the book of my lives / my new life

several months ago i read a book which stuck with me until now, and one i think i would be remembering (& referencing) for a long time.. i waited for the right moment to write about this book on my blog, as part of my little book club. it is aleksandar hemon’s memoir “the book of my lives”. critics praised hemon’s writing style, often comparing him to vladimir nabokov, both for their style and the fact that they both started writing in a foreign language rather late in their lives.

since i am no book critic, i will not focus on such particularities; i liked hemon’s work for other reasons. in this post i will focus on three of them and, finally, reflect further on the last one.

book_of_my_lives cover

i liked what he wrote about sarajevo, bosnia & the way people used to be before the war started. he describes sarajevo as “the world capital of gossip”, says that people of sarajevo “hated pretentiousness; it was a form of self-hatred” and later confirms what we all know.. that “there’s no word for “privacy” in bosnian”.

aleksandar hemon managed to describe the outbreak of the war as well, even to us – bosnians. as i wrote several times already, i was only seven years old when the war started and i didn’t manage to comprehend the cause of the war and what would be its outcome. years after the war had ended i understood that nobody could tell as much. as hemon wrote “i have spent time trying to comprehend how everything i had known and loved came violently apart..”. as a person who found himself abroad at the beginning of the war, he was maybe in a better position to see where we were going and where the war would lead us:  “if my mind and my city were the same thing then i was losing my mind.” finally, he wrote: “it was all over. the world had arrived and now we were all waiting to see who would live, who would kill, and who would die”. the outbreak of the war in bosnia was a defining moment in hemon’s life. just like many bosnians, he had to start a new episode: “on may 1, I didn’t fly home. on may 2, the roads out of the city were blocked; the last train (with my parents on it) departed; the longest siege in modern history began. in chicago, i submitted my application for political asylum. the rest is the rest of my life.”

my favorite part of the book was hemon’s return to sarajevo for the first time after the war had ended. or even better, his return to chicago afterwards. he wrote something which defines my feelings towards home: “when i came back from my first visit to sarajevo, in the spring of 1997, the chicago i came back to belonged to me. returning from home, i returned home.”

on 20th april i began my new life.

after seven years living in milan, i moved to vienna. meaning: a new city, a new language and a new life.

i had moved a few times already, for the first time when i was fifteen – i left the town i grew up in and moved to sarajevo. four years later, after i had finished high-school, i went to malaysia where i stayed for another four years. even though moving to malaysia might seem like more of a change, i would say that leaving home when i was fifteen was a defining moment in my life. it meant the change of lifestyle. it meant that i would no longer live with my parents, that i would have more freedom, but it also meant that i would be on my own. after graduation, i moved again. this time closer to home, to italy. unlike with the previous episodes, i didn’t have any idea how long the new episode would last, since it did not involve school or uni. as it turned out, it was the longest one – i had been living in italy for seven years before i decided it was time for me to move on.

so, here i am. at the beginning of a new life. i have to say that all my lives taught me what i had to learn, and all of them were very interesting, exciting and sometimes exhausting. each of my lives brought me a new hometown, a new language and many interesting people to meet.

however, my new life will be slightly different from my previous ones. i will have support – my husband, the reason i am here.

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dragons rush in

“tell me, how does the world see us? as savages?” asked darko.
“no,” i said, “i actually think the problem is that the world doesn’t see you at all”.
— bill carter, “fools rush in”

sarajevo, 1993. bill carter, a young american, decides to come to bosnia and herzegovina to join a small group of volunteers who are trying to help people who UN cannot reach. while living in sarajevo, he managed to get in touch with locals and got to know what was hiding behind those tired and pale faces. always wanting to help more, he finally managed to draw the world’s attention to this corner of the world by getting in touch with one of the greatest rock bands ever – U2. the outcome were his documentary and a U2 song “miss sarajevo”, as well as his book “fools rush in”, which i’m currently reading.

i’m still not finished with it; after reading something similar to i’ve written above, it gets quite difficult to continue. even though i was a child during the war, and i wasn’t able to comprehend everything, all those feelings came back, rushing.. how scared we were.. how helpless we felt.. but how hopeful we were, in a vain hope that someone will hear us and come help us.

oh, and the other thing which really got to me – how the foreigners found bosnia and herzegovina so beautiful.. her high mountains, green rivers and lovely little towns. and i could only think of all those places back home and felt extremely nostalgic.

bosnia_1

twenty years later, football team of bosnia and herzegovina (widely known as “dragons”) managed to qualify for the world cup in brasil, after being eliminated in the play-offs four years earlier.

tonight we will have our first match in the world cup in history, and we will fight argentina. as much as i am proud to see our boys together with one of the greatest teams of this year’s tournament, i have to admit i am really really nervous!

what i find amazing is the fact that major part of these football players have double-citizenship, given that most of them grew up elsewhere due to the war, but still they chose to play for our bosnia and herzegovina.

one thing is sure though, tonight the world will finally see us for who we really are.

dragons_2

so, go dragons (of bosnia)! make us proud!
and please keep in mind that no matter what happens tonight, you are the reason we feel proud to be bosnians!

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.

an old photo

this is a photo of my sister and me, taken in gradac, croatia, in summer 1991.
it remains until today one of my favorite photos because it shows the two of us in our true colors. all dressed-up (with hats!) and so lovey-dovey. yes, we’re still like that.

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but that’s not all what this photo is about. as i’ve previously written, it was taken in summer 1991, during the summer holiday at the seaside. that holiday is the one i remember very vividly. soon after a 4-year long war started in my motherland and our life completely changed. we used to revive those moments many many times over, since they were the only things we had.

then, the photo was taken with a very old analog camera. it was my dad’s camera, but he wasn’t its first owner either. it was a present from his uncle and even though it was from the 70ties, pics taken with that camera were of such good quality. and since the camera was one of very few things left from him, it was one of dad’s favorite gadgets.

also, one might notice that the photo has that “yellowish” shade. no, the camera was not that old. the film was left in the camera for 4 years or so, since (again due to the war) we couldn’t find the place where it could be developed. i still remember the day we got all the photos left in the camera. when i saw this photo for the first time i was already 11 years old (in the picture, i was 7), and it felt so strange to see how i used to be and how much i’ve changed.

and last but not least, this pic is a true reminder of the lasting sister love.. and that’s what makes it even more special.