The Pasha's Concubine, translated by Joseph Hitrec, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London, 1969

     (...)

     In the forenoon of the second day, as he was returning from the drill field, the Pasha and his escort found themselves in the bazaar. They rode cautiously over the thawing ice. It was a market day, and in front of the Garić Bakery their way was blocked by some peasants' horses laden with wood. While the flustered farmers began to hop and skip around the stubborn horses, the Pasha cast a glance into the bakery. Next to the closed brick oven stood the old baker Ali, stoop-shouldered, with rheumy, wizened eyes out of which tears kept oozing on his great white mustache. At the wide-open shopwindow, among the bread loaves and pans of meat and pies, was his daughter Mara. On her knees and propped on the counter with one arm, she had stretched the other for a platter on a shelf underneath. When she heard the shouts of the soldiers and the stamping of the peasants' horses, she lifted her head, and the Pasha, seeing her wrapped like this around the counter, fell in love with her round, childish face and her merry eyes.

     When he rode that way again in the afternoon, the bakery was deserted, the window half-shuttered, and on the sill was a purring cat with signed white hair.

     He gave orders that the girl be found and brought to him. The noncommissioned officers and town constables ran eagerly to carry them out. He stayed over till noon of the third day, when they reported that the matter could be arranged. The girl had no one except her father. Her mother had been well-known Jelka, named Hafizadić after the old Mustaybey Hafizadić, who had kept her for several years and then married her off to this Garić, a quiet and simple-minded young man, to whom he had also given money to open the bakery.

     The Pasha left some money and entrusted the matter to his old acquaintance Teskeredžić. And toward the end of March, on another market day, they brought the girl to him at Sarajevo.

     The Pasha had not been wring in his judgment. She was the kind of woman he had always sought and particularly esteemed, the only kind that still attracted him. She was not quite sixteen. She had big eyes of a dovelike shade and muted porcelain luster, which moved languidly. Her hair was quite fair, heavy, and thick, such as was seldom seen on women in this region. Both her face and her arms were covered with a fine, light down that was noticeable only in sunlight. What was unusual about her was that even those parts of her skin which were not exposed to the sun and air, were not uniformly white and dun, as is usual with blonde women, but her whole body glowed with a bright, burnished hue that changed only in the shadowy hollows or with a sudden and irregular onrush of blood, when it turned even richer. Her hands were perfectly childlike, short and pink.

     The Pasha was buoyed up. In the first few days he was occupied only with her. He also found it pleasant to think that now too, as once before, he could tell by an outstretched hand the kind of woman her owner was, and her true worth. Had he brought her in earlier, it would have been no good; while three to  four months later, it seemed to him, the bloom would have been over. This was exactly the right time. She was cut off from her own kin, frightened and isolated, dependent only on him. At times she appeared to him like a young animal which, driven to the edge of a precipice, quivers in her whole body, her pupils contracting. This fanned the passion of his love and, in the contradictory ways of the male heart, evoked in him the impulse to be generous, to make her happy, to protect her.

     She lived not far from the Pasha's residence, in a separate cottage which he had rented and furnished. Except for her visits to the Pasha, she went nowhere and received no visitors, save for Hamša the Gypsy, who kept house for her, and baba Anuša from Bistrik, who was distantly related to her and who lived with her two grandchildren in great poverty. She spent all her days in two poorly lighted rooms, doing those sundry little chores that are so inconspicuous and yet so easily fill a woman's day. At dusk the Pasha's equerry would come for her, and she would wrap and veil herself up to her eyes and then, with a bowed head, accompany him to the Residence.

     In the beginning, after they had just brought her from Travnik, she felt utterly lost. Physical pain took complete hold of her; and it was only when this pain, after the first few nights, began to fade that there arose in her mind, like a torment, a vague yet dark and nagging thought of sin and shame. She was afraid of the Pasha, she loathed that Jewess of his, Sarah, and shied away from daylight and from people. She could not sleep, yet even in her dreams felt herself damned.

     Nevertheless, she gradually came to terms with Sarah, who was taciturn and good and who did her work and helped in everything with a kind of melancholy friendliness. Getting accustomed to the Pasha and his caresses was harder; even after the initial pain and fear had faded, she accepted those numbly, in childlike bewilderment. But after a while she began to get used to them. She grew especially fond of the smell of his skin. It was seldom that she could look into those unusually steady eyes without a certain timidity, or into that face with its dreadful patch of blight on the left cheek and its dark drooping mustache that was always a little damp and quivered when he spoke like tufted grass in a dark forest pond. But the waftings that his body sent out attracted her more and more, they thrilled and delighted her; and she inhaled them for hours with her eyes closed, her head resting on his chest or in the palm of his hand.

     The anguish came back to haunt her only at night when, as it often happened, he sent her to sleep alone. She would then wake up several times with a clear realization-such as can only come in the dark-of what and who she was now, and with a mouth choked with sobs she would press her face between the quilt and the pillows and stammer:

     "Turk...!"

     In the darkness, the racking thought would assume the shape of eternal punishment and hellish torture, not of earthly shame and ruin as in the daytime. But the next evening she would again face the Pasha with blushing cheeks and a wordless smile that seemed to be made entirely of glistening white teeth and sparkling eyes.

     So it went every evening. He would come from an army exercise, or from a ride, flushed and a little sweaty, and she would wait for him with her hands crossed on her breast. he would then undress; Sarah would bring cold water, and a maid would take away his boots. After he had washed and cooled off, he would ask them to open the door and all windows that commanded a view of Sarajevo and the Trebević mountain. he would sit like this in the cool draft until Sarah brought a bottle of mastika and a tray of olives and thin strips of bread. alter the equerry Salih would come in with the nargileh on which the lighted tobacco heap would smolder a dark red, while in its crystal bottle, on the limped surface of water, there would float two crimson cherries. Then Sarah and the equerry would vanish, and from an adjoining room Mara would return, prepared, and sit on his lap. Between the two of them, this was called "sitting in the box".

     (...)

 

Anika' s Times

     (...)

     St. Georges feast day that year was remembered in town as the day on which Anika "announced herself". By the time of the feast of St. Elias, only two months later, her banner was completely unfurled. Anika opened her home to men. She hired two women, village tramps, whose names were Yelenka and Saveta, as her companions. It was in this manner that the reign of Anika Krnoyelats began - a reign of a year and a half which Anika devoted herself to evil and disaster in much the same way that other people might occupy themselves with children, bread, their homes. She ignited men, set them afire, not only in the kasaba, but in the whole district of Vishegrad. Many details have been forgotten, and many a misfortune was never revealed, but it was not until Anika's times that the people of Vishegrad discovered what powers an evil woman possesses.

     Little by little the yard in front of Anika's house came to resemble a camping site. No one could keep track of the many who came at night; young and old, bachelors and married men, neighbors from nearby Dobrun and travelers from distant Focha. And there were others who, bereft of shame or reason, came in full daylight and sat in the yard or, if allowed, in the house, or simply wandered about with their hands in their pockets, glancing from time to time up at Anika's window.

