Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The Fortress (1970) | By Meša Selimovic


The Fortress is a trip to Sarajevo as it was during the time of the Ottoman Empire.

Even though the novel is quite depressing, it is a wonderful read, providing a glimpse into the life in the old town of the Bosnian capital as it was a century and a half ago. From the pigeon pavilion to the old clock tower, the few square kilometres around the bazaar have transformed very little in the last two centuries.

The main character of The Fortress, Ahmet Šabo, is a confused young man, who has lived through the war in Russia. Upon his return to Sarajevo, he is submerged in a society that is not concerned with any of the existentialist problems forced upon him by the death he witnessed on the fighting fields. The petty, superficial and often cruel life in Bosnia depresses Ahmet Šabo even more and takes him around labyrinths of human vices, making him a character that is quite close to those of Kafka.

The novel is absorbing and wonderfully told. What remains unclear, however, is the extent to which one of former Yugoslavia’s most acclaimed writers, Meša Selimović, is honest about historical truth, or influenced by the ideological attitudes of Tito’s early Yugoslavia. Either way, The Fortress is an intriguing read for anyone who wants to imagine what life was like in eighteenth-century Sarajevo.




Balkan Culinary Wars II: The Epic Battle over a Vegetable Relish

Ajvar, lyutenitsa, zacuscă or biber salçası? The peppers, tomatoes and aubergines purée is to inflame as much hostility as the Macedonian issue a century ago. Full Story

Curiosity Chest

The Balkans' Street-Renaming Obsession

The battle over renaming streets in Eastern Europe since the fall of communism reflects their importance as symbols of identity, history and power. Full Story

Useful Reads

Bosnia and Herzegovina
A Free City in the Balkans: Reconstructing a Divided Society in Bosnia (2010) | By Matthew Parish

Since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995 a number of books have emerged that focus on post-war, internationally driven state-building in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Full Story


Serbia Surprises with Choice of Little-Known Singer for Eurovision

12 March 2009 | A little-known Serbian singer and composer, Marko Kon, has surprised many by emerging as his country's representative at the 54th Eurovision in Moscow.
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