Sarajevo is one of the most historically interesting cities in Europe. It is the place where the Western & Eastern Roman Empire split; where the people of the Roman Catholic west, Eastern Orthodox east and the Ottoman south, met, lived and warred. It has been both an example of historical turbulence and the clash of civilizations, as well as a beacon of hope for peace and tolerance through multi-cultural integration. Today the city has physically recovered from most of the war damage caused by the Yugoslav Wars of 1992-1995. Sarajevo is a cosmopolitan European capital with a unique Eastern twist that is a delight to visit.
The literary tradition in Bosnia and Herzegovina is relatively long, but a continuous and rich literary scene is discernible only in the past century or so. An especially interesting era is the Yugoslav period following World War Two in which the works of the Nobel Laureate Ivo Andrić, as well as Meša Selimović, Mak Dizdar, Nedžadi Ibrišimović, among others, were written.
The Sarajevo literary scene underwent tumultuous changes during the 1990s: the war and siege of Sarajevo (1992 – 1995) became a central theme or motif in novels, story and poetry collections. There were also new literary names and new works published by previously known authors (Marko Vešović, Abdulah Sidran, Nenad Veličković, Ferida Duraković, Alma Lazarevska, Miljenko Jergović, Jozefina Dautbegović, Bisera Alikadić, etc.). The literature of that time is often characterised by bittersweet humour and the use of strange everyday life and the unusual reality of war as particularly fruitful literary structures. A few, like Aleksandar Hemon and Dževad Karahasan, have achieved considerable international renown.
The years since the war have been marked with an exciting period of literary production. Unfortunately, the negative situation in publishing seriously discourages contemporary authors. Only small editions are published, sales are meagre and cultural institutions are often in crisis. Still, a number of literary magazines and events manage to maintain the vibrancy of the literary scene – including Odjek, Sarajevo Notebooks and Sarajevo Days of Poetry.
'I like to use the languages of the various arts – literature, music, theatre...I think that is the spirit of the modern global era.'- poet Ivan Hristov spoke to SJ Fowler of 3AM magazine about the evolution of the contemporary Bulgarian poetry scene.
Cosmin Borza discusses the work of Romania's 'Generation 2000' poets, including Radu Vancu and Claudiu Komartin in an essay at Asymptote.
At the Sofia Poetics festival, which was organised by Word Express participant Ivan Hristov, Scottish based poet Ryan Van Winkle caught up with fellow festival guests SJ Fowler and Tomasz Rózycki. To hear Fowler and Rózycki discussing their work and reading some of their poetry, listen to the Scottish Poetry Library podcast here.