Category: Bosnia

Miljenko Jergović: Rod (Kin)

The latest addition to my website is Miljenko Jergović‘s Rod (Kin). This is an 800-page family novel, as the author calls it, but do not let that put you off. It is essentially the stories (mini-novels) of, primarily, his mother’s family, going back to the beginning of the twentieth century but also of his extended family, friends and neighbours, set over a hundred years, ending in 2012 with his mother’s death. We cover a large range of languages, ethnic groups, a few religions, plenty of divergent political views, different overlords and, of course, a few wars. The author tells his story up to the death of his mother in 2012 (he had moved to Zagreb, she was still in Sarajevo). The key event in her life was the death of her brother, Mladen, who died when she was seventeen months old, killed while fighting for the Germans. Her mother never forgave her for living while Mladen died and she, too, was far from a perfect mother. Above all, however, Jergović tells us a host of mini-novels, some funny, some sad, some involving famous people, but many involving ordinary people but all fascinating, colourful and highly imaginative.

Lana Bastašić: Uhvati zeca (Catch the Rabbit)

The latest addition to my website is Lana Bastašić‘s Uhvati zeca (Catch the Rabbit). Sara is a Bosnian woman who has been living for some time in Dublin with her Irish boyfriend. One day, out of the blue, she gets a call from Lejla, her childhood friend, with whom she has had no contact for twelve years. Lejla wants her to drive her from Mostar (in Bosnia) to Vienna. Sara declines still she learns that Arnim is there. Arnim is Lejla’s brother who disappeared many years ago. The story revolves around both their drive but also their earlier life as friends. Lejla is a larger-than-life character, very much her own girl and then her own woman. Sara admires her, looks up to her but is afraid of her and feels threatened by her. Their relationship is very up and down and, indeed, when they reunite for the drive to Vienna, there is a lot of quarrelling. What makes this book is both the colourful relationship between the two but also the character of Lejla, a woman who carries her own story.

Miljenko Jergović: Dvori od oraha (Walnut Mansion)

The latest addition to my website is Miljenko Jergović‘s Dvori od oraha (Walnut Mansion). This novel follows the story of the entire life of Regina Delavale, who lives ninety-seven years, from 1905 to 2002. However, Jergović has opted to tell it back-to-front, i.e. starting with her death and ending the novel with her birth. She is the only girl of the family, with five younger brothers and lives through the troubled times of her region, the former Yugoslavia. Though she is the eldest, she outlives her brothers, all of whom, as does she, have unpleasant deaths, with three killed in wars, one in the Spanish flu epidemic and one dying in an asylum, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, because of the war. Jergović gives us a host of colourful stories about Regina, her relatives and some key people she comes into contact with, all of whom are witnesses to and often victims of the troubled times in the region. This is certainly an interesting way of giving a history of a traumatic century for Yugoslavia and its previous and successor states.

Miljenko Jergović: Buick Riviera [Buick Riviera]

The latest addition to my website is Miljenko Jergović‘s Buick Riviera [Buick Riviera]. Hassan is a mild-mannered low key Bosnian Muslim who fled Bosnia as the war was starting and is now in Toledo, Oregon, married to Angela, a German actress. He is devoted to his Buick Rivera, which Angela cannot stand. She works in Salem and normally gets a lift but he offers to pick her up. It is snowing and he skids into a ditch. He is rescued by Vouko, a fellow Bosnian but a Serb who, as we learn but Hassan does not, is a war criminal. Vouko is also loud-mouthed, aggressive and is currently leaving his American wife, after having killed her puppy for defecating in his slipper. When Vouko turns up in Toledo, having found Hassan’s lost wallet, the two men clash and both men make separate, major, irrational, life-changing decisions. Culture clash, how we carry our culture with us wherever we go and, ultimately, how people can make rash decisions that have huge repercussions on their lives are the theme of this interesting but occasionally disturbing book.

Ivo Andrić: Omerpaša Latas (Omer Pasha Latas: Marshal to the Sultan)

The latest addition to my website is Ivo Andrić‘s Omerpaša Latas (Omer Pasha Latas: Marshal to the Sultan). This is one of Andrić’s later novels, set in Bosnia like most of his novels, only just published in English for the first time. It tells of the repression of rebellion in Bosnia in the Ottoman Empire, by Omer Pasha Latas who was born in Austria of Serb parents and fled to the Ottoman Empire to escape the disgrace of his father’s behaviour and then rose through the ranks. Andrić is Bosnian so his view of Omer Pasha and is actions is highly critical. Omer Pasha is cruel, deceitful, a sexual monster and ruthless. We follow Omer Pasha’s story but also detailed stories of several people who come into contact with him, including his wife, his staff and the man who painted his portrait. Many of these are of European origin like the Pasha himself. Andrić tells his story well and we get a detailed insight into both the Pasha’s psychology and life in occupied Bosnia at that time.

Muharem Bazdulj: Tranzit, kometa, pomračenje (Transit, Comet, Eclipse)

The latest addition to my website is Muharem Bazdulj‘s Tranzit, kometa, pomračenje (Transit, Comet, Eclipse). This consists of three related novellas essentially about the situation in East Europe. The first is set in the eighteenth journey and tells of the journey of the scientist Ruđer Bošković to Saint Petersburg (he does not make it but gets a long way, before falling down a well in Poland). Twice he tries to see the Transit of Venus, once before and once after his journey but fails both times. Bazdulj uses his journey to comment on various aspects of Eastern Europe, including the relationship with the Ottoman Empire, which controlled much of the region, Christianity and how the region is seen from East Europe and vice versa. The other two are set in modern times, one about an innocent Moldovan woman whose innocence and lack of opportunities in Moldova is taken advantage of and the third telling how The Writer came to write this book. It is certainly an interesting approach but it is the first story that works best for me.

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