedes with open windows drives down the road. Three grim mobsters are sitting in it. Two are in front, one who is totally pale, almost translucent, is seated in the back. The driver stops the car. He’s smoking. He lifts his gaze from the steering wheel and looks straight into my eyes. A stranger in these surroundings. He’s got the stern and cruel face of a bully, one who doesn’t think much when  there’s  a person who has to be served with pain. I know his type well. I expect he’ll ask me for directions or something even more unpleasant, but instead of doing that, he speaks in verse. He pronounces the words slowly and with an unusual accent.

“The world is a range of vanity,

a field of the passage of time and ruin,

all paths lead to nowhere, life is unbearable

vigilance, mercy spent,

a nervous habit.”

Afterwards, we look at each other for a few seconds. The man is frowning, wrinkling his forehead as if he’s worried I didn’t get the point.

“Oh, I see”, I say. “And what should I do with this?”

“Nothing”, he says. “Just remember it. You are now me. If you don’t believe me, just wait for a bit. You’ll see what I’m talking about.”

He clears his throat ceremonially, spits on my trouser leg in an elegant arc and drives away. I have no idea what I should think about all this. We’re all crazy here.

I carry on walking, and I think about the weakness of my own body. It keeps diminishing, more rickety by the day. Something is twingeing in my lower back and in my upper left leg. It must be sciatica. I spend too much time sitting in cafes. It looks like my kidneys are ok today, but it’s not too late for them to get worse anytime later. The pain is here to remind me. The world is a range of vanity.

I can already see my father’s donkey. Through the veil of mist, it looks like it’s the only one left of its species. There is frost on its mane and on the hair of its back. This donkey must have been standing still for some time. A hemp rope fastens it to a wobbly wooden fence that leads through the village to a church. God’s house has fewer holes in its roof and façade than the rest of the buildings in this hamlet. Where there was a mosque some years ago, there is now a parking lot and a small stand made of orange plastic. The devil is selling chewing gum, hot dogs and cigarettes at the stand.

Father never had enough dough to buy a real horse. The donkey is a stylish alternative; you have to admit that, like it or not. The animal is standing still; it’s not young anymore; somehow we all expect it will die before the winter’s over. Or maybe it won’t. It’s still chewing and drooling abundantly. It has some teeth. You can find out what’s going on inside it by the colour and taste of its saliva, they say.

The bench is made of a spruce tree trunk, split in half. It looks good next to the roughly squared table where fragments and chips of wood can still be seen. A litre-bottle of spirit is half empty. There’s a smell of spruce resin and tobacco in this fresh air.

“Good morning, son.”

“Greetings, father.”

He’s as drunk as a lord. There are dark bags under his eyes. He hasn’t slept all night. He’s drunk just enough rakija to make him feel bored on his own so he wanted to have a debate with someone who is not just a voice in his head.

“Have you eaten breakfast?”

“You know very well I haven’t. There was supposed to be a hurry. What do you want from me?”

He’s poking around his coat and then around his faded bag.

“Wait. There was a half of a roll here.”

“It’s ok”, I resist. “I’m not hungry.”

“Just you wait, I’ll find it. Unless… Unless I ate it myself.” “Never mind, I’m really not hungry.”

“I’m sorry, son, I just remembered I ate it last night. All the same. When you’re hungry we’ll eat the other half. Would you like it now?”

“Thanks, I don’t feel like it. I don’t eat bread in the morning anyway. So tell me, why did I come here?”

“You came here because I told you to come, ha ha ha. But why are you so impatient, the day hasn’t begun yet, and we have plenty of time. Before the whole thing ends, everything will be crystal clear. Then you’ll understand what’s going on. I suggest we don’t hurry; that was never our family’s way; we should take it slowly. A man has to have a system.”

He pours two glasses, hospitably, drinks his in an instant and meaningfully puts mine on a gnarl in the table. He rolls a cigarette and expects me to drink bottoms up. I take my time; I want to show him I don’t drink as immorally as he does. And especially not before nine o’clock in the morning. But my father’s unspoken command and our family instinct take precedence. As in a dream, I grab the little glass and pour it into my mouth. I swallow half of it immediately,  and slowly roll the rest of it around my teeth. The plaque on the dentine melts. The clapper beats hollowly against the bronze in the stone belfry. It’s a quarter to six in the morning.

The alcohol fires up my cerebellum. Damn it. Where did the old man find such excellent spirit? The cheap poison that usually puts him to sleep is alright for cleaning various dental things at most, and spells certain death for you and me. It doesn’t do any harm to the old man; it seems the spirit makes him even stronger and insightfully meaner with the years. His body is capable of transforming the alcohol into sugar in an instant. Maybe the poison has dried him up a bit, you could say that. But he’s still well enough to sit on the bench before sunrise and sip this first-class spirit. Where did he get the money? Could it be that the madman called me just to show me a half-emptied bottle and brag about the quality of his morning aperitif? I think it’s called aperitif.

My dad waves a freshly-folded piece of paper in front of my nose which makes things even more mysterious. Even though his hand is shaking, I still notice the writing is suspiciously similar to his. Thin, unevenly backward-sloping letters in cursive, with some occasional scribble caused by delirious ticks. I can see the building company Balkanasfalt watermark on the edge of the paper. I don’t know anyone working for the company, but I’ve heard about it, of course, who hasn’t? You’ll hear about it soon too if you haven’t already. But didn’t Balkanasfalt go to the dogs? Most likely. Every company in the world  is on its way there. The paper has been torn out of a notebook or a calendar, the kind that’s printed every December in ten  thousand  copies by big companies. I know my father doesn’t use this kind of thing. There’s only one sentence written.

“I took your money and took the fuck off across the border.”

What a lie, I think to myself. This stinks to high heaven. Haven’t we already seen something like this? So he’s out of money, that’s what he’s trying to tell me this fresh morning. This is no news of course, more like a normal condition. Sometimes, when he gets a bit of a money, my father switches into his abnormal state. He’s staring at me like somebody who is planning revenge, and is totally convinced about being right and keeps on agreeing with his own ideas all the time. He’s just an old, drunken man. Nothing more. He speaks in a weepy voice:

“My son! Did you see what this bastard has done to us this time? He destroyed us! We’re done!”

He crushes the paper with an outraged movement into a ball and throws it at random over his shoulder.

“Do you know who it was?”

“Who else? Our arch-enemy. Oh, what have we done so wrong for God to punish us with such a cruel enemy?”

He looks up into the sky with an accusation; then he looks towards the church and drinks out of the bottle twice under the weight of his sorrow.

“There is no God, dad. There’s just a lot of unclear and contradictory voices that confuse us even more.”

“You’re wrong, son. There is God. There definitely is. He hates us and wants to exterminate us.”

“So we are ruined.”

“That’s right. But we’re still going to fight! An exciting life is the best life. We’ll catch the devil today. Tonight or never. Are you with me?”

I think it might be best to clear things once and for all. Enough is enough. There has to be an end to these constant thefts. There is nothing left, and the poverty has totally worn us out.

“I’m with you, dad. Let’s go hunting.”

“That’s the word; I knew you are my son. I’m sorry to wake you up, but as you can see, the situation is dangerous. Catching this devil is more important than sleep. After we cross the border and find him, the dog will be finished. We’ll break his bones and cut off his dick, nose and ears. We’ll punish him for his past sins and prevent future ones make sure he can’t commit any more.”

“Let’s go, old man. I can’t sit still any more.”

He cries with excitement. He puts out his fag and slips the bottle deep into a pocket of his dirty coat. He lifts a finger into the air:

“There’s one crucial thing to do before we set off.”

“Weapons?” I read his mind.

“Re-vol-ver”, he spells out with satisfaction. I nod, even though I don’t believe him. Flakes of fog are falling lazily from the sky and hovering over the fields. Let’s arm ourselves for whatever may come.

my father’s revolver

He steps in first. I fill my lungs with air before I follow him. The log cabin is dark and stuffy. They don’t waste money on paraffin. It’s getting harder and harder to buy it lately. Like everything else. Except for coal, milk and eggs.

I’ve known humpback since childhood. He’s very ugly and very mean. These are his main characteristics worth mentioning. You feel a little pity for him, you feel a bit of disgust, this is how it is with him. And with all that, you can’t figure out whether he’s mean because of his hump or he’s ugly because he’s mean. He doesn’t like seeing us here. He spits on the ground in disgust when father tells him in his drunken voice that he wants a revolver and he wants it on loan. He doesn’t have any money with him because the criminals have stolen it again, but he will repay and return everything as soon as he gets back everything that’s his, with the revolver of course. He needs it to send a bullet into the thief who is robbing and hurting his family over and over again. I stand quietly beside him. The humpback’s mute wife is standing in the back of the shop, wildly shaking her head. She’s sitting on a cupboard swinging her legs in the air. I can see her figure in this semi-darkness. As far as I know the whole family are midgets. Midgets and mean. Who knows, maybe they’ve figured out this is the only way they can survive among us, the wild ones.

It’s no use; the humpback doesn’t want to give the revolver for free, despite the passionate persuasion. He says he’s not stupid and that my father hasn’t paid any loan back in his whole life. I have to agree with the freak on that.

The negotiations fail. It seems as if father has given up. He comes up with material arguments. Determined, he pokes around his coat, and secretly gives the salesman something into his hand so that I don’t see what it is. The eyes of the humped freak sparkle in the halflight. A satisfied growl. Suddenly, he’s in a good mood, I think he’s even smiling a bit, but it’s hard to tell from his permanently frowning face. His midget lady purrs as if her husband had given her some especially rare satisfaction. She slips off the cupboard; we hear a hollow sound while she’s rummaging somewhere in the dark below. Then she approaches on tiptoe, and without any further hesitation we see the thing father came to get. The revolver looks huge in her tiny hairy hands, and the barrel unnaturally wide. She whispers respectfully:

“American stuff. Best quality. Careful.”

“You be careful of the fire!”,

hisses father and quickly hides the gun. “You and your home!”,

I shout, then we quickly step out of the stuffy shack.

During our negotiations in the store, the fog has frayed. The revolver is shining, glittering in the sun like some kind of fucking diamond. It’s brand new and greased. I’m impressed. Not only have I never seen my father with anything so beautiful, I’m totally serious when I say my young eyes have never before seen anything more beautiful than this. It’s a completely different kind of weapon than the rusty old double-barrelled shotgun, which is really a single-barrelled shotgun, that hangs on my back even when I sleep. It hurts me, but I never take it off, I’m such a militant.

Father sticks it proudly under his belt so that the barrel is resting nicely parallel to his cock. That’s how a real man carries a cold weapon. He walks with a swagger and I follow, absorbed in my own thoughts. I’m mesmerized. What did my father give the humpback for this revolver? Secrets. I’m racking my brains, but I can’t guess. First, quality spirit, then the weird note and now this. There’s no money, yet there is. But still, there isn’t, that’s why we’re going to get it. It’s a beautiful revolver that now belongs to my father. The secrets are multiplying faster than Kosovars under a warm blanket.

The excerpt from the novel Urnebes, translated by Dolores Malič and David Lythgoe.

Jasmina Topić

Jasmina Topić

Jasmina Topić is a Serbian authoress mainly focused on writing poetry, but she is also established as an occasional short prose and essay writer; literary reviewer; editor/editor in chief of two significant projects. She started a contemporary poetry edition called “Najbolja” (“The Best”) with another poet from her hometown Pančevo in 2012 and is in-charged in (co)editing as well as book design. She cooperates with the Youth Center in Pančevo as editor-in-chief of the publication “Rukopisi” (“Manuscripts”) since 1998 – a collection of young poets and short-prose writers from former Yugoslavia, published annually. Jasmina Topić has six sole-authored poetry books and several stories printed in journals and specialized thematic books (listed below). Furthermore, she has been continually publishing articles, columns and essays for journals (paper and online) throughout the ex-YU region. From 2000 until 2009, she worked as a freelance journalist. Her poems are translated into several languages and she is included in some major selections of the Serbian and ex-Yugoslavian poetry (the latest: Cat Painters, Dialogos, New Orleans, USA, 2017). Her poetry is often presented in a multimedia context and she managed to present it through video-works in a DVD called “The quiet renewal of the summer” (2008) and also with audio CD “Languages of Poetry”, in several languages – prepared for the final exhibition of the AIR program in Graz, Austria (2014) (available on Soundcloud).

Jasmina Topić had the opportunity to be called on a few Artist in residence programs: the “Milo Dor” stipend from KulturKontakt (Vienna, Austria, 2008), Kamov residency (Rijeka, Croatia, 2012), “Tirana in between” (Traduki program, Tirana, Albania, 2013), RONDO residency (Graz, Austria, 2014) and Create in residence (Baltic centre for writers and translators, Visby, Sweden, 2014). At the end of 2019. she was a resident in Krems, Austria, as a part of the writers exchange project between Austria and Serbia.

She won several prizes on literary contests, and two for her poetry/poetry book: “Duškovićeva zvona” (Pančevo, 2002), “Matićev šal” (Ćuprija, 2003 for the book “Pension. Metamorphoses”), respectively. Her latest poetry book “Beach Insomnia” was short-listed for all major poetry prizes in Serbia in 2017.

Major publications

Topić, Jasmina. Plaža Nesanica / The Beach Insomnia. Kulturni centar Novi Sad. Novi Sad. 2016.

            (the book was nominated last year as short-listed for three most significant poetry prizes in     Serbia: “Vasko Popa”, “Đura Jakšić” and “Milica Stojadinović-Srpkinja” (female poets) )

Topić, Jasmina. Dok neko šapuće naša imena / While Someone is Whispering our Names.                      UKKPP. Pančevo. 2012.

Topić, Jasmina. Tiha obnova leta / The Quiet Renewal of the Summer. Povelja. Kraljevo. 2007.

