Guest 2006, 2002, 2001.

Dževad Karahasan [ Bosnia ]

Dževad Karahasan was born in 1953 in Duvno, Yugoslavia (today Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina). He studied Comparative Literature and Drama in Sarajevo and completed his doctorate in Zagreb with a thesis on the Croatian writer Miroslav Krleža. After graduation he initially worked as a dramaturge at the National Theatre in Zenica, then as editor of the literature and art journal »Odjek« in Sarajevo and as managing editor of the literary magazine »Izraz«. From 1986 he taught Dramaturgy and Drama History at the Academy of Stage Arts of the University of Sarajevo. In 1993 he left the war-torn city and worked as a guest lecturer at the University of Salzburg and as an editor in Göttingen.

In 1995 Karahasan came to Berlin after receiving a grant from the German Academic Exchange Service, and in 1997 he became the writer-in-residence of the city of Graz. Between 1998 and 2000 he worked as dramaturge and translator for three productions of Georg Büchner’s plays at the Sarajevo National Theatre. The Bosnian writer, who maintained a clear position in support of a multinational state, writes regularly for European journals such as »Lettre International«, »Kursbuch«, »MicroMega« and »Les Temps Modernes«. For this he was awarded the Herder Preis in 1999.

Karahasan’s first collection of stories, »Kraljevske legende« (t: Legends of kings), appeared in 1980. He has published plays, essays, radio plays and, in 1989, two novels: »Stidna žitija« (t: A chaste saint’s life) and »Istočni diwan« (t: Eastern divan), a crime novel set within the context of medieval Islamic philosophy. In 1994 Karahasan won the Prix Européen de l’essai Charles Veillon for »Dnevnik selidbe« (1993; Eng. »Sarajevo. Exodus of a City«, 1993), a description of everyday life in the wartime capital.

The central plots in his novels »Šahrijarov prsten« (1994; t: Šahrijar's ring) and »Sara i Serafina« (1999; t: Sara and Serafina) also unfolds in the occupied city of Sarajevo. Through a complex and convoluted narrative style with elliptic twists in the plot and essayistic composition, the author creates a unique type of tension. In »Šahrijarov prsten« three strands are spun into a thread, leading the reader step by step into a distant oriental past. This technique allows the author to interweave current historical events with research, psychological narrative skill with motifs from Arabian Nights, and rationalism with Islamic mysticism. »Sara i Serafina« is more of a novella than a novel, the narrative present covering a time span of only thirty minutes. However, the first-person narrator summons the remote past to explain actions and behaviour and to report conversations which have led up to this fateful half-hour of his life.

In 2004 Karahasan received the Leipzig Book Prize for European Understanding for his collection of essays »Knjiga vrtova« (2002; t: The book of the gardens). His latest novel, »Noćno vijeće« (2005; t: Nightly advice) met with unanimous approval. Here he deals with the period prior to the Serbian war against the Bosnians at the beginning of the 1990's in a manner at once poetic, emphatic and full of suspense.

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