     One of the most desperate and ardent of Anika's visitors was a certain Tane Kuyunjiya, a thin man with very wide eyes on a worn, tired face. He would sit on a crate behind the kitchen door, saying nothing, waiting patiently for Anika, looking up only when Yelenka and Saveta entered the kitchen. Going past him as though he did not exist, Yelenka and Saveta received their guests and proceeded with them to their rooms. When they threw him out of the kitchen, he would seat himself somewhere in the yard, bashfully smiling at Yelenka as she chased him out.

     "Ah, let me be, bona. What am I doing to you?"

     He would wait in the yard for hours, with a mournful expression, as though he found it hard to sit there for so long. Occasionally he would rise and leave without a word, only to come again the next day. At home he was scolded by his wife, Kosara, a robust woman of peasant stock with eyebrows that ran together.

     "Have you been sitting in the bitches' yard again, you ugly duckling? You should stayed there!

     "Eh, I should have stayed there." he repeated sadly, and his thoughts went back to the yard he had just left.

     This indifference drove Kosara insane and she started a dreadful row, but Tane only waved his hand, as though awakened from a dream.

     Some of Anika's company were quite mad, like Nazif, a big and retarded youth from the house of a beg. He was a quiet fool, deaf and dumb. He would pass under Anika's window and call to her in his unintelligible language at least twice a day. He offered her a handful of sugar, and she jested with him about it.

     "That isn't enough, Nazif, not enough," Anika called from above, smiling. Somehow or other the idiot understood what she had said, ran home, stole some money from his brothers, bought two half-pecks of sugar and returned to the window. Grinning with happiness, he offered her his fortune in sugar. Anika roared with laughter and indicated to him, through signs, that he had still brought enough, and he left mumbling sadly.

     From that day on he came every morning, carrying a basket filled with sugar, as well as additional amounts under his wide sash and in his pockets. Anika soon grew bored with the joke. The madman's persistence angered her, and she sent Saveta and Yelenka to chase him away. He defended himself and then left muttering incoherently, only to appear bright and early the following day with even more sugar. They chased him away again. All day long he carried the sugar around the town, twittering and murmuring. Children followed him, teased him, and stole sugar from the basket which he clutched so passionately.

     There were, of course, men who, lacking the courage to come in the daytime, waited for night to make their regular appearance, although many of them had no prospects of even entering Anika's house. They would simply sit there, on the trough by the fountain, waiting and smoking all night long. A man could arrive at night unseen by anyone; and he could leave in the same way. On the following morning a small heap of wood shavings and cigarette butts would appear where he had been sitting. He must have been an unhappy young man, God only knew which one; Anika certainly did not know him, and he knew her only by sight. For they were not all there just to see Anika. Some came simply because they were drawn to evil things, other because they had been from birth lost and tormented. Everything that was questionable, and contrary to God's will, assembled around that house and in that yard. The circle of men around Anika's house was rapidly expanding, and in time embraced not only the weak and the wicked, but the healthy and the wise too.

     In the end, there were but few young men in the kasaba who had not been to Anika or who had not tried to approach her. First, they went to her stealthily, at night, obliquely and individually. They talked of her as something shameful and horrible, but at the same time distant and almost beyond belief. But the more they talked and gossiped about her, the more comprehensible her evil seemed. At first they pointed a stern finger at those who went there, but in the end it was those who did not go to Anika's who attracted scorn. Since only a small group of men managed to reach Anika at first try, and the rest had to content themselves with Yelenka and Saveta, envy, male pride, and vanity began taking their toll. Those who had been rejected came again, hoping to make up for the double humiliation of having gone and been rejected all in one night; and those who had been received once could no longer stop themselves, but as if under a spell went back again and again.

     (...)

 

Thirst, translated by Joseph Hitrec, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London, 1969

     (...)

     For months past there had been a lot of talk in Sokolac about this man Lazar. She had heard awful tales of his cruelty, how he tortured in the most brutal ways the peasants who wouldn't yield to him, and shot gendarmes from ambush, stripped their bodies to the skin, and left them naked on the road. And now she was witnessing how the gendarmes repaid him in kind. Could this possibly go on forever? It seemed to her that they were all rushing toward some kind of abyss and that they would all perish together in a night just like this, destined never to see the light of dawn, in blood, in thirst, among unspeakable horrors.

     She thought now and then of waking her husband and begging him to dispel, with a word or a smile, all of this horror as though it were a hideous dream. But she could not bring herself to move nor to arouse her husband, and remained stock-still on the edge of the bed almost as if the body beside her were that of a dead man, and listened to the voice in the cellar, alone with her terror and her questions. She even thought of saying the prayers of another, forgotten and vanished life, and they gave her no clue or comfort. As if making peace with her own death, she resigned herself to the thought that the wailing man would go on wailing and imploring forever, and the man sleeping and breathing beside her would thus sleep and remain still forever.

     The night kept pressing in from all sides, growing thicker and more ominous. This was no longer an ordinary night, one of the countless ones in the string of days and nights, but a long drawn-out and perpetual desert of gloom in which the last man alive was moaning and crying for help, begging hopelessly and in vain for a drop of water. Yet in the whole of God's wide world with its waters, rains and dew there was not a single hand to offer it. All the waters had run dry, all mankind pined away. Only the frail rush-light of her consciousness still flickered, like a solitary witness to it all.

     At last came the dawn. Not daring to trust her own eyes, the woman watched the slow paling of the wall, at the same spot where it always paled at daybreak, and saw how the morning twilight, first pearly and then pink, spread through the room bringing shape and life to all the objects in it.

     If she strained hard she could still make out the bandit's voice, but from a great distance as it were. The cursing and oaths had stopped. There was only an occasional dull "A-a-ah!" And she inferred that rather than actually heard it.

     Although the daylight was growing brighter, the woman had no strength to move. Doubled and rigid all over, with her chin cupped in her hands, she was crouching on the edge of the bed and never even noticed that her husband had woken up.

     He opened his rested eyes and his gaze fell on his wife's curved back and on the milky white nape on her neck. At that moment, when the haze of sleep first cleared from his eyes a sense of joyful reality flooded back into him, washing over him like a warm, luxuriant wave. He wanted to call his wife, to sing out her name, but changed his mind. Smiling, he raised himself a little, making no sound, then propping himself on his left elbow reached out with his free right hand, and without a word, suddenly took her shoulders, pulled her over, and brought her down under him.

     The woman struggled briefly and in vain. The unexpected and irresistible embrace was dreadful to her. It seemed blasphemous and unthinkable that she should betray so quickly and easily, and without any explanation, the world of night in which up to that moment she had existed and suffered alone with her anguish. She wanted to hold him back and convince him that it was not possible, that there were grave and painful things which she had to tell him first and over which one could not pass so lightly into everyday life. Bitter words rose to her tongue, but she could not speak a single one. Her husband never even noticed this sign of her resistance, this fragmentary sound that never hardened into a word. She would have pushed him away, but her movements were not nearly as strong as her bitterness, or as swift as her thoughts. The very heat of that awakened and vigorous body crushed her like a great weight. The bones and muscles of her young body gave way like an obedient machine. her mouth was sealed by his lips. She felt him on her like a huge rock to which she was lashed, and together with which she was plunging downward, irresistibly and fast.

