Posts Tagged ‘ Literature ’

Czesław Miłosz on Sarajevo

Living in Poland, it certainly  is hard to ignore Czesław Miłosz, the great Polish poet and prose writer of Lithuanian origin who won the Nobel Prize in 1980.  I took a class on Central European literature last semester with the leading scholar on Miłosz and attempted to analyze his methods of representation of the visual arts in poetry in an essay for the class.  Even though I spent a great deal of time looking through his volumes of poetry for the essay, I just noticed his poem on Sarajevo today.  The poem introduces the book The Black Book of Bosnia: The Consequences of Appeasement and it  was included in his volume New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001, which was published in 2001 only a few years before his death.  When this poem was printed on the front page of a Polish newspaper, it was criticized for being anachronistic.  Still, I think Miłosz passionately and beautifully expresses the international abandonment of Bosnia in his poem.  Miłosz understands from firsthand experience about countries that cease to exist.  In his poem about the siege of Sarajevo he warns that inactivity – here in the case of Western Europe – will be punished by fate.

Czeslaw Milosz


-Perhaps this is not a poem but at least I say what I feel.

Now that a revolution really is needed, those who were fervent are quite cool.

While a country murdered and raped calls for help from the Europe which it had trusted, they yawn.

While statesmen choose villainy and no voice is raised to call it by name.

The rebellion of the young who called for a new earth was a sham, and that generation has written the verdict on itself.

Listening with indifference to the cries of those who perish because they are after all just barbarians killing each other.

And the lives of the well-fed are worth more than the lives of the starving.

It is revealed now that their Europe since the beginning has been a deception, for its faith and its foundation is nothingness.

And nothingness, as the prophets keep saying, brings forth only nothingness, and they will be led once again like cattle to slaughter.

Let them tremble and at the last moment comprehend that the word Sarajevo will from now on mean the destruction of their sons and the debasement of their daughters.

They prepare it by repeating: “We at least are safe,” unaware that what will strike them ripens in themselves.


Balkan Bibliography

I am so thrilled that Kirk at Americans for Bosnia and Shaina at The Daily Seyahatname compiled  an annotated bibliography on Bosnia specifically and the former-Yugoslavia in general.  As I begin to research my MA degree, this is very helpful…thanks for your hard work!  The list can be found here and the following books are included so far:

My Favorite Presents.... Christmas 2009 🙂

A Problem From Hell:America in the Age of Genocide/Samantha Power
Aftermath: Bosnia’s Long Road to Peace/Sara Terry
Balkan Express/Slavenka Drakulic
The Balkans/Mark Mazower
The Balkans/Misha Glenny
Balkan Tragedy/Susan Woodward
Be Not Afraid, for You Have Sons in America/Stacey Sullivan
Black Book of Bosnia/Editors of “New Republic”
Blood and Vengeance/Chuck Sudetic
Bosnia: A Short History/Noel Malcolm
Bosnia: A Tradition Betrayed/Donia and Fine
Bosnia After Dayton/Sumantra Bose
The Bosnian Muslims: Denial of a Nation/Friedman
The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo/Clea Koff
The Bridge Betrayed/Michael Sells
Burn This House: The Making and Unmaking of Yugoslavia/ Udovicki and Ridgeway, ed.
Conceit of Innocence/Mestrovic
Complicity With Evil/Adam LeBor
Cry Bosnia/Paul Harris
The Culture of Politics in Serbia: Nationalism and the Destruction of Alternatives/Eric Gordy
The Destruction of Yugoslavia/Branka Magas
Divide and Fall/Radha Kumar
Endgame/David Rohde
The Fall of Yugoslavia/Misha Glenny
The Fixer/Joe Sacco
Fools Rush In/Bill Carter
From Enemy Territory/Mladen Vuksanovic
Genocide and Resistance in Hitler’s Bosnia: The Partisans and the Chetniks, 1941-1943/Marko Attila Hoare
Genocide in Bosnia/Norman Cigar
Hearts Grown Brutal/Roger Cohen
Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide/Branimir Anzulovic
The History of Bosnia: From the Middle Ages to the Present Day/Marko Attila Hoare
How Bosnia Armed/Marko Attila Hoare
Hunting the Tiger: The Fast Life and Violent Death of the Balkan’s Most Dangerous Man (Arkan)/Christopher S. Stewart
In Harm’s Way/Martin Bell
Indictment at the Hague/Norman Cigar, Paul Williams
The Key To My Neighbor’s House/Elizabeth Neuffer
Kosovo/Tim Judah
Kosovo/Noel Malcolm
Like Eating a Stone
Love Thy Neighbor/Peter Maass
Madness Visible/ Janine di Giovanni
Merry Christmas, Mr. Larry/Larry Hollingsworth
Milosevic: A Biography/Adam LeBor
My War Gone By, I Miss it So/Anthony Lloyd
The New Bosnian Mosaic/Bougarel, Helms, Duijzings
Not My Turn To Die/Heleta
A Paper House: The Ending of Yugoslavia/Mark Thompson
Postcards from the Grave/ Emir Suljagic -personal memoir, Srebrenica
Safe Area Gorazde/Joe Sacco
Sarajevo: A War Journal/Zlatko Dixdarevic
Sarajevo Blues/Semezdin Mehmedinovic
Sarajevo Daily/Tom Gjelten
Sarajevo: Exodus of a City
Seasons in Hell/ Ed Vulliamy
Serbia’s Secret War/Philip Cohen
The Serbs/Tim Judah
Slaughterhouse/David Reiff
Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime/ Jan Willem Honig and Norbert Both
The Suitcase: Refugee voices from Bosnia and Croatia/
The Stone Fields/Courtney Angela Broic
The Tenth Circle of Hell/Rezak Hukanovic
Then They Started Shooting/Dynne Jones
They Would Never Hurt a Fly/ Slavenka Drakulic
This Time We Knew/Cushman and Mestrovic
To End A War/Holbrooke
Under the UN Flag/Hasan Nuhanovic
War Hospital/Sheri Fink
The War in Bosnia-Herzegovina: ethnic conflict and international intervention/Burg and Shoup
War Hospital/Sheri Fink
This Was Not Our War: Bosnian women reclaiming the peace/Hunt
Wly Bosnia/Rabia Ali, ed.
When History is a Nightmare/Stevan Weine
A Witness to Genocide/Gutman
With their Backs to the World/Asne Seierstand
Yugoslavia’s Floody Collapse/Christopher Bennett
Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation/Silber and Little

