Faruk Šehić is born in 1970 in Bihać, in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Until the outbreak of war in 1992, he studied veterinary medicine in Zagreb. However, the then 22-year-old joined the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which he led a unit of 130 men. After the war, he studied literature and has gone on to create his own literary works.
His second book ‘Hit depot’ (2003) was the absolutely literary bestseller in Bosnia despite that was a poetry book. In this book, he made sketches of several main topics of his later works such as post-war life on the edge of society. His poems are about local (and global) feeling of capitalistic way of life mixed with desperate postwar life in ruins, remains of dead society in Sarajevo and Bosnia.
Literary critics have hailed Šehić as the leader of the ‘mangled generation’ of writers born in 1970s Yugoslavia, and his books have achieved cult status with readers across the whole region. His collection of short stories ‘Under Pressure’ (Pod pritiskom, 2004) was awarded the Zoro Verlag Prize. His debut novel ‘Quiet Flows the Una’ (Knjiga o Uni, 2011) received the Meša Selimović prize for the best novel published in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia in 2011 and the EU Prize for Literature in 2013. His most recent book is a collection of poetry entitled ‘My Rivers’ (Moje rijeke, Buybook, 2014) for whom he received Risto Ratković Award for the best poetry book in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Croatia in 2014, and the Annual award from Association of Writers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. His books are translated into French, German, English, Bulgarian, Spanish, Dutch, Macedonian, polish, Slovenian, Italian and Hungarian language. Šehić lives in Sarajevo and works as a columnist and journalist in respected political magazine ‘BH Dani’.
Your literary work includes both poetry and novels on postwar life. How are your books illustrating the impact of the conflictual past on societies? Which techniques have been used in your démarche?
Yes, that is true, I wrote also short stories, and work in the political magazine as a columnist and journalist. Sometimes my intention was to represent the horrors of war, mass destruction, death and everything that we can include word War. Each book is just one episode of my experiences and my imagination. Very often I just mixed up fiction and my biography, sometimes it’s hard for me to see the border between fiction and nonfiction. The impact is huge and he is still present in our lives. We, I mean ordinary people, after the war strongly believed that we will be able to reconstruct our pre-war lives. We have hope and strength to fight, to struggle with demons of the past, living on a literally ruins. My city, Bosanska Krupa, was one of the most destroyed among Bosnian cities. The city centre was turned into rubble and garbage.
I use many techniques, it depends on what kind of form I choose for my book.
Could we consider the way your opera reflects the war experience as a mélange between catharsis and mimesis?
Of course, mimesis is present in my early works; poems and short stories, in the novel I try to show (expose) catharsis because many people after the war are just lost and lose the faith in the opportunity of a new life. Very often in this region, we start our lives for several times, and that’s hard life after all. In one my book of short stories, Under Pressure, I describe my war experiences and the experiences are my fellow comrades. Without too much fiction, because you don’t need fiction with when you have all that war content inside your memory.
According to your statements, the ex-Yugoslav space faced a “feeling of capitalistic way of life mixed with desperate postwar life in ruins”. To which extent is this struggle between past and present impacting the post-conflict reconstruction?
Our main goal must be dealing with the past, only we have a problem with that because state government do not have any kind of strategy for the reconciliation. That job depends on NGO’s and the activists of civil society. When we heal our inner wounds we can go further in future, but nowadays it’s sci-fi more than real life. Our way of capitalism is kind of wild, savage capitalism. People don’t believe in elected politicians because everyone wants to be politicians only as a way to earn money for short time period. Nobody wants to be a worker, everybody wants to be a millionaire over the one night.
Is the “dead society” from Bosnia and Serbia still present nowadays? Has the transition been influenced by the ghost of the past?
Yes, we live in “dead society”, for exemplar you have ghosts village in Serbia without young people at all, in Bosnia 100.000 flee to Germany and Western Europe, not only because they are poor or without a job, mostly because of life in constantly treating of a new war. Nobody wants to live in a country in which war can start in few seconds; last year referendum in the Republic of Srpska showed the fragility of our society. War never ended, the war was just frozen in the military base in Dayton.
Has the past reminisce dismantled the societal and state reconstruction in the Western Balkans?
Most of the countries in Western Balkan still pretend like they are living in WWII. It seems that WWII is never ending the story, but that is the case in all states from the ex-Warsaw Pact. Rewriting history is the most sport for politicians in our region. They truly believe that you can rewrite history with writing new books based on your free imagination.
To which extent do you perceive Todorova`s Balkanisation as a concept still describing the interstate and intrastate order from the South-Eastern Europe?
We will deserve our designation, nickname like Balkanisation. But when I was in South Africa one historian mentioned Balkanisation, and few of us was really nervous, nobody reacts, but we were not happy to see our self in the mirror, better said: the broken mirror that represents ugliness and evil. When one from West Europe uses word Balkanisation I can be angry because I know very well the history of West Europe. We did not invent Balkanisation, it exists before us. Look at the medieval Europe that was the Kingdom of Balkanisation.
Besides political fragmentation, the ethnic-based discontents help the nationalistic agenda to gain legitimacy, thus alimenting the political campaigns of autocrats. Do you consider this determination relation as a rising odd for the Balkan democracy?
I must totally agree with you. We never live in a real democracy. I think that South Slavic nations do not know what to do with democracy after 1989 and fall of Berlin Wall. Somebody said that Berlin Wall crashed down on our back. We were a great country only when we were in Tito’s Jugoslavija; after bloody wars, this little bananas state is the imitation of states. I can’t say that Bosnia is a real state, we are provisorum, like Serbia is, or Macedonia, this country can’t live without IMF and credits from World Bank.
Could we consider the revival of rising nationalism as an irrefutable evidence of peacekeeping failure? Is this climate proving some gaps in terms of international development?
I think that the world is collapsed after 11. 09. 2001. Then we have the Great Economical Crisis in 2008. Nationalism, neo-fascism, famous alt-right rising everywhere on the planet. This late capitalism is something like an invisible enemy, resistance is futile like in Star Trek. Soon Darwin’s Origin of Species will be recognized as fraud and fiction, and religion will be back in the rule. I see hope only in strong civil movement and left wing organizations. We don’t have another option except for human rights, tolerance, and struggle for peace.
What is your opinion on the freedom of speech in the South-Eastern Europe? Are there any threats to independent media?
There are threats on a daily basis. Especially because there is no privacy in the era of social networking. If you are a journalist, free writer you must be able to take the risk, to live under pressure in this kind of banana states.
How do you the media parity in the Western Balkans related to the state-owned and private-own agencies?
Who knows in the future every person can have its own media regarding social media, and other cyber platforms. We are overwhelmed with news, and you must choose what is not fake news and propaganda. Average newspaper readers are in control by mass-media. The final battle on Earth will be for common sense.