     Losing all recollection not only of last night but of all her life, she sank into the deaf and twilit sea of familiar and ever-new pleasure. Above her floated the last traces of her nighttime thoughts and resolutions and all human compassion, dissolving into air one after another like watery bubbles over drowning person.

     The white, gaily draped room quickly filled with the vivid light of day.

 

Death in Sinan's Tekke, translated by Felicity Rossalyn, Forest Books, London&Boston, Dereta, Belgrade, 1992

     (...)

     His memory worked rapidly and vividly. Only twice in his life had he been moved by the appearance of the woman, and these were inconspicuous events, meaningless and unimportant, the sort which take place in secret, unknown and unseen by anyone else, and are eventually forgotten even by ourselves. But now, out of his whole long and industrious life, only those two incidents confronted him: two small and senseless anxieties which had filled a few days of his boyhood and youth, now grown into two distinct ghosts, which swept aside all the rest, his life, body, and thought, and merged into one single feeling of pain which filled him entirely. Yet all of this was less than the point of the sharpest needle-the last trace of consciousness and the last proof of his existence.

     He was ten or eleven years old. Their house was outside the town, isolated among fields and plum orchards in the place where the river Bosnia takes a sharp bend, and skirts Zenica. In spring and autumn when the water rose, the Bosnia grew muddy and swollen and came up to the house itself, sweeping their garden fence away and carrying along the fences of other people, broken off from God knows where. It rolled down logs and roots, depositing a thick sediment of mud, branches, rags, broken barrels and sawn wood. For children it was a new world to delight in, foreign and mysterious, which they spent days exploring after every flood.

     That spring the water was unusually capricious, subsiding suddenly and suddenly rising again on the same day. Early one evening the water had subsided after a startling and muddy inundation which had swept through their garden that morning. The sky was low and cloudy, and from the mountains came a distant, muffled roar announcing a new flood. The child was wandering by himself and, with a long stick, drawing patterns at random in the soft reddish mud left behind by the water. Right by the fence he noticed a short, round beam half buried in mud, leaves and pebbles. He was as pleased with it as with an unexpected toy and immediately climbed onto it; carefully, for it was still wet and slippery. He was supported by his stick against the fence and his feet on the log., and so he wavered, losing and then quickly regaining his balance, wholly taken up with those peculiar movements which adults think so senseless and dangerous, but which for children are imposed by the demands of their growing bodies and awakening imaginations. But children's bodies tire easily and their imaginations are quickly satisfied. The child threw away his stick, left himself down and sat astride the beam, feeling the deposit of sand and dry boughs with his left hand. Then his glance fell on something strange and puzzling. In the sand and branches he seemed to see a human ear and lock of hair. He turned around, and behind him he saw a naked female body caught between the beam and the fence, more than half buried in mud; but a shoulder protruded clearly from the sediment, and a little lower down a white hip stuck out. The knee was hidden in mud, but then a calf emerged and the toes. The child went suddenly still. After he had passed a second glance along the whole length of this body the flood had brought, he got slowly down from the beam and began to retreat through the garden, moving backwards without taking his eyes off the place where the drowned woman lay. When he reached the film, dry ground where the beehives were, he stopped; it was only there that he was seized by fear. Running towards the house, he was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of shame he had never known before. Although he was tormented by fear and need to speak, he could not have found a single word in which to tell them of what he had seen. He wandered around the courtyard and they could scarcely draw him into the house. All the time he looked at his father, mother and brothers, he was thinking, 'Well, now I have to speak, now I shall tell them what I saw." But when he tried to find the first word and begin, his throat closed up and his lips were sealed. As long as it was light, he was in dread lest one of his brothers go into the garden and discover the secret.

     (...)

     He was around twenty-five years old. He had already been five or six years in Istanbul, the youngest of the teachers, highly respected, and unusually mature for his age.

     The building he was living in had two aspects. The younger, main one looked onto the sea; the other onto a steep hillside with gardens and graveyards with solitary road leading down it.

     One night, the young man stirred and woke up just at midnight. He got up, opened the window and, leaning his head against the wooden bars, breathed in the cold air of early spring. The night was moonless, but clear and starlit.

     The cobblestones of the street ahead of  him gleamed as the road mounted the hill, bounded on both sides by a high wall and the dark gardens. His eyes began to close slowly from the fresh night air; he was about to shut the window and go back to bed when white figure appeared at the top of the street, making its way rapidly down it. He opened his eyes wide in a daze between sleeping and waking. The figure was approaching at great speed: it was a woman in white dress, or perhaps just a shift. A little later two dark male figures appeared from a corner at the top of the street; they were running too. The heavy thudding of their feet soon made itself heard. The woman was running straight towards the gate, which was right under the window; she was racing, sparing no effort, evidently mad with fear like a hunted animal. As she came close, she could be clearly seen to be disheveled, half-naked, her clothes torn.

     The dull, weak sound of her body could be heard thudding against the heavy, locked gate. The young man leaned out and saw the woman as clearly as before, lying on the broad flagstones. Her head was resting on the threshold itself, and her hand stretched up vainly for the knocker, which she did not have the strength to reach.

     Her pursuers, who were only twenty paces away from the building, stopped suddenly when they saw that woman had managed to reach the gate, and swiftly lost themselves in a narrow alley between the garden walls.

     The young man did not dare glance down to the gate again. As if he too were playing his part in this strange nocturnal drama, he let go of the bar he was holding. Stepping backwards, he began slowly to retreat to his bed and quickly lay down.

     He was utterly numbed, stiff, without a single thought, as if he what he had seen just now had no pierced his consciousness at all. The bed quickly warmed beneath him, and he fell into sleep as rapidly as a faint. He slept five minutes, possibly ten; then something painful and violent awoke him. Like someone else's rough hand. his own stomach roused him from sleep; and, immediately, before he opened his eyes, there flooded through him the painful twilight consciousness of some complicated misfortune. He had experienced something dreadful and terrible. Perhaps he had dreamt it? How wonderful that there is such a thing as consciousness-that a man can wake up and shake off his dreams! Or perhaps he had really experienced something painful, which would be waiting for him as soon as he opened his eyes? So he wavered between sleeping and waking for a while, until at last the heavy conviction grew in him that it had not been a dream, but reality. Awake, he clearly saw a dark, armed men once again chasing the half-naked woman, clearly heard her fall, and once again saw her arm stretched out for the knocker, which was too high. And her knocking might ring out at any moment.

     (...)

     And, here now, was his last minute, and with it this memory, the last gleam of his consciousness.

