Authors entertain and provide a window into what life is or was like in their societies. Writers from Bosnia work in every genre imaginable, from romantic fiction to insights into life during the Yugoslav Wars and the Siege of Sarajevo. Here are 11 Bosnian authors to check out before you visit.
Semezdin was born in 1960 in Kiselja, a small Central Bosnian town, and later became a prominent writer, magazine editor and filmmaker. The author’s views and perspective during his life in Yugoslavia led him to an editorial position at two magazines that formed an opposition voice to the Communist Party. As Yugoslavia slowly disintegrated into chaos, he chose to remain in Sarajevo during the siege. According to the Washington Post, Sarajevo Blues, Semezdin’s most prominent work, is one of the best literary documents of the Bosnian War.
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This poet and romantic from western Bosnia has a special place in the country’s history. Bisera was one of the first Bosnian women to publish a romance novel in her early career. Today, her works are available in several languages, including English, French and German. Her other notable achievements include documenting the events of the Siege of Sarajevo.
Otto Lang (1908-2006) was born in Austro-Hungarian Bosnia, in modern-day Tesanj. He became a skilled skier and later moved to the United States and started a number of ski schools. After tutoring Hollywood stars, Otto found himself directing films between the 1930s and 1950s. Later in his life, he authored a few books, including his famous 1994 From the Alps of Austria to Hollywood, U.S.A and his 2000 Images from My Life’s Journey, documenting his life through a collection of photographs.
Aleksandar, a Bosnia American, found himself stranded in the United States when the Yugoslav Wars began tearing apart his country. Born in Sarajevo in 1964, the author learned English when he was living in the United States. Later, he started writing fiction and essays. Much of his fiction includes events that took place during the wars, and the struggle of dealing with them.
The young author met his untimely death by a shell in 1995, at the age of 24. Karim loved comic books and art and as a budding writer and journalist wanted to present Sarajevo to the world in a very different way to the global image of a war-torn country. The Secrets of Raspberry Jam, Karim’s most famous work, was written during the siege and describes the war without actually mentioning it.
Zlata’s Diary describes the Siege of Sarajevo from the perspective of a young girl. Born in 1980 in Sarajevo, Zlata was only 12 when war broke out, and she documented daily events as well as her thoughts, in the same style as Anne Frank. In 1993, with the help of the United Nations, Zlata and her mother moved to Paris. Zlata’s Diary is one of the most iconic books from Bosnia about the war, and a must-read to understand the times through the eyes of a child.
Born in Sarajevo in 1966, Miljenko has strong opinions, writes with bitter irony and doesn’t shy away from blunt observations and criticism. He writes novels, short stories and poetry, and while they are easy to read, they have complex overtones. One of his most famous is a 700-page novel released in 2003 titled Dvori od Oraha, and covers Bosnia from the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, through both World Wars and to the end of socialism.
Ailja Izetbegovic (1925-2003) is more famous for being the first President of an independent Bosnia (1992-1993) than for his writing. But this former political activist has written a few things that are worth reading, such as his most famous work, Islam Between East and West (1993). The book addresses various issues facing Muslims in Western civilisation, and has been an influential publication around the globe. Other books of his describe his time as a political prisoner in the late 1980s, including an autobiography.
Bosniak Safvet-beg (1870-1934) was born and raised in Sarajevo during the Austro-Hungarian era, and was a prominent poet and politician. In the late 19th century, national revivalist movements began, and Safvet’s early work played a significant role. Other achievements include his contributions to some of Bosnia’s first newspapers and magazines.
Abdulah, or Avdo, writes screenplays, dramas and poems. The screenplays and scripts were featured in several Yugoslavian and Bosnian films, such as When Father Was Away on Business (1985). Many of his later poems touch on various aspects of the Yugoslav Wars and the Siege of Sarajevo, which later became very symbolic in modern-day Bosnia.
Bosnia’s most famous author and Nobel Prize for Literature winner (1961) is Travnik-born Ivo Andric (1892-1975). Ivo’s Bridge on the Drina is a historical novel based on the Visegrad’s Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge, and covers four centuries of occupation under the Ottomans and Austro-Hungarians.
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