Topić, Jasmina. Romantizam / Romantizism. Alfa – Narodna knjiga. Beograd. 2005.

Topić, Jasmina. Pansion. Metamorfoze / Pension. Methamorphoses. Centar za stvaralaštvo            mladih. Beograd. 2002.

Topić, Jasmina. Suncokreti. Skica za dan / Sunflowers. Portrait for the Day. Udruženje književnika   Pančevo. Pančevo. 1997.

&

Topić, Jasmina, et. al. Čiji grad – književni protest. Kontrast. Beograd. 2016.

Topić, Jasmina, et. al. Grenzverkehr III. A new beginning – but where is it leading?.

                        Kultur Kontakt & Drava Verlag, Vienna. 2012.

Topić, Jasmina, et. al.  Kod srpskog pisca. Službeni glasnik. Beograd. 2011.

Topić, Jasmina, et. al. Leksikon božjih ljudi. Službeni glasnik. Beograd. 2010.

Topić, Jasmina, et. al. Projekat Kortasar. Povelja. Kraljevo. 2002.

_____________________________________

EXAMPLES OF WORK:

first translator: Novica Petrovic (SRB)

second translator: Biljana D. Obradovic (US)

third: author and Lara Jakica (AUS)

order of poems:

Serbian > English

STANARI

Bili smo tihi. Kao one kržljave ptičice

nesvesne ovog sveta.

Još uvek zlovoljni.

Moje telo pored tvog uvek blago dehidrira.

Tvoje telo je mekano i cedim

iz njega svetu vodicu svojih nedostataka.

Vodu koja mi uvek nedostaje.

Mehuri sapunice i mehuri deterdženta,

dva proizvoda sa istog odeljenja, to

smo postigli u traganju za idealom.

Letimo po ovom stanu kao perje

Očerupanih golupčića spremljenih za dobru supu.

Svako za svojim kompjuterom,

U video igrici postiže cilj. Na sledećem sam nivou.

Pregovaramo o Second life-u.

Ko izgubi iznosi parčiće slomljenog

na veliko gradsko smetlište.

Nakon svega znam da ćemo postati još tiši.

Ulegnuće u krevetu raste kao i svako predgrađe.

U taj stan se nismo uselili.

Sve je toplije i uskoro će leto.

LODGERS

we were ljuiet. Just like those tiny skinny birds

unaware of this world.

we are still morose.

My body always dehydrates slightly next to yours.

Your body is soft and I sljueeze

from it the holy water of my shortcomings.

The water that I always lack.

Soap bubbles and detergent bubbles,

two products from the same department, that’s

what we achieved straining to attain the ideal.

we fly around this flat like the feathers

of plucked pigeons ready to be made into a good soup.

Everyone sitting at his or her computer,

achieves his or her objectives in video games. I’ve reached the next level.

we are negotiating on Second life.

The loser gets to take broken fragments

to the great city dump.

I know that when all’s said and done we’ll become even ljuieter.

The dent in the bed grows like any suburb.

we did not move into that flat.

It’s getting warmer and summer will be upon us soon.

KONSTANTNO ISKUSTVO

vse moje izkušwe

grejo naravnost v literaturo

Primož Čučnik

Iskustva iz figurativnog ranca

idu pravo u poeziju

I po kiši dosadnoj i uopšte rečeno groznoj

može se pisati – 

Taj maleni napor trošenja hartije,

zagrevanja prstiju

u igri šaha ili solitarea s dosadom,

a i kreativnom besparicom

trenutne odluke

podrazumevaju promišljanje,

naglost, adrenalin (tim redosledom ?!)

kao gledanje sportskog susreta

prebacivanje loptice

to je podgrejani nacionalizam paprikaš

džepni izdavač instant saznawa

pesma je sada gerilac

guram kolica naravno prazna

igram igricu koja bi se takođe i od stiha

mogla animirati

za mladost buduću

tu je pevanje ostalo pred vratima

iskušenje s iskustvom

za stan u koji sutra nećeš moći da uđeš

jer si švorc

Onda muziku ugasiš

jednoličan ritam ambijentalnog haosa

i sitne, sitne, još sitnije kao

pirinač za sirotinju –

Kiša je jedino konstantno iskustvo

koje će upravo postati literarno.

CONSTANT EXPERIENCE

all my experiences

go straight into literature

Primož Čučnik

Experiences from the figurative sack

go straight into poetry

Even in boring rain, which is dreadful generally speaking,

one can write –

This small effort aimed at using paper,

warming up your fingers

playing chess or solitaire with boredom,

and with creative pennilessness

instantaneous decisions

presuppose reflection,

rashness, adrenalin (in that order?!)

watching a sporting event

heated-up nationalism stew

pocket-sized publisher

a poem is now a guerrilla fighter

I push the cart, empty, of course

I play a game that could also be animated

by verse

for future youth

there’s singing left in front of the door

an ordeal involving experience

on account of a flat where you won’t be able to move in

because you’re broke

Then you switch off the music

the monotonous rhythm of ambiental chaos

and tiny, tiny, even tinier, like

rice for the poor –

The rain is the only constant experience

that is to become a literary one.

NE SPAVAM CELU NOĆ

Iz čistog nezadovoljstva. Mislim kako se grad

prepun mogućnosti neprestano sužava.

Nešto malo pre toga, tog predvečerja,

bakuta šeta s štapovima u rukama, samo što ona nije skijaš,

i sneg skoro neće pasti. Nedelja je i nema graje.

Zato je noć idealna za nesanicu.

I dok odmiče… nemam ni časovnik koji će

odbrojavati nezadovoljstvo ili prebrojavati ovčice.

Nasmejem se u gluvo-doba-noći tako da to

niko ne čuje, pa na trenutak zastanem,

da udahnem i izdahnem.

Ne klopara li neko zavojitim stepeništem

i nije li sad već na mezaninu!

Čisto fizičko zadovoljstvo osetim kada jagodice prstiju

dotaknu tastaturu projektovane nesanice.

Kada me već sasvim obavije čista runska vuna postrizanih ovčica

iskrsnu fotografije, lice u kreču, glini ili prahu,

ne razaznajem baš najbolje.

Tada, nalik čudu, krv sama potekne iz kažiprsta i vene na vratu

nabreknu nalik boraniji u zelenom omotaču. Trenutak živosti.

Kažem naglas da rasteram što je preostalo: Mi smo stvarni!

Iz čistog nezadovoljstva.

I DON’T SLEEP ALL NIGHT

Out of sheer discontent. I think of how a city

Overflowing with possibilities is constantly narrowing.

A little before that, before that dusk,

A granny walks with sticks, only she’s no skier

And it won’t be snowing anytime soon. It’s Sunday and there’s no clamour.

That’s why the night’s ideal for not sleeping.

And as it unfolds… I don’t even have a clock

To tick away discontent or count sheep.

I smile in the dead of night so that

No one gets to hear it, then I pause for a moment, to inhale and exhale.

Is that someone rattling up the spiral staircase

and isn’t he in the mezzanine already!

I feel pure physical pleasure when the cushions of my fingers

Touch the keyboard of my projected insomnia.

when I am entirely enveloped in the pure new wool of fleeced sheep,

Photographs crop us, a face in lime, clay or dust,

I can’t make them out very well.

Then, like a miracle, blood flows out of the forefinger of its own accord                                                                                                    

                                                                                and the veins in the neck

swell like French beans in a green envelope. A moment of liveliness. 

I say aloud to dispel what’s left: we are real!

Out of sheer discontent.

NE ŽIVESMO OSIM ČITAJUĆI

Izgubila se u prostoru jedne knjige,

pratile me reči pesme na nepoznatom jeziku,

toplog mediteranskog melosa, kao zajednička

bivanja na ostrvima gde uvek treba obnoviti radost.

I dva prostora, oivičena senkama i muzikom,

potirala su me; U istu ravan dovodila

s linijom nepovučenom,

na dnu lista, izvan fusnote.

Tamo gde je pripadnost zamirala

izbijala je strast za napisanim, jednim

od mogućih svetova što so ih ispere

kao štamparsku grešku.

A prostor knjige menjao nam je oblik

lica, dodeljivao namenu. I bila sam. –

Zaistinski priljubljena za stihove, za slike

kao za nekadašnje rame,

sanjajući o severnim morima tako živahnim,

iz pisama prelomljenih u stihove.

Osluškivala kada će zlatne bubice hlebne

mileti mojom kožom, drhtureći. Boravila

pod polarnim svetlom, nadohvat drugosti

drugog, realnog života…

Ali ne živesmo osim čitajući, odmeravajući

ono pre i posle napisanog dok su tvoje oči,

male orahove ljuske na liniji imaginarnog,

Bile i more i nesanica.

Sada tako lagano klizim pored glečera čija imena,

a i namene ne prepoznajem.

I kao u dubokom, najdubljem snu ispod santi,

poneki glas me doziva iz svetla

u kojem se ne da više boraviti.

Ovog jutra, od jutra do mraka.

WE NEVER LIVED EXCEPT WHEN READING

I got lost in the space of a book,

the words of a poem in an unknown language followed me,

warm Mediterranean ethnic music, like joint

stays on islands where joy is always to be renewed.

Two spaces edged by shadows and music

annulled me; they brought me down to the level

of a line not drawn,

at the bottom of a sheet, outside the footnote.

where belonging was dying out

the passion for writing emerged, for one

of the possible worlds washed out by salt

like a misprint.

And the space of the book changed our facial

form, gave us a purpose. And I was. –

Truly attached to verses, to pictures

the way I was to a shoulder of bygone times,

dreaming of northern seas so lively,

from those letters arranged into verses.

I listened, waiting for gold bugs

to start milling across my skin, trembling. I resided

under polar light, within arm’s reach of the otherness

of another, real life…

But we never lived except when reading, sizing up

that which preceded and followed the writing while your eyes,

tiny nutshells on the line of the imaginary,

were both the sea and insomnia.

Now I slide slowly by the glacier whose names

and purpose I do not recognise.

And as if in a deep, deepest dream under ice floes,

occasional voices call out to me from the light

in which it is no longer possible to reside.

This morning, from dawn till dusk.

Translation from Sebian into English

by Novica Petrović

II

SLUTNJA ZIME

Polako, leto se završavalo pljuskom kiše.

J.Hristić

Uvek, na kraju, mora biti taj pljusak.

Zamišljena međa između lakoće i ozbiljnog –

Završili smo svoja putovanja,

željni sunca i igre – svega!

Još jedno leto iza nas, i more,

veliki sentiment, u kojem bi se mogli udaviti.

Napuštali smo naše zimske kaveze,

kao obavezu održavanja plamena u peći,

drhtavicu smetova, svet u snu.

Završili smo s pejzažima,

kroz prozor autobusa u suncu,

svetlucavoj vodi zalaska.

Dok putem isplovljavamo

ka dobrim starim sobama vidim nestvarni su…

Gradovi, kao preslikani, na vodi.

U noći, dok duša spava otvorenih očiju.

Gradove u kojima smo mogli poživeti,

daleko od svojih, vraćajući se sebi.

Isprali nakupljenu kišnicu otrova.

Na trenutak odložili maske.

Patetika roni iz vozačevog kasetofona,

ka zavičaju.

U istoj sobi počeli, u istoj okončaćemo,

S ponovnom slutnjom zime.

Prisećajući se lakoće,

stvarnosti svojih udova…

U senovitom kutu sobe ta maska čeka.

WINTER FOREBODINGS

Slowly, the summer ends with a rain shower.

J. Hristić

Always, in the end, must come that rain shower. Here

on the imaginary border between the light-hearted and the serious—

we’ve ended our travels,

eager for sun and fun—for everything!

Another summer lies behind us, with its big sea,

a large feeling, in which we could have drowned.

we left our winter cages behind, as if

under an obligation to keep the furnace firing,

for shivers of snowdrifts, a world in a dream.

we’ve finished with landscapes, fading away into the distance

through the window of the bus , gleaming over water in the sunset.

As we rise above the water on the road

towards home sweet home, I can see the vistas are unreal…

Cities, appear in silhouette above the water.

At night, like ghosts we sleep with eyes open.

In cities where we might have lived

away from our loved ones, we return to ourselves.

we have washed away the poisoned rain.

we have put our masks aside for a moment.

Pathos emerges from the driver’s cassette player,

towards our homeland.

we began in the same room, we’ll end in the same room,

but now with a new foreboding of winter.

Remembering the lightheartedness,

the reality of our body parts…

In the corner of the room, in shadows, that mask awaits.

Translated by Biljana D. Obradović

ZRENJE U NEPOMIČNOSTI

Odrastam (– odrasla!) među senkama leta,

u tajanstvenoj kretnji asfaltom, ka dosadi.

Kao da još uvek traje: zrenje, slatkoća zrelog,

prezrelog. Bljutavog.

U kolima, putevima u krug, prija povetarac,

iznenadan smeh – kao prah odnet u senku.

Skupljeni na istom mestu, zatvoreni u sobe

naših strahova, već prodati u bescenje.

Tek nekolicina, drugara, zaista budna.

Priče se isprepliću…

Ne putujemo nikuda. Odredišta su kao luke

na sedmoj strani sveta, isijavajući iz tv aparata.

Nužne obmane, da se u sebe vraćamo

jedva okusivši užitak. Slobodi da se bude svoj,

ipak u tajnosti. Tu u mraku, gradskoj mitologiji,

između svega što nam neće dati da budemo,

još jedna tura: penušavca i iskamčene sreće.

Vodi se simulirana strast.

Pamtićemo se po mirisima kože.

I vidim, poređani kao svetiljke autoputa,

i u ludilu smo, i u dosadi.

Šta je ispred, nego mrak.

