Hamam Balkania : a novel and other stories

Vladislav Bajac

Geopoetika Beograd, 2009.

20 cm, 362 str.

meki povez, latinica

ISBN: 9788676661923

To say that Hamam Balkania is a historical novel, is to reveal only one piece of a puzzle, the one which fits in the sky part of a large sea landscape. It is extremely important, that is true, but the way Vladislav Bajac performs his little literary alchemy trick by turning a grand, totalizing narrative into something personal, and thus giving it credibility, zest and liveliness, is truly amazing. The Ottoman empire and its subjects in Southeastern Europe, East and West, Sokollu Mehmed Pasha and Koca Mimar Sinan, destruction and creation, are the crucial elements of this meticulously organized story. One of the two lines of the story starts with an unprecedent human drama of young men born and raised in one faith and nation who are forcefully taken to serve in the other; the line of the plot that takes place in the contemporary world, with Orhan Pamuk, Allen Ginsberg and Juan Octavio Prenz among others, is seemingly independent but strongly connected to the historical one. In a story of a friendship, of unique soul-searching and redemption, we are offered a picture of the world that gently warns us to be careful, patient and wise when forming opinions both of the things we know well, and of those that reached us through history.\ \ Hamam Balkania received the Balkanika Award for the best novel in the Balkans for 2007/2008, the "Isidora Sekulić" Award for the best book in 2008 and the "Hit Liber" Award for the bestselling book in the same year.\ \ 'Almost every great narrative that can be counted among the landmarks of history of world literature . . . essentially concerns itself with the search for identity. .. In this somewhat unusual, and at times potentially dangerous juxtaposition of characters from different epochs and different worlds, the narrator manages to maintain a delicate balance between a subtle self-ironic stance and an equally unobtrusive self-consciousness. Building his position on such foundations, he can allow himself to begin his story in Višegrad, a truly mythical place of European, especially South-Slav literature, and then go on, leading his novel on two parallel tracks- one in the form of the author's diary, the other in the manner of historiographic metafiction, spreading itself through numerous layers of space and time. In the original edition of the novel, the two stories are also graphically separated- one is printed in Cyrillic, the other in Latin alphabet, thus reminding us of another important aspect and symbol of identity.'\ \ Zoran Paunovic in Vreme Weekly Magazine

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