Daring to Remember


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  • Snow by Mile Stojić
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A poem by Bosnian poet Mile Stojić, translated by Irena Žlof


There was a city at the heart of the world
Its streets murmured with the music of a busy day
Its tree-lined paths whispered of lovers' sighs
Its mornings smelled of fresh newspapers and warm bread
Its ladies painted their pretty faces, combed their golden locks
demanding that every day be a testament to their beauty
Its poets pined for its ladies
(it's how it is in every city)
There was a city
caressed by the cold mountain wind from the surrounding hills
caressed by the silk of a girl's scarf
Its narrow squares sang with minarets and belfries
Its roads led to the future and to the world

There was a city at the end of the world
Its streets were overcast with dark clouds, thick smoke
Its trees were cut down to warm the frostbitten hands,
to cook the vapid soup
Its mornings smelled of gunpowder and gore
Its ladies painted their pretty faces, pulled out their dark hairs
To cover up the wrinkles and dark circles of insomnia and fear
There was a city
caressed with cannonades from the surrounding hills
Its narrow squares were soaked in a deadly silence
Its roads led to humiliation and to the other world

There was a city at the heart of the world
Whose temples begged of God
to send upon them the judgement day, the kiyamet
Its graveyards grew rampant, blundered about the sidewalks and street
For seven thousand days, for seven thousand years
The death sneered in a family photo
Embracing our loved ones. 

There was a city which got deserted
by gods and men alike, a black scarf covered its face
Its blond nymphs were thrown into the arms of Beelzebub
its young mistresses fed to a cyclops for dinner
There was a city deserted by wise men and poets
Leaving its defence only to the poor and
the wretched

There was a city at the end of the world
which burnt on your table like a flaming torch
but it could not melt the ice, nor warm the unfeeling hearts
No rain to wash away the ash and blood
No wind to blow away the smoke on the streets
tears on the face. No spring to
lure out the buds, the green in the trees, the summer
No hope or the elusive utopia

Only the winter strolls across the wounded sidewalks,
carved up streets. Once again innocence
glistens on the roofs, brought on
by the first snow.

Sarajevo, summer 2009


Mile Stojić © Mile Stojić
Mile Stojić from Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mile Stojić was born in1955 in Dragićina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and now lives in Sarajevo. He studied Southern Slavic Languages at the University of Sarajevo (1974-80). He was a lecturer at the University of Vienna (1993-2002) and worked as a journalist and publicist for various media in former Yugoslavia. He was also the editor in chief of the literary magazines Odjek (Resonance) and Lica (Faces) in Sarajevo. He is a poet and essayist who has published numerous works, the most recent of which are Cafe Nostalgija, essays (Zagreb 2008) and Među zavađenim narodima, poems (Zagreb 2009). Some of his works published German are: In Schmerz mit Wut, an anthology of Bosnian-Herzegoninian war literature (Vienna, 1996), Fenster, Worte. Ein bosnisches Alphabet, essays (Klagenfurt 1998) and Das ungarische Meer, poems, (Klagenfurt-Wien 2006). He is a member of the P.E.N. Club and of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Authors’ Union, and has received significant awards and prizes: Brankova nagrada, Goranova nagrada, Kočićevo pero, Godišnja nagrada Društva pisaca BiH, among others.


Translation by Klaus Detlef Olof
Klaus Detlef Olof, born in 1939 in Lübeck, now lives in Zagreb and Graz. He studied Slavic philology in Hamburg and Sarajevo. Since 1973, he has been teaching at the University of Klagenfurt, Austria, and focusing on Southern Slavic literature. He has been actively conveying and translating Southern Slavic literature in German-speaking countries for many years. He translates literature, primarily from Croatian and Slovenian, but also from Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian and Bulgarian into German, including works by Dževad Karahasan, Miljenko Jergović, Zoran Ferić and Igor Štiks, among others. In 1991, he was awarded the Austrian State Prize for Literary Translators for his extensive activities.