GROWING UP IN STANDSTILLNESS

I am growing up (–grown!) among summer shadows,

in the mysterious movement on asphalt, towards boredom. Though

it’s still happening: growing up, with the sweetness of being ripe,

overripe. Sour.

In the car, circling the roads, a breeze soothes,

with a sudden smile—as if dust taken in by the shadows.

Gathered in the same place, locked in the rooms

of our fears, already sold into pricelessness.

Only a few, friends, remain truly awake.

Our stories are intertwined…

we don’t travel anywhere. Destinations are like ports

on the seventh continent of the world, only emitted from the TV.

Necessary deceits, that we might return to ourselves

barely having trusted life’s pleasures. Free to be ourselves,

still in secret. Here in the darkness, lost in the myth of the city,

lost among all things that won’t allow us to be,

yet another round: of the foaming liljuid,

of the happiness that comes from begging.

A simulated passion takes place.

we’ll remember each other by the smell of our skins.

And I can tell, from the line of lights along the highway,

we are enveloped in madness, and in boredom.

what else is ahead of us, but darkness.

Translated by Biljana D. Obradović

OSTRVO, PLAŽA, PIVO,

I palma u pozadini! Dodatak fotografiji,

pridružena razglednica nekome tamo, u domovini,

koju nikada nećemo poslati.

I tamne fleke po pitomom moru.

I tresetnica lako pada preko oblih kamenčića.

Biće razbacani posle po kutovima sobe,

kao idoli morskih noći, kao zalog tih dana.

Ritual spuštanja na plažu, ritual poniranja

u vodu, oživljavanje one boje

koja je život u punom sjaju.

Sa obaveznim kartama, bez keca u rukavu,

i zveckavim novčićima, svetlucavim sunašcima

za koja se može dobiti popodnevno pivo.

Zagarantovana fatamorgana.

Na fotografiji videće se jasno,

i koju marku piva pijemo, mokre kose…

A u pozadini palma!

Jesmo li svi, koji ovde boravimo,

privid nas samih, ili ostvareni snovi tela

u odblesku na vodi?!

Obavezno je nekoliko SMS poruka

prijateljima i inima. To. Da smo na plaži.

Da pijemo pivo. I, uopšte, nije loše.

živimo mali poetični privid. Plavu čistinu.

I ova pesma je kao i fotografija.

Uvlaenje u triko uplaćenih deset

all inclusive tretmana.

I da, na plaži merkamo, kako da zaboravim,

bludnog, divnog sina: Kavafija. Eto

je i poezija.

ISLAND, BEACH, BEER,

and a palm! An additional note to the photograph

on a group postcard for those back home

in  the homeland, a postcard we’ll never mail

And those dark spots on the calm sea.

Heat easily falls over the rounded stones.

They will be scattered afterwards all over the room’s corners

as icons of sea nights, as souvenirs from those days.

The ritual of our descent to the beach, of diving grandly

into the water, of reviving that color of life in full splendor.

with the obligatory cards games, with no ace up your sleeve,

and the clink-clank of the coins, those small, shiny suns

with which one can buy an afternoon beer.

A guaranteed mirage.

In this photograph, you can clearly see,

even the label on the beer we are drinking, wet haired…

And in the background, a palm!

Are we all, we, here on vacation, all

a mere illusion of ourselves, or a dream realized in our bones

by our reflection in the water?

Must we send a few text messages

to friends and family; tell them how we’re at the beach?

How we are drinking beer. And, how it’s not bad, overall.

we are living a small poetic illusion. Under a clear blue sky.  

And this poem is like a photograph:

of me sljueezing into my leotard

after ten, all inclusive treatments.

And yes, on the beach we eyed, how could I forget

that promiscuous, marvelous son: Cavafy! Now,

that’s poetry.

vijena – beograd via budimpešta

Budimpešta promiče u noći

kao svetleći jo-jo. Cena na etiketi da padneš u nesvest;

bečki žirovi, ušteđeni, grče se na dnu kofera.

Odavno nisam videla svetleću stvar.

Zvuk njegov čujem još samo kao eho reklame koja

je preživela

raspad.

rat.

Tako isto ne mogu da se setim ni Budimpešte

jer je nemam u sećanju.

njene zašestarene površine i odmerene milimetre

imaginacije dok panorama klizi

pred staklom noćnog voza –

moja lampa za čitanje nasuprot svetlima

prigrađa. Kao hrčak u transportnoj laboratoriji.

Mišomor za varvarina.

Prebacujući se s desne na levu i leve na desnu

stranu kuka-regulatora.

Ravnoteža je ključna reč pesme. Panorame. Pogleda.

Za bivstvovanje i prelazak preko granice

iz civilizacije u ono što je iza njenih rubova:

moja domovina.

15 minuta kasnije voz usporava

i sećanje na jedno drugačije postojanje briše se

kao i prostor načet mirisom prepoznatljivih krajolika.

Hor u slušalicama na crno kupljenog mobilnog telefona

zapevaće nedefinisano Haleluja!

raspad. slagalice 30-godišnjeg bivstvovanja.

rat. svega.

u pauzi između Budimpešte i nastavka

dugog puta kroz noć… zvuk zrikavaca

Prekinut ponovnim noćnim slikom

i kloparanjem šina.

Vienna—Belgrade via Budapest

Budapest passes during the night

like a flashing yo-yo. The price on the tag, for you to faint;

Viennese acorns, saved, stuffed at the bottom of the suitcase.

I haven’t seen anything for awhile now.

Its sound I only hear as an echo of that billboard that has survived

the falling apart,

the war.

In the same way, I cannot recall Budapest

since I don’t have her in my memory.

Her clearly marked center and measured space

purely left to imagination, as our panorama

slides by, in front of the night train’s tinted glass—

my reading light reflected against the lights

of the suburbs. As if a hamster in a lab on wheels.

Or a mousetrap for barbarians.

Moving from right to left and left to right

along my hip—the regulator.

Balance is the key for any poem. For the panorama. The view.

For existence and going over the border

from civilization into that which is just past it:

my homeland.

Fifteen minutes later the train slows

and the memory over a different existence disappears

as if a room filled with the scent of familiar places.

The choir in the earphones of my brand new black mobile phone

will soon start to sing indiscriminate Hallelujahs!

The collapse. The riddles of the last thirty years.

The war. Everything.

In the rest stop between Budapest and the continuation

of our long trip through the night…the chirp of crickets

is broken again by the long obstacles of darkness,

and the clatter of tracks.

Translated by Biljana D. Obradović

III

ONA NEĆE. NIJE ONA OFELIJA.

Ona otvara prozore i spušta kapke,

Dan je savršeno zimski miran i nijedan vetar

neće poremetiti pauzu između dve praznine:

One u kojoj je zatečena i druge u koju leže.

Ispod kapaka vri nemirna zenica koja

samo želi da pogleda, da vidi uvek, samo još jednom,

neki mogući put. Ono drhti nemirno kao ptičija krila,

nervozni cvrkut na čistom plavom,

na jasnom pogledu kroz otvoren prozor:

neće pogledati

neće usniti

Ona je budna pod niskim nebom tavanice,

ali njeno telo ne želi pokret u svet.

Svet je igralište oivičeno rubovima kreveta,

Dok ispod kapaka, dok pod njima kapka,

splin unutrašnjih mapa, drugačije opisanog grada:

neće pogledati

neće usniti

Prošla je prva izmaglica prošlo je toplo telo,

Leto je proteklo kao pesak odnekud pod zubima,

Lomljen u buduće kamenolome –

Ona pevuši tiho, ona jeste tiha, ništa joj ne može

nijedan glas razuma, niko je ne može dotaknuti

neće pogledati

neće usniti

Ona spušta kapke i rukama napipava novouspostavljeni mrak

Ona dolazi, ona ostaje, ona odustaje

I neprestano kaplje u dodiru sa svežim zrakom.

SHE DOES NOT. SHE IS NO OFELIA

She opens the windows and closes her eye-lids,

The day is in a perfect winterly peace

and no sound can disturb the pause between two emptiness:

The one she finds herself in and the one

she is about to lay down in.

Beneath the eye-lids, a restless pupil is boiling

its desire to look, always to see, just one more time,

a possible path. It trembles without peace like a bird’s wing,

a nervous twitter on the clear blue,

on the bright view through the open window:

it won’t look ahead

it won’t fall asleep

She is awake under the low sky of a ceiling,

but her body does not want to move into the outside world.

The world is a playground wired with the edge of the bed,

And behind the eye-lids, the lids are melting in drops,

a spleen of inner maps, of a differently described city:

it won’t look ahead

it won’t fall asleep

The first haze is over, the warm body has gone by,

A summer slipped like sand, out of nowhere, between her teeth,

Crushed in the future ljuarry –

She sings a ljuiet song, she is ljuiet, nothing can get to her,

not a single voice of reason, no one can touch her anymore

it won’t look ahead

it won’t fall asleep

She closes her eyes reaching for a newly discovered darkness

She comes, she stays, she is giving up

And continuously melting in drops when in contact

with the fresh air.

(from the book “Beach Insomnia”, Cultural centre Novi Sad, 2017)

Translated by the author and Lara Jakica

KORČULA

Jutrom se oslanjala na senke plavlje od izmaglice,

kroz prozor uvale dok otvara čistotu sveta izbrisanog

u velikom zamahu; a noću taj isti svet sužavao se na nebo

iznad terase, uvale, iznad mora.

Dole u luci, brod Marin susretao je gospa Snježnu,

plavo za dečake, crveno za devojčice, i njihova tela ukotvljena

ispred povremeno bučnog kamenoloma.

Nije moglo bolje ni u sevdalinci, jer su im se kljunovi

uvek nežno mimoilazili, i jer je ona odlazila, ali se i vraćala.

Sloboda se kupovala, na sitno, u oštrom kamenjaru

i predvečernjoj bonaci, u nijansama koje ne traži reči,

ali traže pogled i radost sagovornika.

Pila se vina, uvek izrazito žuta, normalno divlja,

jer ne idu bez sunca; dovoljna za opijanja i potrebne fatamorgane;

Na plaži, bilo je i previše sati što stoje, čak i u bučnom motoru

lokalnih barki, dok prevoze, od vode, do vode –

I telo se neprestano radovalo, jer je telo samosvoje.

Misao popodnevne senke četinara, nemarno je bežala nad njim,

a noću iznova golicala telo prahom što zvezda sipa nadole,

dok je radost tražila mlečnu pȕt, da prekrije dnevne opekotine.

Nije bilo ni meso ni mesto ovo što traje u nama, ili prolazi pored nas,

Ni nesigurni odraz što nas je terao na odjeke u drugima.

Tek slučajni miris i soli, pojedena sardela, ili poziv da se odvoji

od upravo obrisanog velikog sveta, ovde, na ostrvu –

Kao tajni kod, jer podne oslobađa senke, sunce briše razloge,

kamen upija toplotu sigurnih povrataka, a

Ostrvo je tiho disalo svoju i sve slučajne prošlosti.

KORČULA ISLAND*

In the morning, she relied on shadows bluer than the mist

through the window of the bay revealing the pureness

of the just erased world,

with a massive momentum; and by night that very same world

narrowed down to the sky

above the terrace, over the bay, above the sea.

Down at the harbor, a ship Marin met lady Swežna,

Blue for boys, red for girls, in a periodically noisy ljuarry.

It could not have been better, not even in a serenade, as their prows,

always gently miss passing, as she was always leaving,

always to return.

The freedom was bought for small coins, in sharp rocky surroundings

and the evening calm waters; in the shades that seek no words,

yet seek a glance and the joy of a companion.

The wine, here, is specifically yellow and normally wild

because it can’t be without the sun; Enough for getting drunk,

for indispensable mirage;

So little time to spend, and too many hours to stand still,

Despite the roaring engines of the local boats,

from water to water –

And the body is in endless rejoice because the body is only its own,

although this hand is just a thought of an afternoon conifer’s shadow,

carelessly running away

The body is tickled by stardust falling over and over again

and the joyfulness hopes for the milky way to cover-up

the daily sunburn.

It was neither the flesh nor place, that what endures within us, and that which passes by,

Nor was it a vulnerable reflection that was driving us to echo in others.

Just a random scent, the salt, a small anchovy, or an invitation to hive off

from the freshly evanished big world, here, on the island –

Like a secret code, because the midday rids you of any shadows,

The sun erases reasons,

the stone absorbs the warmth of the safe returns,

And the island was ljuietly breathing its own and all other coincidental pasts.

(from the book “Beach Insomnia”, Cultural centre Novi Sad, 2017)

*the island in the Adriatic sea, in Croatia; shares its name with the island Corfu in Greece, and the name was given after the nymph Kerkyra, from Homer’s Odyssey

translated by the author and Lara Jakica

PONOĆ JE

Komšije

konačno više

ne pomeraju stvari

Danas sam uspela da sastavim

prvi sa šezdesetim minutom

U otkrivanju grada

Zabavila mišiće vežbanjem

zdravog razuma

Popila

čaj od nane

pa onda sipala pivo

Tišina je

I odakle sad želja

da se još nešto kaže

dodirne još jedna

oštrica

unutrašnjih

pejzaža

odsutnosti

koje uporno sabijam

u 4,8 posto tirana

a nije dovoljno

ni za šta.

Hoće li me sutra

probuditi dodir

poznate ruke

saopštavajući

da je već kasno

da je kafa skuvana

i da me čeka.

Neće.

Ponoć je konačno

komšije.

Tirana, 2013.

IT IS MIDNIGHT

Neighbors

finally don’t move

their belongings anymore

I have managed to pull together

the first walking minute with the sixtieth

Discovering the city

Had my fun practicing muscles

with common sense

Drank

my tea

then poured myself a beer

It is silent

this desire

to say something

from where does it comes now

to touch one more

blade

of the inner sceneries

The absence

in which I pour in

constantly

4,8 percent of Tirana beer

but it is not enough

for anything.

