the elegance of the hedgehog

“i think that grammar is a way to attain beauty. when you speak, or read, or write, you can tell if you’ve said or read or written a fine sentence. you can recognize a well-turned phrase or an elegant style. but when you are applying the rules of grammar skillfully, you ascend to another level of the beauty of language. when you use grammar you peel back the layers, to see how it is all put together…”
— muriel barbery, the elegance of the hedgehog

50_theeleganceofthehedgehog

while the book “the elegance of the hedgehog” is not among my favorites, this particular quote is the one i found to be a reason to read this book. the plot of the book is quite simple, it’s focus is on two characters: renée michel, a 54-year old concierge who loves literature, philosophy and japanese art, and paloma josse, a twelve-year-old girl who lives in a building where renée works and who considers her family quite phony. renée and paloma develop quite unusual friendship which influences the lives of both of them.

the book is known to deal with several important topics of today, such as class consciousness and conflict, but it gives enough space for diverse discussions on philosophy and literature.. and, as mentioned previously, languages.

i’ve given a lot of thought about the introductory quote of this post. before reading this book, i never realized how much i paid attention to grammar, both when speaking my mother tongue and when learning foreign languages. i used to say that grammar is like a math -> you can analyze the grammar rules in the same way you perform addition, subtraction, etc. i used to love languages whose rules are quite clear, and where you don’t find many exceptions. but, once i encountered the language where the rules weren’t as straight forward, i managed to find the beauty even in the exceptions and irregularities (after a long battle, of course!). this book helped me understand that there is the beauty in every language, we only need to understand where it lied.

other than that, this book is special to me for one more reason. when i finished reading it, i posted this quote on my facebook wall. but i also wrote a comment that the book was very well written, too bad that the translation in bosnian was not as good as it could be and that maybe reading it in english or italian would make me like it even more (the book is originally in french, but unfortunately, i don’t speak it). couple of months later, my friend alma sent me her copy of the book in english, all the way from new york! i couldn’t believe she remembered that.

so, yes. this book is important to me for making me enjoy studying foreign languages and understanding there is certain kind of beauty in every language; while some languages have lovely melody, others may have “to-the-point” expressions or clear grammar rules. but also, it reminds me of alma and her amazing gesture.

hence, i chose this book to be my fiftieth post on “on the importance of small things”, as well as to celebrate my 2 year anniversary on wordpress.com!

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taste of middle east

last weekend i got to see one of my high school friends who currently lives in qatar. i haven’t seen lejla since 2001. (well, i did see her once in 2010. – just for a second, but you don’t count that – given that we barely exchanged few words) and i was delighted when i received her message she’s coming to milan on business.

as we were planning our little date, i was wondering what she would be like. we were not actually the best friends in high school, so i wondered how it would go.

our date lasted for 5 hours, we talked about highlights of the last 13 years: our lives abroad, studies, job, marriages, and of course how do we feel about our homeland and life we had there. we had a great time.

before coming to milan, she asked me also if i had special wish from qatar. since i’m not an expert on the area and i’m not fan of souvenirs (after years of travelling, i’ve accumulated quite an amount of them), i told her she might bring me some spices or something of that sort.

oh, she brought a bunch of spices (and went to the souk especially for that!), and i have to admit that out of a zillion i’ve heard of only one! from that day on my house has the fragrance of a middle eastern souk. apart from spices i also got some delicious dates, regular & chocolate ones. unlike spices, i am not sure how long they will last, and therefore i’m attaching a photo (so that i would at least remember them).

