Academic journal article Style

Souls and Apples, All in One: Bosnia as the Cultural Nexus in Nenad Velickovic's 'Konacari.'

Academic journal article Style

Souls and Apples, All in One: Bosnia as the Cultural Nexus in Nenad Velickovic's 'Konacari.'

Article excerpt

Maimed bodies and mined villages are obvious casualties of dirty wars. Maimed culture - including crucial frameworks of knowledge - and mined social institutions are not as visible, but they are equally powerful realities and their destruction may have a much more enduring and serious impact than the more obvious gruesome casualties of war.

(Nordstrom 261)

Nenad Velickovic (b. 1962) belongs to a group of agile young Bosnian writers whose fiction reveals a new perspective on the Bosnian tradition and history.(1) Unlike many Bosnian writers and artists who left Sarajevo during the war, Velickovic stayed and survived the siege. As a consequence, his texts, written mainly during the siege of the city, are ruled primarily by the rapidly and radically shifting cultural and political dominant. Konacari (1995), his first novel, portrays the wide array of various ethnic and cultural influences that shaped the identity of Sarajevo and the rupture within its identity caused by the war.

The most intriguing aspect of his text, however, is a sophisticated inter-textual treatment of the intrinsic difference between Western (European and American) notions about multiculturalism, on the one hand, and the history of multiethnicity and multiculturalism in Bosnia, on the other, all the more so because Western culture has played a decisive role in the shaping of the Bosnian cultural identity.

Following Velickovic's double cultural perspective, my analysis will focus on two intertextual practices discernible within the novel, both directly related to the shifting cultural and political dominant. First, in describing intertextuality and, consequently, interculturality, I will link Konacari with the canonical sources of the Western tradition and trace their shift from the core of the pre-war Sarajevo identity towards edges and surfaces defined in terms of both the text and its geography. The Western tradition, that is, is still identifiable in Velickovic's intertextual strategies, but now primarily as a textual and territorial concept quite literally beyond the pale. Second, I will show that the Bosnian war, as a lived experience surpassing representation, necessitated textual strategies relying on a specifically Bosnian multicultural condition, thus making it possible for Velickovic to cope, however metaphorically, with silence as the only fully appropriate and ethical rendering of the Bosnian war experience. At the same time, I hope that Western readers of my text will find it a means to cross the pale and the moat, and hear, however vaguely, the horrible silence at the heart of Velickovic's bailey.


Even a highly superficial precis of Konacari, essential for a further analysis of the text, reveals its double intertextual structuring. On the one hand, a reader is almost forced to recognize and acknowledge the prominence given to the stock-motifs summing up the poetics of the great novels of both European and American postmodernism: Book, Text, Museum, Fact and Fiction, History, Media. On the other hand, however, all these stock-motifs are at the same time invested with a specific, local, almost untranslatable meaning, each one functioning as an intertextual borrowing from the Bosnian culture, tradition and experience, but pointing sharply to the unbridgeable cultural, semiotic gap between them.

Because no existing genre, however postmodern and permissive, matches the requirements of the real war story, the very first glance at Velickovic's text implies thus an impossibility to talk about the war in Bosnia. The text is structured as an I-narration of a teenage girl, Maja, aware of an inner need to write about her war experiences, but uncertain whether to tell it as a novel or a diary. Novel is the genre she would like to adopt, although she is aware that a novel requires a clear-cut or at least meaningful division between its beginning and ending, a requirement that the war situation rules impossible. …

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