Ordinary Days in Auschwitz

I fear this will not be my only post on Auschwitz.  Living in Krakow for five or six weeks now, I know that I am getting closer to my inevitable visit to the nearby extermination camp.  It is hard to walk through the center of the city without noticing many advertisements for tours of Auschwitz, although I doubt the Poles are particularly happy that so many visitors use the beautiful city of Krakow as a stepping stone to something they didn’t want in the first place.

People are used to hearing stories of heroism and victimization surrounding Auschwitz and the Holocaust.  Everyone knows about Anne Frank- after two years, her hiding spot was discovered and she was sent to Belsen where she died of typhus.  Most people have also seen Schindler’s List, which chronicles the story of Oskar Schindler who rescued around 1,200 jews by employing them in his enamel factory.  In fact, many tourists look for locations from the movie around Kazimierz (former Jewish neighborhood in Krakow pre-WWII) and Krakow.  There was also Maximilian Kolbe, a priest who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in Auschwitz.  He was canonized as patron saint of “Our Difficult Century” by Pope John Paul II in 1982 for his extraordinary heroic and selfless deed.  Also unique is the story of Witold Pilecki, the only known person to volunteer to go to Auschwitz.  Once a prisoner, he sent invaluable information to the West and organized resistance.auschgate

This list is in no way complete; there are countless heroes of the holocaust and Auschwitz.  In retrospect, people like to hear these stories of extraordinary people doing extraordinary deeds in the midst of the biggest disaster of the twentieth century.  It provides some hope that “good” really does conquer “evil.”   However, as I read the book This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman by Tadeusz Borowski, I see a completely new perspective.  After publishing in underground circles, Borowski walked into a trap and spent 1943-1945 in Auschwitz until the Red Army’s “liberation.”  His experiences are reflected in this book, which is in first person narrated by a fictional character named Tadek.  Sometimes he has the “privileged” job of helping to unload the new arrivals to the camp from their crowded trains, directing them onto trucks to extermination.  Afterwards, he and the other workers take their food from the abandoned suitcases on the tracks for means of survival.  Tadek also works with groups doing heavy labor around the camps, and discusses the hierarchy of prisoners.  He talks about daily life with an incredible amount of distance.  Every person discussed has the dual role of the executioner and a victim, as they try to make it through the day.  No one is innocent.  And when the work is done for the day, Tadek describes the camp as a “haven of peace.”  People are dying but one has enough food and the ability to work…

Of course, the impact of this book cannot be summed up into a few paragraphs and I digress.  However the stories are unique in many ways.  Often, we hear the Auschwitz perspective of the Jewish people and usually heroic tales of solidarity.  Instead, Borowski unabashedly recounts ordinary days in Auschwitz.  Although a collection of his personal experiences, the perspective of a narrator allows the stories to be those of many, instead of just Borowski’s.  These stories could be those of the ordinary days of many people, and Borowski identifies himself with millions in the writing of this book.

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