31_dates

however, the aftertaste was the best part of our date. it was truly great to talk to someone who has similar background, goals and who faced similar kind of problems while pursuing those goals. and even though we haven’t seen each other for so long, it felt so natural. i admire lejla’s determination and persistence, i enjoyed listening to her stories and i love her attitude towards life. i also figured how much we have in common (which i didn’t know all along). i feel truly blessed to have a friend like her and to be able to give a sneak peak at that corner of the world.

my borneo pearls

“borneo pearls” is malaysian brand of jewelry, which encapsulates the island of borneo, its people, culture and diversities.

borneo is an island in southeast asia and home to 18.5 million people, different in their races, nationalities, religions and customs. this diversity has resulted in expression of feelings and emotions through its hand assembled jewelry pieces.

i’ve got these simple black pearl earrings when i was about to leave malaysia, in november 2007. it was a gift to myself – for my 23rd birthday and to celebrate my last exam in uni (i went out straight after the exam ended).

black pearls1a

they are my favorite pair of earrings. i wanted to put a couple of photos of me wearing them, and as i went through my photos i’ve realized that i’m wearing them in half the pictures! and since they’re small & simple, they go well with everything.

black pearls2a

given that i’ve lost half of the earrings i own, it is a miracle they survived; i moved five times since 2007. and i’ve survived burglary about a year ago. well, i guess they’re survivors.. they are my tiny bit of malaysia which i keep with me wherever i go.

ps. for more info on borneo pearls visit http://www.borneopearl.com/

a gift from my dad – mechanical handbook!

last summer i got one of the best gifts of my life.
meet “strojarski prirucnik” by bojan kraut, so-called “bible for mechanical engineers”.

handbook 2a

this handbook – pocket edition, was property of my father, also a mechanical engineer. it was given to him when he first started to work, as a gift. his company was proud to have a young engineer, and they wanted to welcome him appropriately. in my time and at my first job, this was not the case, but i was lucky enough to get it anyway.

handbook 1

my dad and i are the only mechanical engineers in our family and i feel so proud to own something my dad used on a daily basis cca 30 years ago. and it was so adorable to find some of his scribbles in the book!

handbook 1a

museum collection of bosnian yewelry

my homeland is told to be a point where east meets west and where these influences blend in the most beautiful way.

bosnia has been on the crossroads of empires ever since its foundation. roman empire was divided into western empire and eastern – byzantine empire with bosnia as it’s division point. later, bosnia was the westernmost point of ottoman empire, as well as the eastern region of the austro-hungarian empire.

however, the most prosperous period of bosnian history is the middle ages. bosnia was first mentioned as an independent state in 12th century, with its first ruler ban borić. ban was a title usred in that period, meaning “lord, master, ruler”. the second ban, ban kulin, is the most famous and controversial one, since its rule marked the start of a controversy with the bosnian church. bosnian church, or crkva bosanska, is indigenous branch of bogomils, considered as heretical by both roman catholic and eastern orthodox churches. from the 13th century bosnia was ruled by kotromanic dynasty.

middle ages is a birth time of most of the bosnian symbols: bosanski ljiljan – endemic lilies, stećci – tombstones, bosančica – medieval alphabet belonging to bosnian church. and with this i will open a new section in this blog – bosnian beauty – where i will try to present my homeland, its history, heritage, customs and natural beauty.

the first bosnian beauty i’m going to write about is the ancient and medieval bosnian jewelry. right now it is kept in the national museum in sarajevo. however, recently there was a campaign led by local jeweler sead sofić and the national museum to create replica of some of ancient and medieval jewelry. the result is this beautiful museum collection of jewelrey. all the items in the museum collection of jewelry are crafted very carefully, made of the same materials as the originals found in the various location all over bosnia. among the pieces there are rings and fibulae from the iron age, bracelets and earrings for the middle ages, as well as the pieces from the ottoman period.

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as of november 2nd last year i’m a proud owner of one of the pieces from this collection. this beautiful bronze fibula, replica of prehistoric one, is a birthday present from my in-laws.

