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  • Writer's pictureBalkan Art Scene

"Wake me up when it's over" — a selection of dramas from Bosnia and Herzegovina — for a better world

The Mieczysław Hertz Theatre Institute, with the support of the co-publishers the Mazowieckiego Instytutu Kultury w Warszawie, and the International Theater Festival MESS - MESS Stage in Sarajevo, will publish "Wake me up when it's over" — a selection of dramas from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The title of the book refers to one of the dramas contained in the anthology and has a metaphorical overtone. "Wake me up when it's over" means hope for the beginning of something new and better in the world of heroes, and in this sense it appears as a leading theme in all dramas included in the published anthology.

The presented collection includes the most popular ones in Bosnia and Herzegovina, by authors belonging to the young generation of authors such as: LEJLA KALAMUJIĆ (born 1980), DARIO BEVANDA (born 1985), MIRZA SKENDERAGIĆ (born 1986), TANJA ŠLJIVAR (born . 1988), ADNAN LUGONIĆ (born 1988), BORIS LALIĆ (born 1988), NEJRA BABIĆ (born 1989), NEDŽMA ČIZMO (born 1996). Despite the fact that all the authors belong to the transitional generation, born during the existence of Yugoslavia or just after its collapse, they remember little or nothing of the former political project and its stormy decline, but they certainly feel consequences of these events, which is clearly reflected in their work. It is worth emphasizing that the work is well known both in Bosnia and Herzegovina and abroad, and has been awarded many times at literary competitions and theater festivals.

The book will include the following works:

Wake me up when it's over (Probudi me kad završi) - Mirza Skenderagić

In 2016, Mirza Skenderagić won the main prize in the competition for the best contemporary drama written in Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian or Montenegrin, organized by the Hartefakt Foundation in Belgrade.

There is no modern technology in the apartment described in the drama. No computers, no cell phones, and so on. Just an old tape recorder. And VHS tapes with the movie "The Battle of Neretva". None of them have seen daylight for a long time, only a swallow is flying nearby, but she is also getting more quiet. Young people learn from the tape recorder the lessons recorded by the Father:

K is the first and most important letter of the alphabet. Communism (komunizam) is the first and most important word. Communism is the term used to describe the mixture of gases that make up the atmosphere around the world. This is one of the basic conditions of life. Animals and humans breathe Communism, and plants need it for photosynthesis. Without Communism, life would not be possible.

The same principle is then used to talk about socialism, but perhaps let us also mention here what the party is (written, of course, with a capital letter "p"):

The Party is a period in man's life in which previously immature boys and girls go through changes. The result of these changes is a body that is sexually reproducible, hence physically mature, and Yugoslavia is a shelter, building or structure designed to be inhabited by humans. Happy families always live in Yugoslavia.

The author is able to talk about what he experienced as a child with a great deal of humor, irony and absurdity.

A suitcase too red to be a suitcase (Kofer previše crven da bi bio kofer) - Nejra Babić

A story about looking for better life opportunities in a magical "far away land". The narrator tells a story about the creation of a suitcase and its originator - a Norwegian collector. The play, however, begins in Sarajevo in 1993 during a bombing. In a cramped apartment, representatives of the oldest, middle and youngest generations have to wait out all the fuss. The grandchildren would like to leave their homeland as soon as possible, but the airport is blocked and no traffic is stopped. There are also no suitcases. The previous tenants did not manage to take the unusual red suitcase with them. It appears in another scene from 1997, when the people of Sarajevo are planning a vacation by the sea, but in fact they dream of going far away, preferably to Norway. And to never come back.

After almost fifteen years on the Croatian coast, two young women meet - one with a small, red suitcase found in a Sarajevo apartment - in her opinion too red to be an ordinary suitcase, and the other, which tells about a loss during the war - about similar suitcase.

The author emphasizes that each recipient can add to this story their own, personal scene related to the experience of leaving the family home, traveling or being unable to leave a given place, as well as the disappointments and surprises associated with it.

Woman-cannibal or how I killed my own family (Ljudožderka ili kako sam ubila svoju porodicu) - Lejla Kalamujić

Lejla Kalamujić is not the first author to write about the war and the break-up of Yugoslavia. So what distinguishes her artistic proposal from other retrospectives? An attempt to present the fate of a family from Bosnia and Herzegovina coupled with political changes is a specific mode of presentation. It is determined by the use of an adolescent girl's perspective, but also humorous elements, ironic distance, interesting poetics and raising the LGBTI issue. In addition to the "classic" problems accompanying an armed conflict, such as the loss of sense of security, home, identity and death, the work features the theme of "cannibalism" - the (auto) destructive power that the protagonist was burdened with.

