A tender and revealing set of stories by the uniquely delicate Bosnian writer, Alma Lazarevska. Avoiding the easy traps of politics and blame, she reveals a world. I just finished my first Istros book – Death in the Museum of Modern Art () by Bosnian writer Alma Lazarevska (information about her is. “Often regarded as one of the pioneers of women’s war writing in Bosnia- Herzegovina, Lazarevska represents an alternative to the heroic war discourse.

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I was fascinated by her crisp, amiable prose that reaches deep and far from the once-besieged city. Alma Lazarevska is a Bosnian-Herzegovinian columnist, essayist, and prose writer. She lives in Sarajevo, where she studied comparative literature and theatre studies at the Faculty of Philosophy. Perhaps reading and writing are, to use physics terminology, a system of communicating vessels that starts functioning for some, and not others.

That is, an intensive lazarevaka carries within herself a need, even if latent, to write. I have been a reader ever since I have known myself. I wrote and published my first short story following the completion of my studies in comparative literature.

It was as if I wanted to lama an organic connection with the world, which was my personal and professional choice. It was as if I wanted to prove to myself: After that I abstained from fiction until the time when I would share with my city perhaps the most difficult days of its history. The lazagevska of Sarajevo.

In the meantime I wrote essays and the columns intensively. I read and read and read. Besides having survived the siege of Sarajevo—unlike almost 11, of my fellow citizens—I became a prose writer. I cannot really explain why. During the siege, not only were there no computers, but there was not even enough paper for a standard typewriter. In an archive of sorts I kept copies of my older texts.

So, during the siege I wrote my short stories on the typewriter on the back of my old columns. Perhaps this is not a mere technicality. When I reread some of my old columns today I realize that, with a few interventions, they could be turned into short stories. I wrote my columns at the times when editorial guidelines were rigid.

Tender Tales from the Siege of Sarajevo: “Death in the Museum of Modern Art” by Alma Lazarevska

You had to be linguistically and otherwise resourceful and imaginative to say some things so that the editor does not reject your text. A writer who is faced with some kind of censorship, even though it sounds paradoxical, has an advantage. Once you are in the realm of double meanings and metaphors, you are in the realm of literature. A writer is not born like Aphrodite from the sea foam or Athena from the head of Zeus. A writer carries in her baggage, even if she does not realize it, her readings.


I would not talk about literary influences. That is what critics do with varied degrees of success. I can talk about the authors almq the books that I love. There are no temporal limits. I love the beautiful minimalism and zaum of that story. The short laazarevska of Bruno Schulz and Kafka’s Diaries are always at my fingertips. I’m reciting at random. And I could go on like this indefinitely.

I’m not talking about influences, but lwzarevska. There zlma writers and books that are permanent fixtures and there are those that I occasionally discover and neglect. After my studies I stopped reading Tolstoy. I thought, Tolstoy is a classic: I read and followed through on him during my studies and that was enough.

Death in the Museum of Modern Art by Alma Lazarevska

Today I’m rereading Tolstoy. Laarevska consider The Death of Ivan Ilych one of the best stories that have something to tell me about death.

To a writer language is a medium. Lazarevka a biographical note for my English-language publisher I pointed out that I was born on the 9th of March, the same day as Bobby Fischer.

Alma Lazarevska

Alma Lazarevska Your texts abound with literary references, books as material objects, remarks about your published work.

Books are part of my universe. I always notice people with books. I cannot pass by someone who is reading without taking notice and satisfying my curiosity: Those who love talking about the siege of Sarajevo always point out that, due to a lack of heating materials, Sarajevans used up books. I experienced similar troubles during the siege, but I did not use books to that purpose. One of my favorite childhood scents is that of the first library to which I was taken.

Also, I used to love, or rather find myself, watching films. Even today I would say that I admire the Coen brothers’ films, every single one.

And I would not mind if someone told me that theirs were the only films I could watch. I am no longer curious in that sense. I no lazarevs,a have interest in film as a medium.

I love Borges’ explanation that he imagines paradise if it exists as a big library. That question also guides my own reading interests. Where does our journey end? My choice of first-person narration is not a function of testimonial mode of writing.

Even a certain degree of manipulation without which narration would not exist. Besides, I wrote several short stories in which the first-person narrator was a man. There are some wonderful short stories that were written by men and told by female first-person narrators. Coetzee’s Age of Iron comes to mind. I have never read of anyone attributing me narratorial narcissism. On the contrary, I always come across comments about self-irony. I do not hunt for sensational plots, bizarreness or subject matter.


The flight of a bird could be a coded message. So could the arrangement of breadcrumbs on a table after breakfast. A writer is not someone who recites what she sees and what she notices. In that which she sees, aalma writer discovers a connection, reciprocity, spark, metaphysical union, etc.

I often sense in a particular detail the key of a story. It happens, of course, that I do not find the door that fits that key.

But it is worth trying. I love being haunted by a detail, carrying it within me as some kind of positive contagion. I do not believe in writing that results from a rational decision to write on a particular topic.

Your short lwzarevska are also rich in visual imagery, from colors, photography, ekphrasis through spatial relations and compositions. I have always loved photography.

I appreciate it even more having discovered the importance of a record lazarevsk the writing process. Over the last few years I have always been carrying a small camera with me, though not as a tourist.

I take a photo and that helps me with the recall. I especially cherish the photos on which I notice what Roland Barthes aptly calls the punctum. My relationship with my camera completely amateurish! Lazaevska learned how to photograph them.

Lazarevska Alma Archives | Eurozine

I am quite a connoisseur of butterflies. It is not only because of butterflies that I love Nabokov. But, honestly, I cannot understand that he killed butterflies. To hunt butterflies is to kill them. I try to understand, but I cannot. And I like that there is something on which I disagree with my favorite author.

We don’t have to love everything about our favorite author. And he is my favorite. I truly love his book Speak, Memory.

It is the acme of the memoir literature. Then again, I dislike all idolatry, even where Laazarevska is concerned. To return to butterflies, I photograph them and almost have some sort of mystical experiences with them.

I will try to give those shape in my fiction. I respect any attentive reading. One of my favorite lines that someone wrote about my book is: And that it makes no difference.