Will I be awaked

tomorrow

with the touch

of a familiar hand

Announcing

that is already late

how coffee is made

and it awaits.

I won’t.

Midnight is finally here

neighbors.

translated by the author

Senka Marić

Senka Marić

Senka Marić writes poetry, prose and essays. She has published three collections of poetry: Odavde do nigdjeTo su samo riječi and Do smrti naredne, and the novel Kintsugi tijela. She has won several literary awards, including the European Knight of Poetry Award in 2013, the Zija Dizdarević Award in 2000, and the 2019 Meša Selimović Award for the best novel published in 2018 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro. She is the editor of the internet portal for literature, culture and art strane.ba.

Body Kintsugi – Senka Marić

The summer of 2014 was shaped by three events.

            On 17 June, just a few days after that afternoon you’d spent sitting on your king-size bed in which the two of you hadn’t slept together for over a year, in silence interrupted by the odd weary word, your husband packed his clothes into two large gym bags. You brought him one more from the store room and packed two sets of single bed linen, a pillow, a terry blanket, three small and two large towels. As you zipped it up, you thought about the coming winter. You returned to the store room, where you spent five minutes looking for a big plastic bag in which you stuffed a quilt. The hall was blocked with things. A few times he made to say something. Each time he changed his mind the moment he saw you arms akimbo, breathing deeply. He managed to pick up all three bags. Eyes cast down, hurrying down the stairs to the taxi that was already waiting for him in the street. After that you sat long in solitude in front of that bare wall and slowly realised that he hadn’t left behind a feeling of emptiness, only a sense of defeat.

            On 15 July your left shoulder started to hurt. It hurt the most at night. You couldn’t sleep, so you sat on the bed and cried. It turned out you had calcific tendonitis – a jagged deposit of calcium which sores the surrounding tissue, causing an inflammation. The doctor said the only thing to do now was to take painkillers and wait for it to cease. And you hated waiting. And you hated medications. They were at odds with your need to control everything, with your inability to trust anyone enough to ask for help. You kept reducing your dosage. You took half the prescribed quantity. That sweltering July there was nothing in your world but pain. It was the dust settling on your time which refused to pass. You wore a shawl around your neck. To sling your left arm in. Lest it move. To make it hurt as little as possible. You could only think about how you were stronger than the pain. More tenacious. It will pass, I will remain. For a bit you thought about how unlucky you’d been, how bad things had been coming in a succession for years now. Incessantly. Maybe it was because you thought you could take it, you were stronger than all of that? If you’d screamed: Enough! would everything have stopped? Would the wheel grinding everything in its path have gone off the collision course with your life? It was night. It was hot. Kids were asleep. The moment was perfect for crying. For screaming: Enough! Enough, all right! But deep inside you didn’t believe. You knew you could take more.

            It is 26 August. It hurts a bit less. You even manage to sleep. You have to be very careful whilst you lie in bed. A single wrong move could send you into agony. When you turn from your right to your left side to fix your shoulder in place, with your left hand you grab yourself firmly below the right armpit. A part of your palm lies on your right breast. As your body turns, slowly, over your back and onto your left haunch, your palm glides back. Your fingers, pressed into your flesh, move across your right breast. And then you feel it. There, to the side, on the edge of your breast, almost hard by. Like a pebble that found its way into your bathing suit top.

            You lower your hand. You’re lying on your back. Staring at the ceiling. You don’t feel the pain in your shoulder, just your heart beating in your throat. You sit up and touch it again. It’s still there, moving slightly under your fingers. You remove your hand again and lie on your back. You can’t close your eyes. You don’t even blink. They are agape, swallowing the ceiling. The house changes shape and size. It bends. Flows into your eyes. And with it the city, the surrounding hills, the river trying to flow away from the city, the sea, mile after mile of land, the entire continent rolled up like a paper cone full of hot, sooty chestnuts, till there’s nothing left but the dead, black sky.

            But I mustve got it wrong!

            You sit up and feel it again. Your breath fills the room. Bounces off the walls. Breaks the summer night into the day. The round lump withdraws under pressure (the feel of it is forever imprinted in the memory of your fingers). The panic is mud. It fills your mouth. The night swallows you.

            You decide to smash the image. Like a mirror hit with a stone. It leaves behind nothing but a smouldering sense that you’re not yet even aware of what has been taken away from you.

            Your breathing slows down, becomes inaudible. You say: Now you will sleep. You wont think of anything. It’s easy. Your thoughts are too scattered anyway. You’re in a place that is above words, their meaning and sense. You distinctly feel only your skin, a membrane you share with the world. You sleep, never so deeply, never so completely, until the next morning, when you discover that the lump in your tit has supplanted the pain in your shoulder.

***

How does one begin to tell a story that crumbles under the tongue and refuses to solidify?

            You knew you would get cancer on the day your mother was diagnosed sixteen years ago, didn’t you?

            Or:

            Since the day your mother was diagnosed sixteen years ago you’ve been convinced you would never get cancer, haven’t you?

            Both statements are equally true. The dots falling in place to capture that moment which transpired so long ago are two sequences that form a perfect oval shape, parsing the linear logic of time. Two parallel realities, one of which becomes real only when it reaches its destination. You knew you would get it and you were convinced you never would. The present retroactively renders the past true. You are imprisoned in a reality which refuses to admit that it could have ever been otherwise.

***

So, you were a sad child? Seems that way now. You had everything, but you could never escape the feeling that everything was a bit off, that there was something dark and oppressive lurking in all things. Still, all that time you thought you knew you’d be happy someday. Because you were meant to be happy. In a world in which happiness doesn’t exist.

            Is it possible to pin down the point which cuts into the flesh of time, setting the trajectory which leads you to this moment?

            You’re little. You’re sitting under the desk in your granddad’s study. You don’t remember if you’re trying to hide. You don’t know what happened before or after. You’re wearing a red-green plaid dress and thick tights. You feel dirty. Bad. The tights are white. Traitorous grey stains can be seen on the feet. Your hair is brown. Now you’re not quite sure, but it may have been greasy and clumpy. The image melts into the image of a cat emerging from a dark cellar. You wouldn’t want to touch it. Yet, the girl under the desk (is it really you?) is longing for touch. Granddad’s room is on the ground floor. The kitchen and the sitting room are upstairs. Everyone is upstairs all the time. Why are you downstairs, alone? Especially seeing that you’re afraid of the Gypsy man who will come to steal you. He looks like Sandokan, and he’s monochromatic. He’s a strange black-and-white figure which sneaks into your house, hides behind the screen under the stairwell, waiting for you. From Granddad’s room you can hop out straight onto the stairs. Sandokan the Gypsy can’t reach you. You run upstairs. Nan is up in the kitchen. The pressure cooker hisses. Pots clatter. Heavy aroma of food. You don’t want soup. You don’t want anything. Nan moves swiftly, juggling pots and plates. She’s twirling in her blue sleeveless dress. She can’t see you. But her presence makes you feel better.

            In your memory, of the whole house, only the kitchen stands untouched. Like a spire atop a magic castle. One entire wall is glazed. Light glares. You’ll never forget the silence and darkness raging down below. You’re even dirtier in the light.

***

You didn’t open your eyes immediately. You lay there. You waited. You thought if you kept them shut everything would just go away. You could hear birds and you thought you were happy it was summer and the window panes didn’t sequester you from the world. You got up, went to the bathroom and showered a long time. At first the hand steered clear of the spot. You thought maybe it wasn’t there, maybe it was all a mistake. You would phone your friends. You would go for a morning coffee. You would drink wine instead, or whisky, or cherry liqueur, doesn’t matter. You would toast loudly. Laugh at the stray bullet that whizzed just wide of your head.

            The lump is still there. Unyieldingly present. More supple than last night. Dancing under the wet skin.

            You take a violet dress from the wardrobe, one of your nicest, strapless, no shoulders. It flows over your beautiful, firm breasts all the way down to your knees. You tie your hair in a ponytail. You put on make-up. You think that you’re beautiful. You look at the kids sleeping, drunk on the August heat, calmed by the serenity of the early morning, and you go to see your GP.

            When you start to speak you realise you’re speaking too fast. Or not fast enough. The day seems too thick to admit your words. You slide down your dress top. You keep silent as he feels your breasts. He purses his lips, raises eyebrows. He nods slowly, lowering his gaze. Your stomach feels heavy. You should’ve been sent back from that initial stop. You counted on that place to be the point where life would flow into a familiar riverbed. Into a telephone invitation for a coffee that isn’t quite a coffee. A celebration of a bullet dodged. A moment of crystal clear awareness of everything you’re doing wrong, a decision never to make the same mistakes again. You would love those deserving of your love. You would eat healthy. You would practise yoga. You would feel every day.

            The doctor wrote a referral note and sent you to hospital.

            There were two doctors there. One, who wasn’t quite sure what to make of the multitude of black and white dots making up the inside of your breasts under the ultrasound scanner stick. And another, sent for by the first one. He applied a coat of cold gel onto your breasts again and circled round with the stick. They agreed you were fine. The other doctor told you to bring the report from your regular check-up six months ago, where findings were normal, and schedule a mammography in twelve months.

            You stepped out into the street. Maybe you knew already and your hands were shaking. You felt like crying but you didn’t want your mascara to smudge. You still wanted to be pretty. You told yourself to be quiet, though there were no words in your mouth. You told yourself: Don’t jinx it! Don’t stare into the darkness. Turn your back to the abyss! You got in your car and drove, although you didn’t know where to.

            Then you saw him in the street, the radiologist you’d been entrusting with your tits for years now, determined to forestall, by going for regular check-ups, the illness that had ravaged your mother’s body. An hour before that you’d looked for him in the hospital corridors, but they told you he wasn’t in. Now you stopped your car in the middle of the road, in a sea of speeding cars, and you ran after him. You told him that you knew you were crazy, and that you were sorry for pestering, his colleagues having told you were fine. But you knew, you felt that stone under your skin, the cry of the tissue sick and tired of the pain you’d been swallowing like bites of a bland dinner at a stranger’s house. He smiled and told you not to worry. He would expect you at his surgery at three. You would check everything. And everything would quite certainly be fine. You knew he had no way of knowing that. But you felt reassured because he wasn’t going to send you home, tell you to come back in a year and stop thinking about you.

***

When you entered his surgery, on 15 September, he said: Did you really come alone? Four days prior he’d run MRI and biopsy. The results would take two weeks. When he acquainted himself with your lump via the ultrasound, on the day when you ran after him in the street, he was convinced it was nothing. It looked benign. Six months prior, there was nothing there. But, on account of your family medical history, we will do MRI and biopsy. Don’t worry. Looks fine! You would wait for the optimal moment, the period between the seventh and the twelfth day of your menstrual cycle, and perform both procedures.

            When he scanned you on the MRI four days ago, he said nothing. He didn’t want to look you in the eye. He muttered that he was snowed under. That he didn’t have time. That he would let you know as soon as the biopsy results were in. You’d seen him walking into the MRI room examining your scan report. For five minutes. After that, as he was performing biopsy sticking the needle with which he extracted bits of the lump from your body (o, what a brutally dull, final sound), you talked about your daughters, who were the same age, about yoga, and the waning summer. You kept silent about everything else as you breathed deeply, lying on the narrow bed, covered with a green sheet. Over the following four days you didn’t think about anything. You were in no hurry to be scared.

            On Monday at ten in the morning his nurse phones you and asks you to be at his surgery at eleven. Minutes are slowly dripping excess of eternity. You dress slowly. You put on make-up, long and carefully. You fix your hair. You put on your ring and earrings. You get in your car and drive to the hospital.

            – Yes, I really came alone – you even smiled.

            – We have bad news, but also good news – he said, finally looking you in the eye.

            – Let’s start with the bad news – is what you said.

            That wasn’t courage talking.

            – Cancer it is.

            – OK – you say – OK.

            Something in you wants to whimper, cry. But all those things, the room on the ground floor of the city hospital, the great big desk behind his back with the giant computer screen showing about twenty images of the inside of your breasts, the big black chair on which he moved a bit to the left, then a bit to the right, you on the low sofa opposite, one hand holding the other on your knees, the strident blue sky seeping in through the interstices of the window blinds and the squeaking of somebody’s rubber soles on the linoleum floor in the corridor outside, all of that seems insufficiently true, like a glitch in reality that’s going to be corrected any moment now. And all things will return to their proper place.

            – But, we’ve caught it on time – that was the good news.

            – Good – you say – good. 

            For a moment, the room wraps itself tight round your neck. You think you’re going to burst into tears. The next instant you realise how pointless that gesture would’ve been, how unnecessary. Redundant. You lean forward. You listen to him attentively. He says a surgery is to be scheduled. He should see with the surgeon if the entire breast is to be removed, or just the section with the tumour. And a number of lymph nodes. The surgeon will decide how many. He says nothing about what happens if there is tumour in the lymph nodes, too. He talks about how good the prognosis is when cancer is caught so early on.

            – This is certainly very early, certainly in good time.

            The words are an anchor stopping reality from dissolving.

Translated from Bosnian by Mirza Purić

Photo: Radmila Vankoska

Faruk Šehić

Faruk Šehić

Faruk Šehić was born in 1970 in Bihac. Until the outbreak of war in 1992, Šehić studied Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb. However, the then 22-year-old voluntarily joined the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which he led a unit of 130 men as a lieutenant. After the war he studied literature and since 1998 has published his own literary works. The literary critics regard him as the voice of the so-called mangled generation.

His debut novel ‘Knjiga o Uni’ (2011; tr: Quiet Flows the Una) was awarded Meša Selimović prize for the best novel published in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia in 2011, and European Union Prize for Literature 2013. For his book of selected poems in Italian and Bosnian language ‘Ritorno alla natura / Povratak prirodi’ he received XXXI Premio Letterario Camaiore – Francesco Belluomini 2019 (Premio Internazionale).

