New Book is Published on Life inCroatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Wartime
In a newly published book, Stillness and Other Stories, Courtney Angela Brkic writes about lifeduring the wars that ravaged Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina beginning in 1991. This is a powerful and vivid account in sixteen short stories of theeffects of war as told by types of people who experienced it. As the book cover notes, “…In her bold, nerve-rattling fiction debut,Courtney Angela Brkic puts a human face on the lost, the missing, the exiled,and the invisible. She brings tolife perpetrators and victims, soldiers and civilians, diplomats and humanrights workers…”
Only a decade ago, a war was raging in Croatia andBosnia-Herzegovina that, after four long years, left enormous devastation andloss of life. During that time,nearly a quarter of a million people died; schools, hospitals, and centers ofold towns were deliberately targeted and ruined; and many cultural monumentswere destroyed.
Eachshort story in this book presents an emotionally gripping aspect of life duringor after the war: A story told byold Marija, who, while watching her granddaughter at play, remembers thesuffering of her family across three Croatian generations. There are stories told through the eyes of a soldier who istraumatized both by the loss of his young friend and his leg as he comes home toa bleak, thankless future; of a mother who cannot accept her son’s death inthe war; of a husband and wife who were brutalized in detention camps; and of awriter trapped in a cellar in Vukovar during its siege.
Otherstories convey deep insights about Croats in the struggling immigrantcommunities in the United States—in the coal mines of West Virginia and in aharsh urban setting in Queens. Anotherstory presents the grotesque and brutal world of a sniper who targets innocentvictims. A satire in the collectionportrays the cold and calculating world of diplomats and the injustices theypromoted in the region.
Ms. Brkic, who was a researcher and translator in Croatiaand a forensic archaeologist in Bosnia after the war, draws on her knowledgeabout and experience in Croatia for her ideas. However, she also attributes the inspiration for her work to a profoundappreciation and sensitivity to her family and her heritage. In the Preface to her book, she says:
”My Croatian Catholic blood did not make me areturning native daughter. I cameto a Bosnian Moslem area that was foreign to me. My roots were in the south, in the rocky, harsh landscape of Herzegovinaand the mountains of Dalmatia, and my accent was a strange amalgam of thosespeeches, thwarted by an American tongue.
My father had grown up inSarajevo, and that blood and that language differentiated me from the reliefworkers, UN personnel, and other foreigners who roamed the region in the summerof 1996. I occupied a sort oflimbo, not wholly native and not wholly foreign. I came, too, with my own bitter memories of the war in neighboringCroatia, and remembering the ambivalence of outsiders…”
This book, Ms. Brkic’s first major publication, hasalready produced considerable interest and recognition. The organization “Poets and Writers” named Stillness one of five Best New Fiction books for the year and Barnesand Noble decided to include Stillnessin the “Discover Great New Writers” Series for the summer. She is the recipient of many other honors and awards, including aFulbright scholarship to Croatia in 1996, and the second prize in The ElieWiesel Prize in Ethics in 1995 for her essay, “In the Times of Darkness: TheResponsibility of the Individual.”
Bornin Washington, DC, Courtney Angela Brkic is a graduate of the College of Williamand Mary and the New York University M.F.A. Program. In September she will join the faculty of Kenyon College in Ohio. She has also worked for the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in TheHague and for Physicians for Human Rights.
Ms. Brkic is currently at work on her second book (also tobe published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a memoir of her life and work inBosnia. She also translatesliterary works from Croatian: Her translations of A. B. Simic’s poetryappeared in Modern Poetry in Translation,and those of Sinisa Glavasevic’s work are upcoming in a new journal out ofColumbia University (The New Translation).
Courtney is the daughter of Barry and Brigitte Brkic ofArlington, Virginia. Beforeescaping Yugoslavia in 1959, Barry was a director and playwright for RadioZagreb. In the United States, he worked for the Voice of America and was laterthe Washington-based correspondent for Croatian Radio and Television, Vjesnik,Danas, and Narodni List. BrigitteBrkic has also written articles on Croatia, one of which appeared in the ChristianScience Monitor.
Stillness and other storiesby Angela Courtney Brkic is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and isavailable on Amazon.com and at bookstores.
Please contact Sarah Moriarty at Farrar, Straus and Girouxfor more information. Her number is (212) 206-5326.
Katherine J. Rosich