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ps. for more info visit the yeweler’s website: http://www.zlatarsofic.com, as well as his facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sofi%C4%87-S/129969217059591

leggere lolita a teheran / reading lolita in tehran

last night i finished a book i was reading for last couple of months. as i said, i’m a slow reader. it doesn’t mean i didn’t like it, in my view it required time. after every couple of chapters i would stop to think for a while, since i could relate to what was going on in the book.

lolita

reading lolita in tehran is written by azar nafisi, iranian writer and university professor. my copy was in italian, since it was a birthday gift from my friend sonja. it’s a memoir book, nafisi writes about her life in iran, starting with forming a book club with several of her best female students, reflects on islamic revolution, remembers 8 year-long war between iraq and iran, and ends the book with her decision to leave her motherland.

the quotes i’ve chosen are related to three topics which got me thinking. those are the war, the inner world which we can create within ourselves and nostalgia for one’s motherland.

war

“la guerra finì com’era cominciata, all’improvviso e in silenzio. almeno questo fu la nostra impressione. le sue conseguenze, però, ce le saremmo portate dietro a lungo, forse per sempre.”

“the war ended the way it had started, suddenly and quietly. at least that is how it seemed to us. the effects of the war would stay with us for a long time, perhaps forever.”

this is exactly how i feel about bosnian war and its consequences. even though it didn’t affect my family as much, our lives changed completely. my motherland is not what it used to be before the war.

inner world

“ho detto che ci incontravamo nel mio soggiorno per proteggerci dalla realtà esterna. ho anche detto che quella realtà continuava a pretendere la nostra attenzione, come un bambino viziato che non vuole concedere ai poveri genitori nemmeno un attimo di tregua. influenzava i nostri momenti di intimità, ne cambiava le forme, ci precipitava in un’improvvisa e inaspettata complicità. arrivavamo a conoscerci a fondo in tanti modi diversi. non soltanto le attività più ordinarie acquistavano una luce tutta nuova, per via di quel nostro segreto; era la stessa vita quotidiana, nella sua interezza, che a volte finiva per assomigliare alla finzione.”

“i have said that we were in that room to protect ourselves from the reality outside. i have also said that this reality imposed itself on us, like a petulant child who would not give his frustrated parents a moment to themselves. it created and shaped our intimacies, throwing us into unexpected complicity. Our relations became personal in many different ways. not only did the most ordinary activities gain a new luminosity in the light of our secret, but everyday life sometimes took on the quality of make-believe or fiction.”

i was often told i live in my own little world, ever since i was little. until reading this book i would often think that maybe i was too much introvert, overly closed to outer world and i that should open up a bit. now i know i need my own space (just like everyone else) in order to understand reality and to carry on with my dreams and goals.

nostalgia

“ho lasciato l’iran, ma l’iran non ha lasciato me.”
“i left iran, but iran did not leave me.”

oh i could so relate to this. i believe all of us who left our home felt at least once this way.
nafisi managed to capture what i haven’t been able to do ever since i decided to leave bosnia.

i left bosnia, but bosnia did not leave me.
napustila sam bosnu, ali bosna mene nije napustila.

1984

i attempted to read 1984, by george orwell, at least three times before i actually managed to finish it. maybe it was because i had quite busy schedule (it was my last semester in the university), maybe the copy i had borrowed from the library was too old, or maybe this reaction was due to the orwell’s writing style. well, it’s not important, once i got passed the first 50 pages, and actually managed to finish it, i absolutely loved it. it became one of my favorite books.

it was published in 1949 and i think it is getting more and more haunting, since we can witness how its prediction are coming true. the brilliance of this novel is author’s prescience of modern life — the omnipresence of television and media in general, the distortion of the language and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell.

quotes i underlined and copied were but a few, however, i will write here only those i find truly inspiring and those which make me think about my future life and future of the world.

“who controls the past, controls the future; who controls present, controls the past. and yet, the past though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. whatever was true now, was true from everlasting to everlasting. it was quite simple. all that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.”

“it was like swimming against a current that swept you backwards however hard you struggled, and then suddenly deciding to turn round and go with the current instead of opposing it. nothing had changed except your own attitude.”

“the best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.”

and finally,

“war is peace. freedom is slavery. ignorance is strength.”– party slogan

a couple of years ago i got a perfect present from my mum. a keychain with 1984 written on it. it is actually a product of marc jacobs company, and 1984 denoted the year of label marc jacobs, hence – since 1984.

1984

it was a birthday present and it doesn’t remind me of george orwell’s novel only. i’m also since 1984.