His books have been translated into English, Turkish, Slovenian, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, German, Bulgarian, French, Spanih, Dutch, Arab, Romanian and Macedonian.

He work in respected political magazine BH Dani as a columnist and journalist. Faruk Šehić lives in Sarajevo.

Womens’ War

Nađa is a kid. Greta is an elderly woman. Nađa goes to secondary school, she’s not quite a kid but that’s how I refer to her. From time to time, her friends visit our refugee home. One of them has a fair complexion, blue eyes. I sometimes think she eyes me furtively, but I pretend not to notice because I am a soldier, a grown man, although I am only about twenty. Then again, it’s not proper for kids to fall in love with young adults. I’ve no time for love; I’ve devoted myself to other things. Amongst them war, but I’ve mentioned that more times than one. Comradeship with other soldiers, friends, acquaintances, rakia and weed, but I’ve mentioned that, too. One might say it’s a case of fraternal love between young men, but that’s quite beside the point now.

I soon forget about Nađa’s friend, for one must press on, one must be mature as long as there’s a war on; I’ve no time for by-the-ways like love. Love, at the moment, is a bit stand-offish towards abstractions such as homeland or nation. There is, however, such thing as true love for things quite concrete and tangible, like home, street or town. Here I mean the lost home, the lost street, the lost town. The town has lost us and we are alone in the universe. It’s not the town’s fault, and it isn’t ours, either.

I don’t know what Nađa is thinking about and I don’t take her seriously. Nađa spends time with Greta. The two of them live in a world of their own. Greta raised Nađa, she is like a second mother to her. Greta is an elderly woman, very wise and knowledgeable. Nađa and Greta play patience and listen to Radio Rijeka on a set connected to a car battery. Greta is a passionate smoker, she loves crosswords but there aren’t any in wartime. Inside the radiobox Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman sing Time to Say Goodbye.

It’s as though Greta and Nađa were two dispossessed noblewomen. Greta, of course, is a countess, Nađa her right hand. They have now been expelled from their county. Nobody knows them; the faces in the street are strange. None treat them with due respect. In turn, the two of them don’t much care what people in their new town think about them. Greta and Nađa listen to the news, remembering the number of shells that have fallen on such and such town on a given day. They remember the number of dead and wounded, because we all do. It’s an informal sport of sorts, it may become an Olympic discipline someday, and it consists of a radio speaker informing us in a distraught voice that such and such number of howitzer, mortar and cannon shells were fired on town XY during an enemy attack on the very heart of the town. Greta and Nađa are able to tell howitzer and cannon shells from one another, because the former fly a lot longer than the latter and you have time to find cover. They learnt this from our father. At times, radio reports made mention of surface-to-air missiles, which are used – ironically enough – not to shoot down aeroplanes but to destroy our cities and towns. For nothing is the way it may at first seem in war.  The missiles have poetic names: Dvina, Neva, Volna. The surface-to-surface missile Luna has the prettiest name. One missile landed near our house, the blast lifted a few tiles off the roof. Dry snow seeped through the hole in the roof onto the concrete steps carpeted with varicoloured rag-rug. The cold falls into our home vertically.

Greta & Nađa remember all that. Nađa goes to school. Greta stays at home with our mother. Father and I are on the frontline all the time. The radio-sport of remembering the body count and the destruction of towns and cities spreads to every house without exception, be it inhabited by locals, or by refugees. It goes without saying that we, being refugees, couldn’t have possibly brought our own houses along on our backs like snails can and do, so the houses we’ve moved into have become the way we are – homeless, with few possessions and many human desires.

Suada, our mother, is the barycentre around which all things and living beings in our home orbit. Apart from Greta & Nađa, there is also a little tomcat, as well as a dog that has survived distemper and twitches a bit as he walks. His name is Humpy Horsey, after a character from a Russian fairy tale. Father and I are optional subjects in our refugee family portraits, as we are seldom home.

Suada looks after our civilian lives. Every year she takes a horse cart to a remote village where she plants spuds. The yields range from 500 kg to 700 kg. This guarantees that we won’t starve, in case we also don’t die in some other way, and the ways to die are many, and they form part of life. 

Once I was detailed to spade up a patch of the green behind our house. I was at it until Mother saw me toiling and moiling, my face flushed, pushing the blade into the hard soil with the sole of my boot. She snatched the spade from my hands and did the job herself. I was dismissed, and I could go out, where my mates were, were the alcohol was.

Suada procured not only victuals but also articles of clothing to meet our modest needs. Thus I was issued a terry robe with an aitch emblazoned on the chest, and I called it Helmut. A kind-hearted Helmut donated his robe and helped me feel a bit like a human being. It’s not advisable to feel like too much of a human being though, lest your being assume an air of haughtiness, and you become toffee-nosed, as they say in the vernacular. A being could get all kinds of ideas into its head. It might lust after this or that, and there is neither this nor that to be got in the new town. Unless you have a lot of money. Still, even with money, many pleasures remain out of reach, and all they do is feed our fancy and lend us faith in a future better than counting shells and remembering body counts.

That is the main sport in our County. It’s just about to go Olympic.

Nađa grows and goes to school. Greta is always the same. Patience, news and Radio Rijeka playlists shape their time. They have a room of their own – they may have been expelled from their lands, but they’ve retained some trappings of nobility. Greta sends Nađa out to survey the prices of foodstuffs on the black market, things such as oranges, juice, chocolate. Nađa returns and briefs Greta, who decides what will be purchased. Sometimes Nađa fetches ingredients and Greta bakes a cake. This happens when Greta receives money from her relatives in Slovenia. The two of them have a special nook in the wardrobe where they stash their goodies. Inside the radio, the blind Andrea Bocelli and  Sarah Brightman sing Time to Say Goodbye.

Suada looks after the house and all the living beings in and around it. The little tom is becoming less and less little. At some point I can no longer remember what happens to him, he vanishes into a mysterious feline land, far from the radio reports, far from the laundry soap with which we wash our hair, far from the bath tub mounted on four bricks, far from the cold tiles of the toilet in which I often see my face, distorted with weed and alcohol because it cannot be otherwise. It is the same bathtub in which Mum washed the shot-through blood-encrusted camo vest I strutted about in during nocturnal piss-ups, flaunting my spoils. I’d stripped a dead Autonomist, as if I was about to wash him and wrap him in a white shroud for funeral. But he remained lying on the melting crust of snow on a slope overgrown with stunted conifer. Almost naked, in his pants and boots with socks showing. He lay there for a few days before somebody thought we should bury him, then dig him up again to swap him for victuals.  For we were made by nature, and to nature we shall return, naked like the day we were born.

Nađa goes to school, and school, like war, drags on forever. Greta plays patience, feeds Humpy Horsie, feeds the tom who pops down from the mysterious feline land every now and then because he misses us (at least I like to think so), and the birds, for Greta loves all living beings.

Suada picks pigweed in the dales and meadows. She is a pigweed gatherer, in pigweed dwelleth iron, and iron we need to keep the blood red. Greta and Nađa may well be blue-blooded, what with that room of their own, whilst Mum, Dad and I sleep in the sitting room. The tom slept there, too, before he broke away to live a life of roaming and roving. When he was little he would stalk me, and when I blinked in my sleep he’d give me a brush with his paw. Humpy Horsie is growing up and twitches less and less. Prognoses are good for Humpy, even the end of war may be in sight, but we cannot afford to have such high hopes, we are not accustomed to such luxury. Therefore we cannot allow ourselves to entertain fancies and reveries about a better world that is to come. We are wholly accustomed to this one, like a lunatic is used to his straitjacket. Although all fighters are wont to declare that they would get killed on the frontline eventually, deep inside I believe I will survive, but I don’t say it because I don’t want to jinx myself.

Smirna is a pal of mine. She works as a waitress, rumour has it she moonlights as prostitute, which is of no consequence to me as I’m not interested in rumours, even if they’re true. I’m interested in human beings as such, and Smirna is one, and so am I. Majority opinions don’t interest me, I don’t cave under peer pressure, I rely on what my heart tells me. The only difference between the two of us is that she isn’t a refugee. Smirna likes to read, I’ve lent her a copy of Mishima’s novel The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. She’ll likely never return it, there’s a war on, who would remember to return a borrowed book in times like these? I remember the closing sentence: Glory, as anyone knows, is bitter stuff.

Zuhra, known as Zu, is a friend of mine. We’ve known each other since before the war. When you say since before the war, it’s as though you remembered that you once used to live in a lost kingdom, the same one in which Greta & Nađa had been noblewomen. In the days of the Kingdom of Before-the-War, Zuhra worked at a video rental, I rented tapes at her shop. We listened to the same music, we patronised the same regal café. She once sent me a beer with a dedication note to the frontline. Zuhra is young and combative, she doesn’t lack optimism. We listen to grunge music, we drink beer and rakia. It makes us happy. Although we are young, we know full well that there’s something missing. Someone has taken something from us and refuses to give it back. We don’t know what that something is called, or what it looks like, but we do know it’s something very important for our young lives. Older adults feel the same way, they, too, have had something taken away from them, they, too, don’t know what it’s called or what it looks like. When someone takes something like that away from you, it’s too late for common sense. The only thing you know is that there’s a hole that’s getting larger and larger and there’s nothing you can fill it with.

Zuhra is strong enough not to think about these things. That’s what we’re both like, that’s why we’re friends. We’ve known each other since the days of the Kingdom of Before-the-War. We like to spend time together because it makes us feel that the hole in and around us is shrinking, if only by a smidgen.

Azra, too, is strong and upright. She is tall and beautiful in a special way. I was on a perilous line once, beech and hornbeam trees outside were crackling with cold, Azra phoned me via the brigade phone exchange. One flick of the switch on the switchboard, and we were transported to a realm of magic where nothing was impossible. She was at home, her civilian receiver in hand. I was in a dugout, holding the olive-green receiver of a military field phone. I keep it away from my ear; the phone is prone to tiny electrical surges that zap the ear-lobe. During my stint at that line on Padež Hill I wore Azra’s turquoise scarf. It held the smell of her skin and the swoosh of unknown seas, a memory of all the kingdoms we lost, and all the ones we might someday regain.

I envy her for the fact that her family home is intact. All things inside are in the same place all the time: the photographs on the wall, the telly, the sofa, the armchairs, the tables, the doors, the shelves above the basin in the bathroom. Immobility is a virtue. When you get uprooted from your pot and forcefully transplanted into another one, all you want to do is strike root and stay put. Books gather dust as if the war never happened. Azra’s house keeps the memory of a bygone peace. It is peace.  When I come over and talk to her parents I feel like a phantom. As if I’m making things up when I say that we, too, had a house and a flat before the war, a family history of our own, that is now undocumented, since we no longer have any photos.

Azra works at a café, I’m constantly on the frontline. Sometimes, on leave, I drink at her work and I don’t pay. With her wages she’s bought a pair of Adibax trainers, and we admire them, although the brand name betrays a counterfeit.  Matters not, the trainers are new, fashionably designed, worthy of admiration. Sometimes she buys a Milka chocolate and a can of proper coke for each of us, and we give our mates a slip. We hide behind the wooden huts where smuggled consumer goods are sold, and we greedily eat the chocolate and drink the coke. That is also how we make love, furtively, in places secret and dark. Azra keeps me alive by loving me. I have a higher purpose now, something loftier than bare life and the struggle for survival.

Dina is a strong, brave young woman. She has a child with the same name as me. I used to see her around in the Kindom of Before-the-War. I was younger than her and we were never formally introduced, the great generational gaps that existed in that realm were difficult to close. Black-and-white was the kingdom, it was the eighties, films with happy endings, New Wave.

Dina works in catering, like Azra and Smirna, due to the circumstances. We’re sitting in the garden of her refugee house. We’re drinking instant powder juice from jars: glasses are superfluous in war. All glasses are broken, all hands bloody. As Azra and I kiss feverishly, our bodies intertwined like in the sculpture Laocoön and His Sons, Dina’s son darts towards the road wanting to hug a car, but Dina catches him in the nick of time and my little namesake is safe. Azra and I were charged with keeping an eye on him, but our kisses took us far from reality. We drink Step Light instant juice from pickles jars, because we’ve been expelled from our empires, and now we can be barbarians if we jolly well please. We’re entitled to all kinds of behaviour, and getting a-rude and a-reckless is just our style. We all fight in our own way. Women’s war is invisible and silent, but it is of vast importance, though we men on the frontline selfishly think we matter the most. There are women medics and women fighters on the frontlines. I can never forget a young female fighter I once saw, and her firm, confident gait. From one of her shins, through a tear in her uniform trousers, jutted out the nickel-plated bars of a fixation device.

Greta & Nađa play patience. Suada manages the planets of our household solar system. Azra, Dina and Smirna work at their cafés. Zuhra waits for her brother to return from the front. She also waits for us, her friends, to return so we can hang about. Somehow, all things grow and eventually collapse, like a great big wave when it finally reaches the shore. Someone in us plays patience, goes to school, does chores, washes up in a smoky boozer, goes to the front, digs spuds, someone in us laughs at us and our lives. We have an ancient life force inside, and it refuses to leave us. The blind Andrea Bocelli and Sara Brightman sing Time to Say Goodybe.

Tranlslated by Mirza Purić, Istros Books, London (2019)

Photo: Yusuf El-Saadi.