     He tried in vain not to think of it, or to remember something else, anything. Nothing but these two dark memories and a pain which tears, groans or howls could not express. In an anguish hitherto unknown and unsuspected, his last strength was converted into a prayer such as no true believer, learned or simple, had ever made. This is how Alidede prayed under the unbearable pressure of his pain, while his lips moved simply from habit, for there were no longer any words upon them:

     "Keeper of all things, Great and Only One, I have been Thin from my beginning, and held so firmly in Thy grasp that no harm could befall me. This knowledge, this peace which Thou gives those who forsake all else and give themselves wholly into Thy care - this is true Paradise. I have lived without hardship, floating like a little grain of dust that dances in the sun's rays; without weight it floats on upward, filled with sunshine, like a little sun itself. I did not know that this kind of bitterness could fill a man's soul. I had forgotten that at the exit from this world, as at the entry, stands woman like a gate. And now comes this bitterness which cleaves my heart in two to remind me of what, with my eyes on heaven, I had forgotten: that the bread which we eat is in fact stolen; that for the life which is given us we are indebted to takdirat, evil destiny, and sin; and that we cannot pass from this world to that better one until we have broken off like ripe fruit, fallen headlong in a painful drop and hit the hard ground. We probably bear the bruise from that fall even in Paradise. This is my thought, O gracious one, and Thou seest it, whether I speak it or not: it is a bitterer and harder thing that I knew to be enslaved to the laws of Thy world."

     Seeing Alidede moving his lips, his disciples thought he was speaking his dying prayer and stopped wherever they happened to be, motionless and sad.

     So he breathed his last. It was Friday evening, the night of a new moon, and by general agreement, his death was miraculous and holy and filled men with wonder, like his life itself.

 

A Letter from 1920, translated by Lenore Grenoble, Forest Books, London&Boston, Dereta, Belgrade, 1992

     (...)

     My dear old friend,

     (...)

     But let me come straight to the point. Bosnia is a wonderful country, fascinating, with nothing ordinary in the habitat or people. And just there are mineral riches under the earth in Bosnia, so undoubtedly are Bosnians rich in hidden moral values, which are more rarely found in their compatriots in other Yugoslav lands. But, you see, there's one thing that the people of Bosnia, at least people of your kind, must realise and never lose sight of- Bosnia is a country of hatred and fear.

     But leaving fear aside, which is only correlative of hatred, the natural result of it, let us talk about hatred. Yes, about hatred. And instinctively you recoil and protest when you hear that word (I saw it that night at the station), just as every one of you refuses to hear, grasp, and understand it. But it is precisely this that needs to be recognized, confirmed, and analyzed. And the real harm lies in the fact that no one either wants or knows how to do it. For the fatal characteristic of this hatred is that the Bosnian man is unaware of the hatred that lives in him, shrinks from analyzing it and - hates everyone who tries to do so. And yet it's fact that in Bosnia and Herzegovina there are more people ready in fits of this subconscious hatred to kill and be killed, for different reasons, and under different pretexts, than in other much bigger Slav and non-Slav lands.

     I know that hatred, like anger, has its function in the development of society, because hatred gives strength, and anger provokes action. I know that there are ancient and deeply rooted injustice and abuses which only torrents of hatred and anger can uproot and wash away. and when these torrents dwindle and dry up, room for freedom remains, for the creation of better life. The people living at the time see the hatred and anger far better, because they are the sufferers by them, but their descendants see only the fruits of this strength and action. That I know well. But what I have seen in Bosnia - that is something different. It is hatred, but not limited just to a moment in the course of social change, or an inevitable part of the historical process; rather, it is hatred acting as an independent force, as an end in itself. Hatred which sets man against man and casts both alike into misery and misfortune, or drives both opponents to the grave; hatred like a cancer in an organism, consuming and eating up everything around it, only to die itself at the last; because this kind of hatred, like a flame, has neither one constant form, nor a life of its own: it is simply the agent of the instinct of destruction or self destruction. It exists only in this form, and only its task of total destruction has been completed.

     Yes, Bosnia is a country of hatred. That is Bosnia. and by a strange contrast, which in fact isn't so strange, and could perhaps be easily explained by careful analysis, it can also be said that there are a few countries with such firm belief, elevated strength of character, so much tenderness and loving passion, such depth of feeling, of loyalty and unshakable devotion, or with such a thirst for justice. But in secret depths underneath all this hide burning hatreds, entire hurricanes of tethered and compressed hatreds maturing and awaiting their hour. The relationship between your loves and your hatred is the same as between your high mountains and the invisible geological strata underlying them, a thousand times larger and heavier. And thus you are condemned to live on deep layers of explosive which are lit from time to time by the very sparks of your loves and your fiery and violent emotion. Perhaps your greatest misfortune is precisely that you do not suspect just how much hatred there is in your loves and passions, traditions and pieties. And just as, under the influence of atmospheric moisture and warmth, the earth on which we live passes into our bodies and gives them colour and form, determining the character and direction of our way of life and our actions - so does the strong, underground and invisible hatred on which Bosnian man lives imperceptibly and indirectly enter into all his actions, even the best of them. Vice gives birth to hatred everywhere in the world, because it consumes and does not create, destroys, and does not build; but in countries like Bosnia, virtue itself often speaks and acts through hatred. With you, ascetics derive no love from their asceticism, but hatred for the voluptuary instead; abstainers hate those who drink, and drinkers feel a murderous hatred for the whole world. Those who do believe and love feel  a mortal hatred for those who don't, or those who believe and love differently. And, unhappily, the chief part of their belief and love is often consumed in this hatred. (The most evil and sinister-looking faces can be met in greatest numbers at places of worship - monasteries, and dervish tekkes). Those who oppress and exploit the economically weaker do it with hatred into the bargain, which makes that exploitation a hundred times harder and uglier; while those who bear these injustices dream of justice and reprisal, but as some explosion of vengeance which, if it were realised according to their ideas, would perforce be so complete that it would blow to pieces the oppressed along with the hated oppressors. You Bosnians have, for the most part, got used to keeping all the strength of your hatred for that which is closest to you. Your holy of holies is, as a rule, three hundred rivers and mountains away, but the objects of your repulsion and hatred are right beside you, in the same town, often on the other side of your courtyard wall. So your love remains inert, but your hatred is easily spurred into action. And you love your homeland, you passionately love it, but in three or four different ways which are mutually exclusive, often come to blows, and hate each other to death.

     In some Maupassant story there is a Dionysiac description of spring which ends with the remark that on such days, there should be a warning posed on every corner: "Citoyens! This is spring - beware of love!" Perhaps in Bosnia men should be warned at every step in their every thought and their every feeling, even the most elevated, to beware of hatred - of innate, unconscious, endemic hatred. Because this poor, backward country, in which four different faiths live cheek by jowl, needs four times as much love, mutual understanding and tolerance as other countries. But in Bosnia, on the contrary, lack of understanding, periodically spilling over into open hatred, is the general characteristic of its people. The rifts between the different faiths are so deep that hatred alone can sometimes succeed in crossing them. I know that you could argue, and with sufficient reason, that a certain amount of progress can be seen in this direction; that the ideas of the nineteenth century have done their work here too, and after liberation and unification all this will go much better and faster. I'm afraid that this is not quite so. (In these past few months I think I have had a good view of the real relationships between people of different faiths and nationalities in Sarajevo!) On every occasion you will be told, and wherever you go you will read, "Love your brother, though his religion is other", "It' s not that marks the Slav", "Respect others' ways and take pride in your own", "Total national solidarity recognises no religious or ethnic differences."

