This novel is alchemised into true art by a poet’s vision that left me with questions I was compelled to ask again, and againby Kapka Kassabova / May 9, 2019 / Leave a comment
Quiet Flows the Una by Faruk Šehic
An invisible rule operates for writers: the right books turn up as soon as we set off on a new adventure. Sometimes before—because the subconscious knows what the conscious is yet to discover. Quiet Flows the Una arrived on my desk from the publisher just as I was contemplating war. What is war, how does it incubate, does it ever die once its demon is unleashed?
In his mesmeric autobiographical war novel, the Bosnian writer Faruk Šehic has created a complex paean to peace—embodied by the River Una of the protagonist’s childhood—while tracing the inner journey of a child thrust into apocalypse. The structural elegance of the novel—each chapter a scene from life at war and life at peace, respectively—makes the emotional weight of Šehic’s world bearable.
In one scene, the protagonist is in his riverine home, asking in a flash-forward to the “year-zero” of 1992 when the genocidal assault on Bosnia: “Why will there be nothing left but bare walls and gaping holes? “Who will make all the things from our flat vanish?”
Europe watched Bosnia burn for over three years, including the great Library of the University of Sarajevo. But the furious sorrow that fuels this novel is alchemised into true art by a poet’s vision that left me with questions I was compelled to ask again, and again, as I set out to write To The Lake: a Balkan Journey of War and Peace.
Kapka Kassabova talks to Misha Glenny about Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe at the Oxfam Moot, Saturday 25th May, 1pm
Read more writers on the books that changed their lives