Andriy Lyubka

Andriy Lyubka

Andriy Lyubka, born 1987 in Riga, is a Ukrainian poet, writer and essayist. He graduated from the Mukachevo Military School and went on to study Ukrainian Philology at Uzhhorod National University and Balkan Studies at the University of Warsaw. His books of poetry include Eight Months of Schizophrenia (2007), Terrorism (2009) and 40 Dollars Plus the Tips (2012). He has also published a collection of short stories, The Killer (2012), a German translation of one of his poetry collections, Notaufname (2012), a book of essays Sleeping with Women (2014), and a novel Karbid (2015), which was short-listed in the final selection of the Book of the Year by BBC Ukraine. Its Polish translation was short-listed for the Angelus Central-European Literary Award in 2017. His recent works include a collection of short stories The Room for Sadness (2016), a book of essays Saudade (2017) and the novel Your Gaze, Cio-Cio-san (2018).

He is the winner of the Debut Award (2007), Kyiv Laurels (2011), recently he received literary award of Kovalev Foundation literary prize in the USA and the Shevelov Prize for the best book of essays of 2017 in Ukraine. Lyubka also translates from Polish, Croatian, Serbian, English and is the curator of two international poetry festivals.

Ilija Đurović

Ilija Đurović

Ilija Đurović, born 1990 in Podgorica, writes short stories, poetry, plays and film scripts. His first collection of short stories, Oni to tako divno rade u velikim ljubavnim romanima, was published in 2014. His short story The Five Widows, translated by Will Firth, was published by Dalkey Archive Press in its anthology Best European Fiction 2016. His second collection of short stories Crne ribe (2016) was one of the 2017 finalists for the Istrian literary award ‘Edo Budiša Prize’ for best collection of short stories published in the region of the former Yugoslavia.The manuscript of his first poetry collection brought him the top prize at a Serbian competition for best unpublished manuscripts from the region. As a result of the competition his first poetry collection Brid was published in 2018. He is currently preparing for the publication of his first novel. He lives in Berlin.

Viktoria Khomenko

Viktoria Khomenko

Viktoria Khomenko, born 1989 in Kyiv, Ukraine, studied journalism and communication at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy and also completed a CSM course in Cultural Criticism and Curation (2014, Ukraine) and a summer course in Communications and Human Rights at the Södra Vätterbygden Folk High School (2011, Sweden). She was a film critic and cultural columnist for national media as Insider, Bird in Flight, Kraina and Korydor. From 2015 she has been working as an editor at Docudays UA IDFF and as a communication coordinator of DOCU/PRO (industrial platform for film professionals) and producing Ukrainian documentary and fiction films. The first presentation of her literary work was at the Intermezzo Short Story Festival in Vinnitsa in 2015. In the same year she won a special prize for her collection of short stories Crude Earth at a Ukrainian competition initiated by the publisher Smoloskyp.

Mehmet Yashin

Mehmet Yashin

Mehmet Yaşın, born 1958 in Nicosia, is a Turkish-Cypriot poet and author. His poems, novels and essays are considered part of Cypriot and Greek as well as Turkish literature. He is one of the internationally best-known contemporary literary voices from Cyprus. His first poetry collection won the Academy Poetry Prize in Istanbul in 1985, but was banned by the ruling military junta that came to power after a coup d’etat in 1980. In 1986 Yaşın was deported from Turkey for what was characterized as his ‘subversive’ poetry. He lived between Cambridge, Nicosia and Istanbul from 2002 to 2016 and has since been living in Athens.

Yaşın has published ten poetry collections, three novels, three collection of essays, three anthologies and literary studies of multilingual Cypriot poetry in Istanbul. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages and his books have been published in various European countries.

Photo by Ayşem Ergin

Nora Verde

Nora Verde

Nora Verde (Antonela Marušić), born 1974 in Dubrovnik, studied Croatian Language and Literature. As a student she published her first poetry collection Sezona Bjegova (1994). She publishes poetry in several magazines and she is the author of the novels Posudi mi smajl (2010) and Do isteka zaliha (2013). Her prose and poetry have been translated into English, German, Slovene, Albanian and Macedonian.

She is one of the founders of the feminist portal Vox Feminae to which she contributes and for which she been an editor since 2011. She collaborates with several Croatian national and regional portals and media on independent culture, literature, music and human rights (Novosti, Kulturpunkt, Proletter, Maz, CroL, LGBT.ba).

Renato Baretić

Renato Baretić

Renato Baretić, born 1963 in Zagreb, is a Croatian writer. He used to work as a journalist for newspapers and magazines such as Večernji list, Nedjeljna Dalmacija, Slobodna Dalmacija, Feral Tribune, Globus, Nacional, Autograf, Tportal, Otvoreno more. He also used to compile quiz questions for the TV quiz shows Kviskoteka and Tko želi biti milijunaš. He was involved in the screenwriting for the television series Nova doba and Crnobijeli svijet 2 and the 2005 comedy-drama film Što je muškarac bez brkova. He also lectured at the House for Creative Writing in Split and the Center for Creative Writing in Zagreb. From 2007 to 2016 he was creative director and program editor of the Pričigin Storytelling Festival in Split.

His poems, short stories and excerpts of novels have been translated and published in English, Slovene, German, Macedonian, Italian, Ukrainian and Polish.

Nora Nadjarian

Nora Nadjarian

Nora Nadjarian is an award-winning Cypriot poet and writer. She has won prizes and commendations in international competitions, including the Commonwealth Short Story Competition, the Féile Filíochta International Poetry Competition and the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Prize. She has been widely anthologised and translated into several languages. Her work concentrates on the themes of women, refugees, identity, exile, love and loss, as well as the political situation in Cyprus. Her poems deal with everyday episodes which go beyond reality in their atmospheric concentration, pointing to symbolic interior worlds.

Best known in Cyprus for her book of short stories Ledra Street (2006), she has had poetry and short fiction published internationally. Her work was included in A River of Stories, an anthology of tales and poems from across the Commonwealth, Best European Fiction 2011 (Dalkey Archive Press), Being Human (Bloodaxe Books, 2011) and Capitals (Bloomsbury, 2017). Her latest books are the collections of short stories Selfie (Roman Books, 2017) and Girl, Wolf, Bones (bilingual English-German edition) (2017). The author Anjali Joseph has said of her work: ‘Nora Nadjarian’s distilled short stories are abrupt and intense, as invigorating and aromatic as a double shot of literary espresso.’

Jasna Dimitrijević

Jasna Dimitrijević

Jasna Dimitrijević, born 1979 in Negotin, graduated from the Department of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Belgrade. She writes short stories, poetry and reviews. She is a regular contributor to the magazine Liceulice. She is the co-organizer of the first regional short story competition ‘Biber’ on the topic of reconciliation, and the co-editor of the resulting multilingual collection. She published her first collection of stories Prepoznavanja (Recognitions) in 2015. Her second collection of short stories Fibonačijev niz was published in 2019. She lives in Belgrade and works in a bookstore.

Photo by Tamara Zrnović.

Lana Bastašić

Lana Bastašić

Lana Bastašić, born 1986 in Zagreb, is a Bosnian writer. She studied English Language and Literature and holds an MA degree in Cultural Studies. She has published two collections of short stories, a book of children’s stories, and a collection of poetry. Catch the Rabbit, her first novel, was published in 2018 in Belgrade and was shortlisted for the NIN Award. Her short stories have been included in major anthologies throughout former Yugoslavia. She won the Best Short Story Award at the Zija Dizdarević Literary Competition in Fojnica, Bosnia; the Jury Award at the ‘Carver: Where I’m Calling From’ short story festival in Podgorica, Montenegro; the Best Short Story Award at the ‘Ulaznica’ festival in Zrenjanin, Serbia; Best Play by a Bosnian Playwright Award at the competition organized by Kamerni Teatar 55 in Sarajevo, the first award for best unpublished poetry collection in Zrenjanin, and the Targa UNESCO Prize for poetry at the Castello di Duino festival in Trieste, Italy. In 2016 she co-founded Escola Bloom with Borja Bagunyà and co-edits the school’s literary magazine Carn de cap. She lives and works in Barcelona.

Photo by Milan Ilić/RAS

Daim Miftari

Daim Miftari

Daim Miftari, born 1979 in Gostivar, Macedonia, holds a Master’s degree in Albanian Language and Literature from Skopje University. He has published a number of books in both Albanian and Macedonian, his poetry has been translated and published in anthologies, newspapers and literary magazines in Macedonia and abroad and has earned him acclaim with literary critics. In 2017 he was granted the POETEKA literary residence in Tirana, Albania.

He lives in the multilingual city of Skopje, where he works as journalist, translator, and teacher.

Azem Deliu

Azem Deliu

Azem Deliu, born 1996 in Skënderaj, Kosovo studied Albanian Literature at the University of Prishtina where he was honoured with the prestigious Distinguished Student Award for his first poetry volume The Funeral of Rain (2013). His first novel The Illegal Kisser (2016) became a national bestseller and has already been translated into English. Interest in the author is also growing in other countries. The French press have called him ‘a great author from a small country’ and ‘the new star of European literature’.

Ana Schnabl

Ana Schnabl

Ana Schnabl, born 1985, is a Slovene writer, journalist and literary critic. A doctoral student of Philosophy since 2016, she focuses her research on the female autobiography and confession, and the woman in psychoanalysis. She writes for literary journal Literatura and the online portal AirBeletrina, has collaborated with daily Dnevnik and is the editor-in-chief of the European Review of Poetry, Books and Culture. In 2014 her short story MDMA was the winner of AirBeletrina’sshort fiction competition. Disentangling (Razvezani, 2017), a short story collection, is her first book. Schnabl is currently working on a play and a novel, with the latter delving into the topics of infidelity, illegitimate children and the ‘golden 80s’ in Slovenia.

Tanja Šljivar

Tanja Šljivar

Tanja Šljivar, born 1988 in Banja Luka, holds both a BA and MA degree in Dramaturgy from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, as well as an MA degree in Applied Theatre Studies from Giessen, Germany. She is the author of full-length plays How Much is Pate?, Scratching or How My Grandmother Killed Herself, We Are the Ones Our Parents Warned Us About, But the City Has Protected Me, All Adventurous Women Do, Regime of Love and the short plays Stillborn, Self-Sacrificed and Europe – The Death of a Saleswoman which were published, publicly read and produced in professional theatres in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Albania, Spain, Poland, Austria and Germany (Deutsches Theater Berlin, Schauspiel Stuttgart, Theater Dortmund, Theater Paderborn). She also writes short stories, radio plays, screenplays for short films and texts in theatre theory. Šljivar co-wrote the script for the full-length fiction film The Celts, directed by Milica Tomović. She won several awards for her playwriting, most recently the prestigious Sterija Award for the best contemporary play in Serbia, the MESS Market Co-production Award for All Adveturous Women Do in Bosnia, as well as the nomination for the 2017 Retzhofer Dramapreis for the same play in Austria. Her plays have been translated into over ten languages.

Nikola Nikolić

Nikola Nikolić

Nikola Nikolić, born 1989 in Podgorica, is a Montenegrin novelist, short-story writer, essayist, journalist and the artistic director of the Podgorica International Book Fair. He graduated from the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Montenegro and his Master’s thesis examined with phenomenon of collaborationism during the Second World War.His published works include the novel Čvor (2011), a second novel Meandar (2014), and a book of short stories Atakama (2016). His short stories have been published in local and regional literary magazines. In 2017, he won the ‘Bihorska Venera’ short story prize

Dijana Matković

Dijana Matković

Dijana Matković, born 1984 in Novo Mesto, is a Slovene author, translator, journalist and editor with a degree in Comparative Literature. In 2013 she published her first book, a short story collection titled In the Name of the Father (V imenu očeta) and is currently working on a book of essays and novel. She established and edited Airbeletrina and Državljanska odgovornost (Civil responsibility). She edited and contributed as a translator to Antologija tesnobe (Anthology of Anxiety, 2016), a book on anxiety with essays written by writers from Slovenia and other countries from the former Yugoslavia and was also an editor of Antologija svetlobe (Anthology of Light). As a journalist and author, she has contributed articles to Delo, Dnevnik, Mladina, Literatura, Le Monde Diplomatique, Pogledi, Airbeletrina and others. She organizes public discussions and tribunes about media, culture and society and has translated authors such as Danilo Kiš, Andrej Nikolaidis, Ognjen Spahić and many others.

Igor Angjelkov

Igor Angjelkov

Igor Angjelkov, born 1974 in Skopje, graduated in Interdisciplinary Journalism Studies and completed his master’s degree in Media and Communications at the Iustinianus Primus Faculty of Law of the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. He writes literature, music and film reviews for numerous Macedonian magazines.

In 1996 his first self-published book was published under the pseudonym Angel Gorski. His official debut as a writer was in 2006 with the short story collection Krotki Prikazni, the first domestic author to be published in the Macedonian literary edition PROaZA. His stories have been published in various Balkan literary magazines and his novels Kraj-pat (2010) and Foto sinteza (2013) have been very well received, leading to further editions.

Photo by: Maja Nedeva

Anja Golob

Anja Golob

Anja Golob, born 1976 in Slovenj Gradec, studied Philosophy and Comparative Literature at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana and worked as a theatre critic for twelve years, mainly publishing for the newspaper Večer and has also written around 750 theatre reviews. She has so far published seven books of poetry – three in Slovene, a reprint of all three collections in a single volume, two in German translation, and one in collaboration with Nikolai Vogel. Selections of her poems and other texts have appeared in numerous magazines. Her second and third books were both awarded the Jenko Award (2014 and 2016), a literary prize for the best collection of Slovene poetry published over the previous two years. 

She works as poet, writer and translator. In 2013 she co-founded a small publishing house Vigevageknjige, where she is now the chief editor. It specialises in publishing Slovene translations of graphic novels for both children and adults. She also occasionally still works as a dramaturge for contemporary art and dance performances. She lives between Maribor and Brussels.