     But from time immemorial in Bosnian urban life there has been plenty of counterfeit courtesy, the wise deception of oneself and others by resounding words and empty ceremonies. That conceals the hatred up to a point, but doesn't get rid of it or thwart its growth. I'm afraid that in these circles, under the cover of all these contemporary maxims, old instincts and Cain-like plan may only be slumbering, and will live on until the foundations of material and spiritual life in Bosnia are altogether changed. And when will that time come, and who will have the strength to carry it out? It will come one day, that I do believe; but what I've seen in Bosnia does not indicate that things are advancing along that path at present. On the contrary.

     I have thought this over and over, especially in the last few months, when I was still struggling against my decision to leave Bosnia for ever. Of course a man obsessed with such thoughts cannot sleep well, and I would lie in front of an open window in the room where I was born, while the sound of the Miljacka alternated with the rustling of the leaves in the early autumn wind.

     Whoever lies awake at night in Sarajevo hears the voices of the Sarajevo night. The clock on the Catholic cathedral strikes the hour with weighty confidence: 2am. More than a minute passes (to be exact, seventy-five seconds - I counted) and only then with a rather weaker, but piercing sound does the Orthodox church announce the hour, and chime its own 2 am. A moment after it the tower clock on the Bey's mosque strikes the hour in a hoarse, faraway voice, and that strikes 11, the ghostly Turkish hour, by the strange calculation of distant and alien parts of the world. The Jews have no clock to sound their hour, so God alone knows what time it is for them by the Sephardic reckoning or the Ashkenazy. Thus at night, while everyone is sleeping, division keeps vigil in the counting of the late, small hours, and separates these sleeping people who, awake, rejoice and mourn, feast and fast by four different and antagonistic calendars, and send all their prayers and wishes to one heaven in four different ecclesiastical languages. And this difference, sometimes visible and open, sometimes invisible and hidden, is always similar to hatred, and often completely identical with it.

     (...)

 

The Story of the Vizier's Elephant, translated by Celia Hawkesworth, Forest Books, London&Boston, Dereta, Belgrade, 1992

     The towns and villages of Bosnia are full of stories. Under the guise of improbable events masked by invented names, these tales, which are for the most part imaginary, conceal the true, unacknowledged history of the region, of living people and long-vanished generation. These are those Eastern lies which the Turkish proverb holds to be 'truer than any truth'.

     These stories live a strange, hidden life. In this they resemble the Bosnian trout. There is a particular kind of trout in the streams and brooks of Bosnia; not large, dark backed, with two or three large red spots. It is unusually greedy, but also unusually cunning and quick, and it will be rush blindly onto a hook in a skilful hand, but cannot be caught or even seen by those who are not familiar with these waters or this kind of fish.

     It is the same with the stories. You can live for months in a Bosnian village without hearing one of them properly or to the end, but it can happen that you chance to spend the night somewhere and hear three or four stories, of that quite implausible kind which tell you most about a place and its people.

     It is the people of Travnik, the wisest in Bosnia, who know the greatest number of such stories, but they rarely tell to strangers, just as it is the rich who are most reluctant to part with their money. But as a result each of their stories is worth three of anyone else's. According to them, that is.

     Such a tale is the story of the Vizier's elephant.

     (...)

 

The House On Its Own                                                    

Introduction

     It is a two-storey house on the steep slope of Alifakovac, right near the top, a little distance from any others. On the ground floor, where it was warm in winter and cool in summer, there is a spacious hall, a large kitchen and two small, dark rooms at the back. Upstairs there are three quite large rooms, one of which, the one in the front that looks over the open Sarajevo valley, has a broad balcony. Its size and construction are reminiscent of the Bosnian 'divanhana', but it is not built as they are natural wood, but painted dark green, and its balustrade is not made of round railings, but of flat boards cut as on the balconies of Alpine houses. It was built in the nineties - 1887 to be precise - when local people began to build houses 'according to plan', designed and laid out in Austrian style, and where half-successful in this. Had it been built just half a dozen years earlier, this house would have been built entirely in the old Turkish way, like most of the houses on Alifakovac, and not in the 'German style of the buildings along the banks of the Miljacka. Then the broad entrance hall on the ground floor would have been called an 'ahar' and the balcony a 'divanhana' and the whole thing would not have had this hybrid appearance of a building in which intention and will had gone in one direction towards something new and unknown, and hands, eyes and whole inner being dragged in another, towards the old and customary. The nature and arrangement of the furniture, the colour of the walls, the Viennese chandeliers, of crystal and brass, the earthenware Bosnian stoves, with their ceramic tiles, and locally made rugs in the rooms symbolise that duality. Inside as well as out, one may clearly read the collision of two epochs and the arbitrary mixture of styles, and yet it all blends into the atmosphere of a warm human habitation. It is evident that the people who live in this house do not care much for the external appearance of things, or for their names, but that they know how to take all that those things have to offer for a modest, tranquil and comfortable life to people who care more for life itself  than for what may be thought, spoken or written about it. Here things and buildings in their primeval namelessness and perfect modesty simply serve naturally modest and happily nameless people for their few, simple needs. Over it all reigns the kind of peace that we always wish for but rarely achieve in our lives, and that we even often run away from without real need and to our lives, and that we even often run away from without real need and to our own detriment.

     It is good to live and work in these Sarajevo houses. A few years ago I spent a whole summer in the one described here. These are my memories of that house and that time. More exactly, they are just some of those memories; ones about which I am able to say something.

     (...)

 

Bar Titanic

     In the quarter between the electric plant and the tobacco factory, which at one time was called Hisieta, there was a honey-comb of forlorn little streets containing several cafés and tiny bars, even though the neighbourhood was stagnant and not particularly noted for its human traffic. Some of these cafés had bad reputations, which meant that they were well known and well frequented; they were regularly patronised even by people from the other parts of town.

     On the very edge of the park that enclosed the tobacco factory, in Mutevelić Street, was the hindmost of these bars. It was a two-storied house with peeling plaster that reminded one of a loathsome skin disease, and its windows, flowerless and bare of curtains, were like some festering eyes shorn of lashes and brows. Its building style harked back to the middle period of Austrian rule, and was a bastard offspring of the architecture of Central Europe and of the Near East of that time, suffering from anemia and weak breath. Its visage was one of poverty, but poverty stripped of all charm and picturesqueness: the architectural expression of a life without thought or vision. Beside the main entrance on the ground floor there was an other, narrower one, topped by an overlarge green board with a red-letter sign on it:

                                                      

B A R  T I T A N I C

Prop. Mento Papo    

     The little bar-café, boasting the name of the tragically capsized English transoceanic ship, was a dark hole-in-the-wall some six yards long and two yards wide, without any chairs, so that the five-or six-odd guests it might accommodate always stood at the bar counter, though the owner would produce accrete or a beer barrel as a seat for his more elderly customers. Men given to drink and bar life are fond of just this kind of bare and cramped space, which gives one the sense of being a casual visitor, forever in transit; the kind of room in which none of the furnishing can distract a guest's attention from the essential business at hand-drinking and the exchange of maudlin conversation. At the far end of the bar, a green drape concealed a door that led by way of a corridor to two larger rooms. One of these was Mento's quarters, the other was empty, save for a bare table and several rudimentary chairs. This was the gambling room. Its windows faced onto the garden, which in reality was a combination of hen coop, stable, garbage heap, and children's playground. The pair of windows were always covered with cotton curtains, mildewed and already quite stiff with age and dust, which were never drawn aside as all gambling was done by electric light.

