Book Review: MILJENKO JERGOVIC "SARAJEVO MARLBORO"
Miljenko Jergovic was born in 1966 in Sarajevo to Croatian parents. Poet, novelist and journalist, he wrote for the Sarajevo daily "Oslobodjenje" and served as the Sarajevo correspondent for "Dalmatian Weekly". His first book of poetry, "Warsaw Observatory", won two prestigious awards in 1988. He has written several novels, including "Mama Leone" and "Buick Riviera".
Miljenko Jergovic was first introduced to the American audience with a short story "The Condor" which was translated and included in the book "Wild East: Stories from the Last Frontier" published in 2003 by Justin, Charles & Co. www.justincharles.com
"Sarajevski Marlboro" first published in Croatia in 1994 by Durieux. English translation was published in the UK by Penguin Books, 1997. Finally, the short story collection found a publisher in the US at Archipelago Books, 2004 www.archipelagobooks.org
At the book party in New York, Jergovic was not present because he is afraid to fly. But almost 80 people, mostly Croatians and Bosnians, enjoyed delicacies from Bosnia, photos of Sarajevo and speeches from Bosnia natives about their beloved land. The team from Archipelago press fulfilled one of their missions to organize an event to connect communities to their homeland through the exploration and celebration of literature.
When Jergovic temporarily left Sarajevo in 1993, he went to Zagreb where he published nine books, while never ceasing to be an acute observer and critic of Croatian political and cultural life. In "Sarajevo Marlboro," Jergovic writes about people, their offbeat lives and daily dramas in the foreground and the killing zone in the background.
Three strong stories stand out. "A Diagnosis" about a man who saw with his own eyes his wife and two daughters being cut up with an electric saw by the Serb Chetniks and how other people treat him when they see a dead man walking.
In another story "The Letter," Jergovic attempts an explanation of what happened in Sarajevo. "Bosnians could hate for a long time, persistently and with gusto, but there was no order in it. Somebody else had to provide the mortars, shells, tanks and planes in order to organize the hatred."
In the third story, "The Saxophonist," Jergovic writes about a fat and sluggish fast talker who stole a gorgeous girlfriend from the tall, handsome, but rather quiet musician who happened to be a Serb. The fast talker brags how he left the sax player for dead. Play on words, but as the story develops, the fast talker skips Sarajevo under attack and moves to safety and comfort to another country. The quiet Serb takes a gun and bravely defends Sarajevo only to be killed by his own people.
Archipelago is a not-for-profit literary press committed to cross-cultural, linguistic, and intellectual exploration. They are striving to locate, support and preserve literary talent worldwide and bring it to American readers. The Archipelago will bring to a wide audience contemporary and classic works of international prose and poetry that remain unavailable in translation.
To order "Sarajevo Marlboro", please contact Consortium Book Sales & Distribution www.cbsd.com or 800-283-3572