Portrait by: Ute Helmbold

Marija Pavlović

Marija Pavlović

Marija Pavlović, born 1984 in Leskovac, is a Serbian writer. She has written short stories (American Dream, Discopolis, Disco Inferno, All Is in Line), a theatre piece The Strange Case of Mrs Jekyll and Dr Hyde (performed as an audio-visual performance in the Cultural Center Parobrod in Belgrade), a poetry collection (Imperatives), a book of short stories Horror Stories of Everyday (2014) and a novel titled 24 (2018). Pavlović has participated in regional festivals and initiatives, such as the short stories festival Kikinda Short, the UN project Writers for the Future, implemented in Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Montenegrin Literary Festival and the programme Neighbourhood Bound organised by the association KROKODIL. Her story Rapid Euro Movement has been translated into Hungarian and published in the anthology of contemporary Serbian literature Hogyan legyél mesterlövész? / How to become a sniper?. With the support of the association KROKODIL and the Swedish Institute in Serbia, she participated in the literary residency on the island Gotland in Sweden, during which time her story Memoirs of Ptolemy Tenia Solium III was translated into Swedish. She lives and works in Berlin, where she is completing a PhD degree in Comparative Literature at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Jedrt Lapuh Maležič

Jedrt Lapuh Maležič

Jedrt Lapuh Maležič, born 1979, is a Slovene writer and literary translator of English and French with a BA in Translation Studies from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ljubljana. She first worked as an in-house translator at an agency, but has been freelancing as a translator since 2007. Among her translated authors are Khaled Hosseini, Julie Otsuka, Jeet Thayil, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., John Boyne, Mircea Eliade, Marie-Aude Murail, Jacqueline Raoul-Duval and many others. In 2016, she published two collections of her own short stories, Težkomentalci (Heavymetallers) and Bojne barve (War Colours). Težkomentalci was nominated Best Debut Book of the year, while Bojne barve was nominated Best Short Story Collection of 2016 at the Novo Mesto Short literary festival. Topics covered in her poetry range from psychiatric hospitals to LGBT issues. Her latest book was published in 2018 and is a novel entitled Vija vaja ven (Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe) dealing with the theme of new-age healers and sects.    

Marko Tomaš

Marko Tomaš

Marko Tomaš, born 1978 in Ljubljana, was one of the founders and editors of the Kolaps literary magazine in Sarajevo. He has worked as a journalist and radio speaker and has published extensively across the region. He is a poet of a rare sensuality and emotional refinement with a rarefied bohemian touch reminiscent somewhat of a young Leonard Cohen. His published works include, Hands Under Head (2002), Mama I’m Successful (2004), Life Is a Joke (2005), Marko Tomaš and Other Poems (2007), Goodbye Fascists (2009), Midnight Conversations (with Mehmed Begić) (2012), Boulevard of the People’s Revolution (2013), The Black Prayer Book (2015), The Paper Boat Race (2016), Thirty-Ninth of May (2018).

Vitomirka Trebovac

Vitomirka Trebovac

Vitomirka Trebovac, born 1980 in Novi Sad, has published two poetry books, Plavo u boji (Blue in Colour, 2011) and Sve drveće, sva deca i svi bicikli u meni (All the Trees, Kids, and Bicycles Within Me, 2017). Together with Jelena Anđelovski she edited a book of poetry Ovo nije dom (This Is Not Home, 2017). She works in a bookstore and at the publishing centre Bulevar Books in Novi Sad.

Alen Brlek

Alen Brlek

Alen Brlek, born 1988 in Zagreb, won the ‘Na vrh jezika’ Award for the best unpublished poetry collection Metakmorfoze in 2013. His second book, Pratišina, was published in Serbia in 2017. He participates in the Zaron Project where he explores spaces and atmospheres of poetry and music with the poet Darko Šeparović and the musician Emil Andreis. His poems have been published in a number of magazines and translated into various languages.

Ahmed Burić

Ahmed Burić

Ahmed Burić, born 1967 in Sarajevo, graduated in Journalism at the Sarajevo Faculty of Political Science. He is one of the most influential reporters, columnists and intellectuals in South-Eastern Europe. He writes columns with humorous and insightful comments about Sarajevo and the World, published on the of Radio Sarajevo portal. He has published over 4000 articles about cultural and political topics relating to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the rest of South-Eastern Europe. His work has been translated into English, French, Czech and Slovene.Burić is also a poet and has published four poetry collections, Bog tranzicije (The God of Transition, 2004), Posljednje suze nafte i krvi (The Final Tears of Crude Oil and Blood, 2010), Maternji jezik (Mother Tongue, 2013) and Vrata raja (The Gates of Paradise, collected poems in Slovene, 2015). In 2017 he published his first novel Tebi šega što se zovem Donald?.

Photo: www.media.ba/

Ivan Shopov

Ivan Shopov

Ivan Shopov, born 1987 in Skopje, studied General and Comparative Literature at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in his hometown.

His first book, Azbukaizalutanizapisi (An Alphabet and Notes Gone Astray) – a diptychally structured cycle of 62 short stories, 4 poems and a newspaper collage – won him the Novite Award for best debut fiction in 2010. He followed this success with Meshenagodinata (Belly of the Year), a collection of neo-surrealistic prose poems described by Macedonia’s leading modernist Vlada Urošević as “remarkable” and “inaugural… of new words and sensibilities”. In 2017 he published a flash fiction booklet, 091 – antirazglednici od Skopje (091 –Anti-Postcards from Skopje), a lyrical commentary on the controversial architectural remodelling of Macedonia’s capital.

Shopov’s poems and stories have been translated into English, Serbian, Croatian, Albanian, Slovenian, Bulgarian, Czech, Romanian and German. He was a board member of the AnOther Story Festival and has moderated the Nights Without Punctuation multimedia artistic event at the Struga Poetry Evenings.

Marko Vidojković

Marko Vidojković

Marko Vidojković, born 1975 in Belgrade, is a Serbian writer. He studied law at the University of Belgrade. He has published several novels as well as two collections of short stories. His stories have appeared in many newspapers and the following collections, Projekat Bukvoski, Podgoričke priče, Pričaj mi o ocu, Priče o Kosovu and Orlovi ponovo lete. His works have been translated into German, English, Bulgarian, Slovene, Macedonian, Hungarian, and Czech.The novel Sve crvenkape su iste (All Little Red Riding Hoods Are the Same) received the Vitalova Award for best book published in 2016, while the novel Kandže (Claws) received the Kočićevo Pero Award and Zlatni Bestseler Prize. Both novels sold over 20 000 copies. His novel E baš vam hvala (2017) was translated into Slovene, Croatian and Macedonian and was shortlisted for Biljana Jovanović Award bestowed by the Serbian Literary Society. It was also short listed for Fric! Award and has sold 23 000 copies since its publication.

Annetta Benzar

Annetta Benzar

Annetta Benzar was born in Belarus but grew up in Cyprus. She completed an MA in English Literature from King’s College London, her Life Writing thesis focusing on sham marriages in Cyprus. Her first book, I-stories (2019), is a non-fiction collection that brings together various migrant and refugee voices from all over Cyprus. She is also a poet and eagerly participates in poetry slams. She has received various literary awards such as the University of Nicosia Young Poets Award for her poem 20 Spaces, and has been published both locally and internationally. She was also a finalist at the annual Cypriot Poetry Slam. Her writing focuses on issues of immigration, feminism, and violence between the individual and their surroundings, the state and regime.

Stefan Bošković

Stefan Bošković

Stefan Bošković, born 1983 in Podgorica, graduated in Drama from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts at the University of Montenegro in Cetinje in 2010. His published works include a book of short stories Transparentne životinje (Transparent Animals, 2017) and a novel, Šamaranje (Slap in the Face, 2014) that was awarded the Prize for the Best Manuscript Novel in Montenegro earlier that year. In 2016, he won the second prize of the Festival of European Short Stories for Fashion and Friends. His short stories have been published in English, German, Russian, Albanian, Macedonian, and Slovene. Bošković also has written the scripts for a feature-length film, several short films, a sitcom serial, and a large number of documentaries. Several of his short plays have been staged.

Kateryna Kalytko

Kateryna Kalytko

Kateryna Kalytko, born 1982 in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, is an award-winning writer and translator, a member of PEN Ukraine. She is the author of seven poetry volumes, her most recent being Torture Chamber. Vineyard. Home (2014) and Bunar (2018), both bringing her the LitAccent of the Year Prize. Kalytko has also published two books of short stories, M(h)ysteria and The Land of All Those Lost, orCreepy Little Tales, which won the Ukrainian BBC Book of the Year competition and the 2017 Joseph Conrad Literary Prize awarded by the Polish Institute in Kiev – for “writing that raises actual problems, makes you think and expands knowledge about other cultures”. Her selected writings have been translated into more than ten languages. She won the CEI Fellowship for Writers in Residence in 2015, was a KulturKontakt Austria fellow in 2018 and a fellow in the Reading Balkans program in 2019. She is currently working on her first novel.

Slađana Kavarić

Slađana Kavarić

Slađana Kavarić, born 1991 in Podgorica, writes poetry and short stories. She has published two poetry collections, Sjećanje (Memory, 2010) and Ljudi niotkuda (People from Nowhere, 2016). Her short story Odlazak (Leaving) was published by the prestigious American magazine World Literature Today and her poems have been published by the British magazine Balkan Poetry Today. She holds a PhD in Philosophy.

Yordan Slaveykov

Yordan Slaveykov

Yordan Slaveykov, born 1976 in Vratsa, Bulgaria, graduated in Theatre Directing from the NATFA – National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia in 2001. He is a theatre director, teacher, playwright, writer and screenwriter.

His first novel The Last Step was published in 2015. It won two national literature awards in 2016 – the 45th edition of the Bulgarian national contest for debut literature Yuzhna prolet (Southern Spring) and the Pencho’s Oak Award, given annually in recognition of literary contribution to contemporary Bulgarian culture.

Peter Dentchev

Peter Dentchev

Peter Dentchev, born 1986 in Varna, is a Bulgarian writer, theatre director and publicist. He graduated in Drama from the Krastio Sarafov National Theater Academy in 2010, and completed a Master’s degree in Theatrical Arts in 2012. He has been nominated and won awards at various competitions for poetry, prose and drama (New Bulgarian Drama, Contest Ecstasy, Light Stretch Award). He was twice the recipient of the second prize at the National Youth Poetry Competition Veselin Hanchev. His novel Like a Man Kissing a Woman He Loves won him the ‘Razvitie’ Award for Best New Bulgarian Novel in 2007. He has also published a collection of stories Stories from The Past (2010) and the novel The Quiet Sun (2012). He was also twice a guest at the short story festival Kikinda Short in Serbia.

Dentchev Theatrical portfolio includes staged plays by authors such as Edward Albee, Jordi Galceran, Shakespeare and Molière, which have been performed at various festivals in Serbia, Romania, Montenegro and Kosovo and been nominated for various national awards.

Jasna Šamić

Jasna Šamić

Jasna Šamić, born 1949 in Sarajevo, writes poetry, novels, short stories, essays, and theatre plays in both Bosnian and French. She studied oriental languages and literatures (Turkish, Arabic and Persian) at the University of Sarajevo and wrote her postgraduate thesis in General Linguistics and Turkology, obtaining her PhD in 1977. She continued her studies at the University of Sorbonne Nouvelle where she completed her Doctorat d’ Etatès Lettres on Sufism and History in 1984. 

Šamić has won numerous prises for her writing, among others the Stendhal French Literary Prize (Lauréate du programme Missions Stendhal) in 2008, the Gauchez-Pillippot Literary Prize in 2014, and the Fundations of Bosnian Publishers’ Award. From 1977 she was living between Sarajevo and Paris, mostly in Paris since the war in the Balkans, and is now a freelance writer.

Jerko Bakotin

Jerko Bakotin

Jerko Bakotin, born 1984 in Split, graduated in Sociology and Comparative Literature from the University of Zagreb. Between 2008 and 2011 he worked as a full-time journalist at the Zagreb office of political daily Novi list. Since 2011 he has been a freelance journalist, writing mostly for Novosti, the political weekly of Croatia’s Serb minority, the web portals kulturpunkt and Lupiga, as well as other media. He has published several literary reviews, essays and travelogues in culture magazines such as Zarez and Quorum, and has also written for German media such as Neues Deutschland and Deutsche Welle and worked with radio broadcasters in Croatia, creating, among others, a number of radio-documentaries about various countries.

Lidija Dimkovska

Lidija Dimkovska

Lidija Dimkovska, born 1971 in Skopje, is a poet, novelist and translator of Romanian and Slovene literature into Macedonian. She lives in Ljubljana but writes in Macedonian. Dimkovska is currently the president of the jury for Vilenica International Literary Award. She has published six poetry collections, three novels and a diary, and has also edited a number of anthologies. Her poetry and novels have been translated in over twenty languages. She received several Macedonian literary prizes, the ‘Hubert Burda Poetry Prize’ in Germany, the Romanian poetry prizes ‘Poesis’ and ‘Tudor Arghezi’. Her novel A Spare Life brought her the European Union Prize for Literature in 2013. Her latest novel Non-Oui was shortlisted for the international literary award Balkanika.

Emina Žuna

Emina Žuna

Emina Žuna was born 1981 in Jajce. She has published short stories and essays in electronic and printed magazines in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as neighbouring countries. Some of her short stories and drama pieces have been adapted and broadcast on national radio. Her first novel titled Linija života (Lifeline) was published in 2016 with the support of the FBiH Publishing Foundation. The novel was listed for two regional literary prizes, the Mirko Kovač and Meša Selimović Awards. Her short stories have won prizes and recognition, Bejahad 2008, Radio Federacije 2002, Avlija 2013. Her second novel titled Čovjek iz budućnosti (The Man from the Future) is in the final stages of the publishing process.

