Although he never met the Palestinian-American Edward Said, Bosnian poet Sasha Skenderija shares Said's experience of exile and loss of home due to the redrawing of ethnic and religious boundaries in the country of his birth. For both of these exiles, literature became true home, and a final place of freedom and discovery. Like Said, who was born in the British Mandate of Palestine, now part of Israel, Skenderija comes from a country that no longer exists - Yugoslavia.
The poetry of Skenderija shares many themes with the works of the new generation of Bosnian writers, all living in North America (Aleksandar Hemon, Semezdin Mehmedinović, and Goran Simić): survival of the individual and the community through daily experiences of death and destruction in the besieged city; struggle to maintain human bonds and intimacies amidst the brutality, violence and loss of life; burdens and discoveries of survival, and the feeling of disconnectedness in a life lived in exile; displacement, memory and glimpses of a different, fractured and perhaps newly constituted self; echoes of a new identity in a new, unfamiliar place of being, and - perhaps even more importantly for a poet - in a new language (or in Sasha Skenderija's case, in new languages: Czech and English).
Most of the translations in this volume are the result of a fifteen-year long collaboration between
Wayles Browne, professor of Slavic linguistics at Cornell University, and Sasha Skenderija.
The poems gathered here range from those Skenderija composed in Sarajevo and Prague in the early and mid-1990s,
to the works from his Ithaca period (from 1999 to the present day). The collection replicates the content and the ordering, as well as
the title, of Skenderija's volume of selected poems in Bosnian,
Zašto je patuljak morao biti ustrijeljen (Tešanj, Bosnia:
Centar za kulturu i obrazovanje, 2005). The translations, remarkably attentive both to the sound and the imagery of the original,
make some of the best contemporary Bosnian poetry of the adoptive Ithacan Sasha Skenderija available to readers of English everywhere.
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