     (...)

 

Woman on the Rock

     (...)

     There are those women, like this one, in whom the feeling for colour and chromatic harmony is highly developed, as if inborn. Like plants, they live and talk in colour. Around such women colours sing, as it were, inaudibly and yet in such unison that they seem to be part of cosmic harmony scaled down to a women's being and the power of human senses. Women like this seem to gather new colours from nature, and to create new relationships between them, and new iridescences; actually, all they do is to uncover them to our eyes, which otherwise wouldn't know how to see them. Slowly and calmly, as unerringly as nature herself, they spread about them, according to their age and possibilities and the circumstances in which they live, their own colours, as if that were all they had to communicate about themselves to other people.

     Very little more could be said about this woman who lay at some distance from the rest of the bathers, her hands clasped on her breasts, stretched out and slender, with her eyes shut, like one of the stone duchesses on a sarcophagus.

     We know next to nothing about people who pass by us or lie next to us. Was there anything more one might added about this woman, laid out like a statue, Martha L., an opera singer on her vacation, in her forty-eight year? She herself was trying to forget who and what she was, and how long she had been around. Drowsily she gave herself to the sun's fire and to the dim memories and daydreams that welled in her aimlessly and against her will. Vague stirrings, words clearly spoken and yet unintelligible, silences of an unknown meaning, all this mingled inside her, ebbed swiftly and came back again, refusing to fade into limbo. Though not asleep, she was dreaming. And now she was clearly: a strange image out of her past life, one that she had never suspected was still alive in her memory. She was sitting on a garden wall.

     (...)

 

A Summer in the South

 When Professor Alfred Norgess and his wife Anna arrived in the little town on the Adriatic coast, they were met by sweltering heat and pretty disappointments of all kinds. Everything looked crude and forbidding. Everything–beginning with the porter who brought their luggage and took his money without even saying "Thanks" to the ailing landlady who, standing in front of them with her arms limp at her sides, answered all their questions with helpless shrugs. The room was like a darkened and suffocating oven, for the green wooden shutters had been kept closed. What was worse, the town's water supply had run low; instead of water, the little faucet above the wash basin emitted a sadly mocking hiss. The landlady assured them with a perfectly straight face that the water would be turned on before dawn and would run for a couple of hours; one would have to catch it then. In the air, and over the furnishings, lay on odour of neglect and lassitude.

The professor watched his wife as she took her things out of the valise, and wished he could run far away from there, in any direction, for it seemed to him that the place lacked not only water and freshness but was devoid also of order and life. Still, in his usual old way, he didn't say a word.

After an hour, this first impression underwent a change. In the last glow of the afternoon sun, they had a short swim in the sea and felt refreshed, then took a short walk around the lighted town square, and after supper lingered a long time on their apartment terrace, which was fringed with flowers and partially roofed over with a dense vine arbor.

In the morning, after getting up early, they had breakfast on the terrace, with a view of the sea, in the freshness and shade of the summer morning. That early hour promptly displayed for them all the radiance and glory of the region, and won them over completely. In the wake of this came an unexpected and swift transformation. Their bad humour of the day before disappeared without a trace, as did the thought of running away; and they wished only one thing: that this beauty met their old friends from Vienna, who spent every summer in this place and who, in fact, had recommended it to them. Nothing seemed important or difficult any more, not the sweltering room nor the water system that produced a tepid dribble during a few short night hours, nor the slow service in the restaurant. On the contrary, they now began to discover fresh beauties in this sojourn by the seaside.

     (...)

The days passed. It was already the end of August, the finest time of the year on the coast. The long investigation of the professor's disappearance had still not produced any clues. Neither the sea nor the land had yielded up his body. The authorities continued to inquire and search. The tiny seaside resort lived under the shadow of the mysterious disappearance. Walking along the street one would often hear a couple of house wives, on their way back from market, ending their conversation with a shake of their hands.

"Still nothing. What do you make of it?"

One guessed right away that the topic was the halpless vanished professor. And the other townsmen, too, when chatting among themselves or with the visitors, remembered the fate of the missing man. From the sudden embarrassed pauses in their conversation and the troubled glances they stole unconsciously toward the sea, one could infer, even without words, that they were all anxious to have some kind, any kind, of explanation of the baffling disappearance, that they were waiting for it impatiently, as though it were something on which the inner peace of every single one of them depended.

 

Jelena, the Woman of My Dream

From the Very Beginning

     In the silent and still air of the summer day there appeared from somewhere an unexpected and invisible movement, like a single, errant wave. My half-open window knocked several times against the wall. Tak-tak-tak. Not raising my eyes from my work, I merely smiled like a man who feels confident in his surroundings and who lives peacefully in a state of contentment not interrupted by surprises. Without a word or sound, with a single movement of the head I gave a sign that the ploy was a success, that she can enter, that I am expecting her joyfully. She always comes that way, with some sort of charming mischief, with music or with fragrance. (With the music of a random, lonely sound which seems unusual and significant, with the fragrance of an entire landscape or the northwind which portends the first snow). Sometimes I hear a hardly comprehensible conversation, as if at the gate she were asking directions to my apartment. Sometimes I see only her willowy and inaudible shadow flash by my window and again I neither turn my head nor raise my glance, so certain am I that it is she and that she will now enter. In that split second I experience an indescribable and unspeakable joy.

     Of course, afterwards she never enters, nor do my eyes catch sight of her, whom they have never seen. But I have become accustomed not to expect her really but to submerge totally in the bliss induced by the endless moment of her arriving. I have gotten over the fact that she won't show up, that she does not exist, as one gets over an illness which one goes through only once in life.

     Observing and recalling for days and years her appearance in various shapes, always strange and unexpected, I succeeded in finding in them a certain regularity, some order. Above all, the illusion is connected with the sun and its path. (I call this an illusion for the sake of you to whom I am telling all this; personally, it would be both ludicrous and insulting to call my greatest reality by that name which really means nothing. Yes, she appears almost exclusively from the end of April to the beginning of November. During the winter she very rarely shows up, and even then in connection with sun and light. As the sun grows, her appearances become frequent and more lively. In May they are rare and irregular. In July and August almost daily. But in October, when the afternoon sun is fluid and when one drinks it endlessly and tirelessly as though drinking thirst itself, she hardly moves away from me while I sit on the terrace covered by the netting of sun and shadows of leaves. I sense her presence in the room by a hardly audible rustling of the pages of my book or by a barely noticeable creaking on the parquet. But most often she stands invisible and inaudible somewhere behind my shadow and I live for hours in the awareness of her presence, which is much more then the eyes and ears and all the poor senses can give.

