of the back cover text
by Kruno Lokotar
The opening of Nihad Hasanović's first novel Concerning the barbecue and sundry disruptions [O roštilju i raznim smetnjama] leads the reader towards the scene of a May Day barbecue on the banks of the River Una; a very unremarkable setting, masterfully described, that conveys the feel of what life is like at the threshold of your thirties. Nature is in full bloom, the meat tastes good, everyone is drinking, laughing – albeit occasionally to excess. Everything is how it should be and on the surface even the future looks good and the weather is set fine.
Gradually, however, the protagonists, foremost among them Šefik, Selver and Mirela, start to open up and become increasingly more aware of themselves and their deeper feelings thrown into confusion by war and post-war life; they discover fault-lines deep within the psyche that widen out into crevasses. Normality is an ideal they find difficult to engage with; a simple act of medical negligence and a death appear to waken demons already lurking within. It turns out that nothing is resolved, life is an ongoing, toxic process; so, for example, the privations that Selver experienced in the gloomy town of Mrkonjić-Grad during the war have become internalised; Šefik, after many false starts and wrong turnings, is attempting to deal with his pain by taking on a new identity and a new name; and Mirela suffers panic attacks.
The origins of the demonic influence that intrudes upon and comes gradually and imperceptibly to dominate the characters are to be found, above all, in an external political reality shaped by the intimacies of the bedroom and by the past. The only attempt to take concrete, collective, remedial - and apparently therapeutic - action that our heroes make, involving the conversion of the old Museum of the Antifascist People's Liberation Council of Yugoslavia into a modern Museum and Community Centre – an attempt to free themselves from the past and open up a window to the future - ends in ignominious failure.
So Hasanović's story is more than just a psychobiography of his characters, it's also a satirical depiction of the history of ordinary life as lived by individuals in Bosnia and similar places elsewhere – from Mrkonjić-Grad via Sarajevo, Zagreb and the Velebit mountains to a Norwegian village; it's a plunge into, or at least a firm gaze at, currents of intellectual and emotional experience at local and global level - an insight into life, love, war, sex, illness, obsession, repression …
This is not a book to be rushed through, more one to saunter through gently, barefoot, a book to be savoured by all those who prefer slow food to fast food.
Nihad Hasanović was born in Bihać (north-western Bosnia-Herzegovina) in 1974. His published works include the plays Podigni visoko baklju (Raise high your torch, 1996) and Zaista? (Really?, 2001), the collection of prose Kad su narodi nestali (When people disappear, 2003) and the novel O roštilju i raznim smetnjama (Concerning the barbecue and sundry disruptions, 2008.). He has also published his poetry, essays and translations (from the French, and occasionally English and Spanish) in various literary journals, both paper-based and on-line. He has translated Kenizé Mourad's novel Le jardin de Badalpour, Jean Baudrillard's L'esprit du terrorisme, and Émil Cioran's Les Cahiers de Talamanca. Nihad Hasanović lives and works in Sarajevo.