She holds undergraduate degrees in Psychology (2005) and Comparative Literature and Librarianship (2006) from the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo, and has earned a MA in European Culture and Literature at Strasbourg, Bologna and Thessaloniki (2011). She works as a psychologist and freelance columnist and journalist and regularly publishes journalistic and opinion pieces on several web portals.

Ognjen Spahić

Ognjen Spahić

Ognjen Spahić, born 1977 in Podgorica, is a Montenegrin novelist. He has published two collections of short stories, Sve to (All That, 2001) and Zimska potraga (Winter Search, 2007). His novel Hansenova djeca (Hansen’s Children, 2004) won him the 2005 Meša Selimović Prize for the best new novel from Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina. To date, Hansenova djeca has been published in French, Italian, Slovene, Romanian, Hungarian, Macedonian and English.

His short story Raymond is No Longer with Us – Carver is Dead was included in the anthology Best European Fiction 2011 published by Dalkey Archive Press in the US. In 2007 he was a writing resident at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. He was also the Montenegrin winner of European Union Prize for Literature for 2014.

Photograph:  Anahit Hayrapetyan

Petar Andonovski

Petar Andonovski

Petar Andonovski, born 1987 in Kumanovo, studied General and Comparative Literature at the Faculty of Philology in Skopje. His published works include Mental Space (poetry, 2008), Eyes the Colour of Shoes (novel, 2013, second and third edition 2016), The Body That Has To Be Lived In (novel, 2015, second and third edition 2016).

Andonovski’s first novel Eyes the Colour of Shoes was shortlisted for the Utrinski Vesnik Novel of the Year Award in 2013 and was shortlisted for the European Union Prize for Literature in 2016. His novel The Body That Has To Be Lived In won the Utrinski Vesnik Novel of the Year Award in 2015.

Book proposals
Petar Andonovski: The Body That Has to Be Lived In

Petar Andonovski: The Body That Has to Be Lived In

The Body That Has To Be Lived In follows the internal struggles of Brigitte, a sixty-year-old judge at the very end of her career who is suddenly assigned the only challenging and complex trial she has ever undertaken in her working life — a criminal case concerning the rape and murder of a young woman. Before this final case, Brigitte has only ever judged minor cases of divorce and petty theft – a kind of cheap theatre. But now she becomes abruptly aware of the marginal role she has played in the world - and of the opportunity this murder trial offers. The case opens the key for Brigitte’s path of self-realization as she finally assumes the power given to her as a judge – the power of arbitration. The novel follows Brigitte’s internal test of character in parallel with the development of the trial of the young man accused of killing his girlfriend. This internal journey is initiated by her confronting the lawbreaker — confronting the body of the accused, over which society and the law, embodied in herself, will execute its
punishment.

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Ramiz Huremagić

Ramiz Huremagić

Ramiz Huremagić, born 1972 in Cazin, completed his undergraduate studies in Zagreb and Sarajevo, and obtained his Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Cardiff in the UK. Over a period of more than nine years, Ramiz worked on organised crime investigations. Together with writer Izet Perviz, he co-authored a script for the feature-length film Tobacco Smoke, that received a prize in 2004 from the Foundation for Cinematography of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The film was also included in the official selection of the CineLink programme for script development at the Sarajevo Film Festival.

His poetry has been published in the Croatian magazines Poezija and Novi izraz, as well as various other portals, magazines and journals. His second book of poetry Čekičanje vremena (The Hammering of Time) was published in 2016. In 2017 it was shortlisted among the best poetry collections at the Ratković Evenings of Poetry in Montenegro.

Yordanka Beleva

Yordanka Beleva

Yordanka Beleva, born 1977 in Tervel, is a Bulgarian short story writer and poet. She graduated in Bulgarian Philology and Library Management and obtained a doctorate in Library and Information Sciences.

Author of Peignoirs and Boats (2002), The Sea Level of Love (2011), Her (2012), Keys (2015), Missed Moment (2017) and Keder (2018), she has won national awards for both poetry and prose. Her short stories and poems have been translated into various languages and published in numerous anthologies.

She works as a librarian and bibliographer at the Parliamentary Library of Bulgaria.

Lejla Kalamujić

Lejla Kalamujić

Lejla Kalamujić, born 1980 in Sarajevo, graduated at the Department of Philosophy and Sociology at the University of Sarajevo. She is the author of the two collections of short stories The Anatomy of a Smile and Call Me Esteban. She is also author of the contemporary, socially engaged drama Ogress, or How I Killed My Family. Her second book Call me Esteban won the Edo Budiša Prize for best collection of short stories and was short-listed for the European Literature Prize in 2015. She has won many literature awards for short stories and was awarded various residencies and fellowships.

Her stories have been translated into English, German, French, Macedonian, Slovene, Polish, Romanian, Albanian and Lithuanian. She contributes prose, essays and reviews to various magazines and web portals in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other countries in the region.

Gabriela Babnik

Gabriela Babnik

Gabriela Babnik, born 1979 in Göppingen, is a Slovene writer, translator and literary critic. She completed an MA degree at the Faculty of Philosophy in Ljubljana, examining the contemporary Nigerian novel and also translated Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half of a Yellow Sun into Slovene. She has published literary reviews, commentaries and interviews in various newspapers, magazines and journals in Slovenia. In 2008 she received the main Slovene literary prize for the best debut novel for Cotton Skin and her third novel Dry Season received the European Union Prize for Literature in 2013. The same year she was awarded the Stritar Award for the most promising young literary critic.

Zharko Kujundjiski

Zharko Kujundjiski

Zharko Kujundjiski, born 1980 in Skopje, is a Macedonian short story writer, novelist, essayists, playwright, poet, translator and film critic. He has published 11 books and his short stories, poems, essays and reviews have been translated into various languages and selected for many anthologies, Best European Fiction 2013, among others. His debut novel Spectator (2003) was the first ever novel in contemporary Macedonian literature to be published in seven print run editions.

Kujundjiski has been a member of the Macedonian writer association and of Macedonian PEN Center since 2012. He is the General Manager at the publishing house Antolog Books and one of the co-founders of the BookStar Literature Festival.

Igor Štiks

Igor Štiks

Igor Štiks was born in Sarajevo in 1977 and has lived in Zagreb, Paris, Chicago, Edinburgh, and Belgrade. His first novel, A Castle in Romagna [Dvorac u Romagni], won the Slavić prize for best first novel in Croatia and was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for 2006. It was subsequently published in English, German, Spanish and Turkish. Earning his PhD at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris and Northwestern University, Štiks later published a monograph, Nations and Citizens in Yugoslavia and the Post-Yugoslav States: One Hundred Years of Citizenship. His novel The Judgment of Richard Richter, originally published as Elijah’s Chair [Elijahova stolica], won the Gjalski and Kiklop Awards for the best novel in Croatia and has been translated into fifteen languages. In addition to winning the Grand Prix of the 2011 Belgrade International Theatre Festival for his stage adaptation of Elijah’s Chair, Štiks was honored with the prestigious Chevalier des arts et des lettres for his literary and intellectual achievements.

Photograph: Velija Hasanbegović

Marko Pogačar

Marko Pogačar

Marko Pogačar, born 1984 in Split, has published eleven books of poetry, essays and prose, for which he has received Croatian and international awards. In 2014 he edited the anthology Young Croatian Lyric. He is an editor of the literary magazine Quorum and the web-magazine for cultural and social issues Proletter.me. He was the recipient of numerous fellowships such as Civitella Ranieri, Literarische Colloquium Berlin, Récollets-Paris, Passa Porta, Milo Dor, Brandenburger Tor, Internationales Haus der Autoren Graz, Literaturhaus NÖ, and Krokodil in Belgrade. His books and texts have appeared in over thirty languages.

Drago Glamuzina

Drago Glamuzina

Drago Glamuzina, born 1967 in Vrgorac, graduated in Comparative Literature and Philosophy from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb. From 2003 to 2011 He worked as the editor-in-chief at the publishing house Profil between 2003 and 2011, and since 2011 holds the same post at VBZ Publishing. His poetry, prose and literary criticism have been published in various magazines, newspapers and have also been broadcast on the radio. With Roman Simić he compiled an anthology of Croatian erotic short stories Libido.hr. His publications include Mesari (Butchers, poetry, 2001), Tri (Three, novel, 2008), Je li to sve (Is That All, poetry, 2009) and a book of selected poems Sami u toj šumi (Alone in This Forest, 2011) featuring photographs by Stanko Abadžić.

Mesari won the Vladimir Nazor Book of the Year Award and the Kvirin Award for the Best Poetry Collection, and was translated into German (2008), Macedonian (2004), and Slovene (2011) with selections from it also published in English and Polish. His novel Tri won the T-portal Croatian Novel of the Year in 2008.

Zhivko Grozdanoski

Zhivko Grozdanoski

Zhivko Grozdanoski, born 1986, has lived most of his life in his home village of Bigor Dolenci in the western part of Macedonia. He attended the American High School Skopje and went on to study Italian Language and Literature at the University of Skopje. He translates prose and poetry from Italian and has published four books (a book of poetry, two collections of short stories, and a novel). In 2006 he presented a short amateur documentary during the International Critics’ Week at the Cannes Film Festival. Grozdanoski most recent book, the novel The Final Name of the Future, 2018) is set in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina where a tunnel engineer from East Germany is sent to work on a site and comes across some life-changing revelations.

Lisandri Kola

Lisandri Kola

Lisandri Kola, born 1986 in Shkodër, studied Albanian Language and Literature in his hometown and in 2010 obtained an MSc in Criticism and Literary Theory from the University of Tirana. In 2014 he earned a PhD in Literary Sciences from the same University.

Since January 2016 he has been a full time Professor of Albanian Modern Literature and History of Albanian Sonnet at the Department of Literature in the Faculty of History and Philology at the University of Tirana and also teaches Theory of Translation at the Department of Journalism and Communication. He has published a number of books of poetry, translations, research and a novel. With his poetry collection Butterflies Die in May (2014), he won the National Zef Pllumi Prize. Kola’s poetry has been published in English and Montenegrin. He is also a playwright.

Saša Savanović

Saša Savanović

Aleksandra Saša Savanović, born 1986 in Novi Sad, studied International Relations at the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Belgrade and Sociology at the Institute for Sociology of the Freie Universität Berlin. Her stories, essays and articles have appeared in electronic and printed magazines, journals and several anthologies of short stories. She is one of the editors of Zent, a magazine for politics, technology and the arts, and co-author of the recently published book Zajednička dobra i granice kapitalizma (Common Good and the Boundaries of Capitalism). Her first novel Deseti život (Tenth Life) was published in 2018. She works as freelance researcher and project manager in culture and the non-profit sector.

Davor Stojanovski

Davor Stojanovski

Davor Stojanovski, born 1987 in Skopje, is a writer, poet, playwright, translator and musician. He holds an MA in Macedonian Literature, has worked as a copywriter, proof-reader, and translator from Slovene to Macedonian.

He won the Anne Frank award for his debut theatre play in 2005, the Short Story Award from the daily newspaper Nova Makedonija in 2011, was shortlisted for the Utrinski Vesnik Award for his debut novel Untitled Moonlight Sonata in 2013, and won the same award for Collecting Аshes in 2016. His short stories have been translated and published in Serbian for the Rukopisi Poetry and Short Fiction Anthology of Young Authors from the Ex-YU (2011 & 2012), his short story Requiem has been translated into German and published in Ausallen Richtungen: Karlsplatzierungen (2015), and his poem Bez naslova has been translated into Serbian and published in the Anthology of Macedonian Poetry: IX-XXI century (2015).He is a former member of the Macedonian alternative rock band Foolish Green, with which he released the album Escape in 2013.

Vinko Möderndorfer

Vinko Möderndorfer

Vinko Möderndorfer is a writer, dramatist, essayist, theatre, movie and television producer. His literary works have been translated into several foreign languages. He has received some of the most prestigeous Slovene literary awards, including two for short stories – Županič Award for “Krog male smrti” (1994) and Prešeren Fund Awards for “Nekatere ljubezni” (2000).

Tadej Golob

Tadej Golob

Tadej Golob, born 1967 in Maribor, is one of the most unique Slovene authors with a thematically very diverse scope of works. He first presented himself as a writer with the book Z Everesta (From Everest, 2000) where he describes Davo Karničar’s skiing from the highest mountain of the world, a mountain that the writer also ascended. He has written biographies of Peter Vilfan (2004), Zoran Predin (2009), Goran Dragic (2015), and Milena Zupančič (2018), and young adult novels Zlati zob (Golden Tooth) (2011) and Kam je izginila Brina? (Where Did Brina Disappear To?, 2013). His novels for adults include Svinjske nogice (Pig’s Feet, 2009) – won the 2010 Kresnik Award for best Slovene novel, Ali boma ye! (2013), Jezero (The Lake, 2016) – finalist for the 2017 Kresnik Award, his first crime novel that became a bestseller in Slovenia and was followed in 2018 by Leninov Park (Lenin Park) the second novel of what is becoming a series about his fictional detective character Inspector Taras Birsa.

Book proposals
Tadej Golob: The Lake

Tadej Golob: The Lake

The Lake is a crime novel which has shifted the boundaries of popular fiction writing within the Slovene literary scene, managed to intrigue a wide reading audience and unify literary critics in the verdict that this is a well thought out and extremely skilfully written story. Further proof of this are the three reprints of the book within a short time after it was first published in November 2016.

The novel is set in recognizable Slovenian surroundings, the tourist surroundings of Lake Bohinj and the daily routine of the capital, Ljubljana. The protagonist is a model family man and detective with quite a reputation in his field. He is also a former mountaineer, a sworn recreational sportsman who is sometimes secretive, sometime impulsive, but always thoughtful and amusing.

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