     But when the sun's path begins to shorten and when there are fewer leaves, and a lighting-fast squirrel, whose fur is already changing, darts on the shiny-smooth bark of the trees, the apparition begins to pale and to disappear. Increasingly rare are those minute sounds which I had become accustomed to hearing behind me in my room, and the jokes known only to the carefree youth and to the eternal world of dreams. The invisible and dies without a sign or a farewell as apparitions and phantoms disappear. She never existed. Now she is not.

     Taught by long experience, I know that she sleeps in my shadow as on a wondrous couch, from which she arises and greets me irregularly and unexpectedly, by logic which is difficult to comprehend. Moodily and unpredictably, as one can expect from a creature which is both a woman and an apparition. Just as it happens with woman of flesh and blood, from time to time with her, too, suspicious and anxiety and melancholy come into my life, with no relief or explanation.

     (...)

 

Bridges, translated by Celia Hawkesworth and Andrew Harvey, The Menard Press, London, 1992

     Of all that a man is impelled to build in this life, nothing is in my eyes finer and more precious than a bridge. Bridges are more important than houses, holier, because more all-embracing, than places of worship. Belonging to everyone and the same for everyone, useful, built always rationally, in a place in which the greatest number of human needs coincide, they are more enduring than other buildings and serve nothing which is secret or evil.

     Great stone bridges, witness of vanished ages when people lived, thought and built differently, gray or stained with the wind and rain, their sharply chiseled lines worn down, with thin grass growing or birds nesting in their joins and imperceptible cracks. Slender iron bridges, stretched from one shore to the other like a wire, shaking and resounding with every train that hurtles over them; they seem still to be waiting for their final form and perfection, and the beauty of their lines will be fully disclosed only to the eyes of our grandchildren. Wooden bridges on the way into the little towns of Bosnia whose furrowed planks sink and creak under the hooves of the village horses like tiny bridges in the mountains, nothing but a largish tree trunk or two logs riveted together, thrown across a wild stream that would be impassable without them. Twice a year in flood the torrent sweeps them away, but the peasants, blindly persistent as ants, cut, plane and build another. That is why one often sees beside those mountain streams, in eddies between rocks, the remains of bridges; they lie and rot like the other wood washed up there by chance, but those worked logs, destined to rot or burn, stand out from the rest of the driftwood and remind one always of the purpose they once served.

     (...)

     In the end, everything through which this life of ours is expressed - thoughts, efforts, glances, smiles, words, sighs - is all reaching out to another shore, as towards its aim, and only there will it be granted its true meaning. Everywhere there is something to overcome or to bridge: disorder, death, meaninglessness. Everything is a transition, a bridge whose ends are lost in infinity, beside which all the bridges of this earth are only children's toys, pale symbols.

     And all our hope lies on the other side.

 

On Stories and Story-Telling

(Ivo Andrić’s speech when receiving the Nobel Prize)

 

     In the performance of their exalted task, the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy has decided, this time, to distinguish a writer of, as it is often called, a small country with the Nobel prize, which measured in international dimensions, is a very high honor. May I be allowed, accepting this award, to say a few words about that country, and to add a few more general considerations in connection with the narrative works that you have been pleased to reward.

     My country is really “a small country among worlds” as one of our writers put it, a country that in rapid stages, at the price of great sacrifices and exceptional endeavours, has attempted to make up in all fields, including that of culture, for what an unusually stormy and difficult past has deprived it of. By your recognition, you have thrown a beam of light on the literature through a range of new names and original works has begun to make its way in the world, in a justified aspiration to make a fitting contribution to world literature. Your recognition of a writer from this country undoubtedly does much to encourage this. It constrains us to gratitude, then, and I am happy that I can, at this place and time, not only in my own name, but in the name of the literature I belong to, express this gratitude simply but sincerely.

     The second part of my task is somewhat more complex and difficult, that is to say a few words in connection with the narrative works of the writer to whom you have done honour with this prize.

     But where a writer and his work is concerned, does is it not seem just a little unjust that he who has created some work of art, should be expected, apart from having given his creation, a part of himself that is, to say something else about himself and this work? There are some of us who are more inclined to look upon the creators of works of art as if they were dumb, absent contemporaries, or the glorious departed, who think that the speech of the work of art is purer and clearer if it is not mingled with the living voice of its creator. This kind of thinking is neither new nor unusual. Montesquieu stated that “writers are not good judges of their own works”. I once read with great admiration and understanding Goethe’s rule: “It is the artist’s to create, not to speak.” As many years later I was to come with excitement upon the same thought, brilliantly expressed, in the works of a man we still mourn, Albert Camus.

     For this reason I would like to place the emphasis of this short address where I think it properly should be, on a consideration of the story and story-telling in general. In a thousand different languages, in the most varied conditions of life, from age to age, from the ancient stories of the patriarchs in their huts round the fire, to the works of modern narrators that are coming out at this moment from the publishing companies in the great world centers, a story has been spun of the fate of mankind, told without end by people to people. The manner and forms of the narration change with time and conditions, but the need for stories and story-telling, the story runs on, there is no end to story-telling. Sometimes it seems to us as if mankind from the first flash of consciousness, through the ages has constantly told itself, in a million variants, in time with the breath of its lungs and the rhythm of its pulse, the same single story. And this story seems to want, like the story-telling of the legendary Sheherezade, to beguile the executioner, to put off the inevitability of the tragic fate that awaits us, and prolong the illusion of life and continued existence. Or is, perhaps, the teller with his work there to help man to find himself, to cope? Perhaps it is his calling to talk in the name of all those who could not, or, cut down before their time by the executioner of life, did not manage to express themselves. Or does the narrator tell his tale to himself, as a child sings in the dark to beguile his fear? Or is it the aim of this story-telling to light up for us, at least a little, the dark ways onto which life often casts us, and tell us something more of this life, that we live but do not always see or understand, than we in our weakness can know or understand. 

     (…)

 

Unrest

Oh I know

Oh I know the earth and her gift.
I seek a dream,
and deep world and unknown.
And behold, what I dreamt, being poor,
a child in Bosnia
that a blue flame burned overhead,
and thatseenow is:
Meaning, Light. Undimmed by change or fear.
Moral beauty. News from afar.
The work of dreams. What no man
can tell another.

 

Signs by the Roadside

*

     There are some traditional stories that are so universal that we forget when and where we heard or read them, and they live in us like the memory of some experience of our own.

     Such a story is the one about the young man who, wandering through the world to seek his fortune, set out along a dangerous road, not knowing where it was leading him. So as not to lose his way, the young man took an axe and carved in the trunks of the trees beside the road signs which would later show him the way back.

     The young man personifies the shared, eternal destiny of all mankind: on the one hand, a dangerous and uncertain road, and on the other our deep human need not to get lost, but to find our way in the world and leave some trace behind us. The signs we leave after us will not escape the destiny of everything human - transience and oblivion. They may never be noticed at all and perhaps no one will understand them. But still, they are necessary, just as it is natural and necessary that we should open our hearts and communicate with others.

     If these small obscure signs do not save us from disorientation and all kinds of trials, they can at least make them easier, and help us in so far as they convince us that, in everything we do, we are not alone, nor the first, nor unique...

*

     Whatever does not cause pain - is not life, whatever does not pass - is not joy.

*

     "You should not be afraid of human beings."

*

     Many of the great, fateful passions of our youth are founded on a simple misunderstanding. We are like an awkward, clumsy person who goes into a shop, points to something in the window and says in the tone of one who is ready for anything: "I'll take that and pay whatever you ask.'

     And afterwards when it is all too late, you see that you went into the wrong shop and asked for something you did not need and never actually ever wanted.

*

     I do not think that I shall ever succeed, even remotely, in expressing the beauty of the ordinary actions, trivial events and small joys of everyday life, as they are seen through some great anxiety or sorrow that temporarily shrouds the world.

     Through our seemingly endless cares and efforts, the joys of life look perfectly and enchantingly beautiful. And if later, when the cares pass and the efforts cease, we could see these small things with the same eyes, we would be fully compensated for everything. But we cannot.

*

     As we read good writers, miracles occur before our eyes. Often at the beginning of a sentence, when we see a thought coming into being, we stop, surprised and afraid. And we wonder in disbelief: 'Is it possible? Will what I foresee really happen? Is this really the same thought that we ourselves have sensed more than once when our consciousness has come into contact with the world around us, that hidden part of our inner reality? Can it be that someone else has seen and experienced this in the same way?'

     And when, having read is the case, we pause over the sentence, thoughtful, grateful and glad, because we have been given the greatest gift that reading can offer: we have felt that we are never alone, neither at the hardest nor the best moments, nor in our worst doubts, nor in out most daring conclusions, but that we are linked with other people by numerous hidden bonds, of which we are unaware, but which 'our' writer discloses to us.

     That is salvation.

*

     There are people who are able to hide the direction of their thoughts and the course of their feelings so successfully that no one can guess their true nature. But it seems that imperceptibly, over the years, our thoughts and feelings model our faces, as quiet, persistent water does the surface of the earth, and when old age starts to approach, they suddenly show unexpected furrows and chasms. And anyone can read all that once seemed forever hidden.

*

     People would understand me better, forgive me many things and even perhaps give me credit for a little, if they knew that everything I have done over the years, I have done in the hard, black, narrow strip of time between my resentment of coming catastrophe itself.

*

     I think I am not mistaken if I say that ninety-nine per cent of all that I have written was written by day. As soon as the sun sets, my writing time is over. After that I read and think, and sometimes make notes, but it never happens that I sit down at my table to write. After sunset, not only in the dark but even by bright lamp-light - I do not see characters or events, although I may recall some details; because then the whole world is like a place I have travelled away from. The next day, when I wake, it is there again and I can write once more.

*

     When I obliged to say something about my literary 'gift' and vocation, about my personal development and about my life's aims and work, I am like a blind man talking about colours and shapes.

*

     There is a certain type of man who is common in our country, who thinks that quarrelling is action, and roughness is the same as energy, that to insult an enemy means the same as to strike him, that all restraint in speech is weakness, and that any attempt at foresight is a waste of time; in short: that the so-called struggle of life consists in ceaseless, alternate barking and snarling.

*

     Has anyone ever loved the world as I have? At night, when all is at rest and when it is finally time to lie down, I am still restless and before I fall asleep, I am still disturbed by the thought that at this moment someone, late and alone, is passing through the streets and that I could meet him, see him and talk with him. I never have enough air, never enough water, or plants, or human faces. I exhaust my strength, I have lost my youth and I have not known peace, all because of my appetite and love of the world. At night, when I reach home, exhausted with everything, I long to have icy, silent earth scattered over my burning eyes and bitter lips, and to be freed from desire and disquiet and the sadness of fulfilment. And yet, I fall asleep with difficulty, sleep lightly and for a short time, and rise early. It seems that I am always awake.

     On one of the ramparts of the Kalemegdan fortress. I shaded my eyes from the sun with my hand in the broad space above the shadowy trenches, full of grass, I caught sight of a whole world of bugs and flies, cobwebs and birds. The air around me swarmed with innumerable living creatures in motion. Over the stones under my feet ran lizards and spiders, in the freshly dug soil beside me larvae and worm writhed, struggling with the air and light. I suddenly felt how inaccurate our egocentric notion is that we walk on the earth and stand in the air as though separated by something, as though something separate, and that the truth is that we form, with everything around us, one sea of living beings, now disturbed, now calm. We do not live, we are life. Individual existence like individual death are only transient illusion, two momentary waves in the ocean of movements around us. And it seems to me that I have glimpsed the root of our idea of eternal life and resurrection. Eternal life is in the realisation that all our limitations, all states and changes are only imaginary, inherited delusions, and the resurrections in the discovery that we never lived, but that, with life, we have always existed.

 

Notebooks

*

     It seems to me that there are more "failed people" in the diplomatic service of every country, than in any other profession, people who have stumbled through the wrong door and now no one can escort them out and they them selves cannot find the exit and go back. In other walks of life such a "lost" person is unnoticed, he signs in the choir which he does not help but nor does not harm it, so his voice and his ear cannot be appraised. In the diplomatic service circumstances oblige the majority of people sooner or later to act independently, to show who they are and what they can do.

     I have not read much that has been written about the diplomatic profession, but everything I have read has seemed to me superficial and inadequate. And I would find it very difficult to have to give a specific definition and describe the basic characteristics of this calling. I could only say something about it in a negative way. and only on the basis of experience.

     It is not only that diplomacy "is not for everyone", but one can say unreservedly that only a small number of people really have the gift and vocation for this work. It is, of course, far harder to say what those people are like and what they ought to be like. But, let us try.

     They are people of sound but straightforward intelligence, people of simplified and limited sensitivity and a cool heart, but not without heart or any sensitivity; capable of deception, but not closed and mysterious, still less underhand; strong, but not rough; quick and decisive, but not hasty or impulsive; realistic, sober, but not dry and dull.

     They need to know a certain amount, but there should be no trace of erudition or pedantry in what they know, and their knowledge should agreeably surprise and perhaps impress those with whom they are speaking, but never embarrass, offend or shame them.

     It is the same with their courage: they need to have it, and it should be sound and reliable, but they should display it only in extreme circumstances and bear it as they bear arms which everyone knows they have, but are never seen.

     They must also have imagination, but only in a certain degree, enough for a man to see every issue from every point of view and with all its possibilities and immediate consequences; anything more than that is both dangerous for them and damaging to the work they are doing.

     (...)

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