In the immediate vicinity of the central figure, appear the namesake of the author - Lejla, her grandmothers and grandparents, Safeta and Nedžad (mother's parents) and Bran and Boro (father's parents). They are, like mother and father, above all memories, fragments and symbols of absence. In the end, as Kalamujić warns, "there will be nobody and nothing anyway." The structure of the text is heterogeneous. This lyrical-confessional monologue, interspersed with dialogue passages, consists of four segments divided into seven or six scenes, respectively. Their titles mark peculiar milestones in Lejla's development.

The main character is the embodiment of guilt that devours everyone around, and ultimately herself. The text confirms how important it is to learn to be aware of and articulate guilt, not to deny it.

Mirna Bosna - Boris Lalić

Literal translation 'Peaceful Bosnia', idiom meaning coming to peace, balance

Unemployment is one of the worst problems in Bosnia. Unemployment means poverty, boredom and addiction. Every day, all over Bosnia and Herzegovina, tens of thousands of young people dream of leaving their homeland to countries where honest work pays off, and those who do not have such an opportunity dream of ventures that overnight would bring them to the stars.

The play shows the transition of two small families to a criminal organization. Tired of poverty, believing that no one will help them, they decide to use their low social status to pursue a lucrative business - drug trafficking. A team of four is ready to do whatever it takes to break free from the clutches of poverty.

The story is set in a society where crime predominates, where jobs cannot be obtained in any honest way, where people do not live but survive still keeping the creativity, prudent and witty in doing so. Comic elements do not always make everyone laugh.

The members of the Šabić and Aleksić families are representatives of Bosnian social loosers, and when one learns about their stories, one does not know whether to cry with laughter or just cry.

Mother or all dolls go to heaven (Majka ili sve lutke idu u raj) - Nedžma Čizmo

The protagonists of the drama are two sisters, locked by their mother in an attic. Isolated from the world, they only have themselves and two dolls - male and female, with which they play different scenes. These situations illustrate their dreams or help them cope with problems with their mother that they cannot solve otherwise. Their conversations show that their mother was brought up in an orphanage, the girls' father left his family, for which mother blames the daughters. Anica was considered handicapped, so her mother did not allow her to go to school, while Sanjica is in a wheelchair because of a muscle disease, but during the interviews it turns out that she is physically perfectly healthy, although she considers herself ill. Anica is more rebellious than her sister. She offers games with erotic undertones, which are an expression of her longing for contact with men. Sanjica is much more submissive, intimidated by her extremely religious mother, and taught to avoid all manifestations of disobedience and sin. It is Anica who is trying to teach her sister logical answers to accusations. After all, it is she who proposes to fulfill one of their dreams - to see the sea. Eventually, she persuades her sister to escape and leave the dolls and her mother at home. The girls jump out of the window full of hope that they will be able to take to the air and fly to the sea.

Pink Moon by Dario Bevanda

The drama is subtitled post-dramatic rock opera, and the title refers to Nick Drake's Pink Moon album, which gives it a strong musical context. The main protagonists of the play are an aging record seller and a young, lost boy living with him and treating him like a master. They both try to find their place in life without losing their freedom and being trapped by the system. The younger protagonist (Muha) is trying hard to turn his musical passion into a profitable occupation. He is working on rock opera, he does not part with his notebook and every now and then there is no break for the libretto, with a help of his master. Incomplete studies, untreated depression, suicide attempt, does not help him in carrying out the research. The situation will change when his daughter, after many years, comes to visit the house. She is coming with a task of collecting materials for her graduation assignment, discovering many unexplained mysteries in the family. Finding one's place in the world, having dreams and fantasies, showing their impact on the breakdown of the family, raises questions about the limits of freedom, searching for the reasons for reluctance to stabilize at any life age. Almost as if in the background, signaling the subject of the last war on Balkans.

Scratching or How my grandmother killed herself (Grebanje ili kako se ubila moja baka) - Tanja Šljivar

Born in Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the author made an attempt to describe the raw post-war period of the late 1990s, its influence on growing up, and the side effects. Drama takes place in 2000 in Banja Luka. Šljivar wrote a piece about the acute perception of changes, for ten-year-olds who are getting ready for a school charity event in the gym, not knowing that torture rooms and temporary concentration camps during the war were organized inside those rooms. Maja's story, who left for Hamburg, is intertwined with quarrels, games, and experiences of her peers who have no chance of breaking out to the West. Young people, surrounded by harsh realities, dream about prosperity, make plans about work, home, and traveling. In this micro-group of Others (situated in opposition to the world of adults), an additional apartment, intensified the separateness. Girls who catch up with the notions of femininity are particularly stigmatized - they are humiliated, objectified and limited.

Storytelling in a direct and brutal way, limiting oneself to experiencing pain and increasing pathology among children as a result of manipulation by adults and a reaction to the rules of the nationalist childbirth in which they grew up. Violence, resulting from unfulfilled desires, lack of relationships with parents, inability to express, evolves in the drama from scratching one's body and teaching the body, through shooting a gun, to sadistic abuse of the weakest. The author presents a legacy with bloody traces from the past and criticizes the lack of ability to plan and define a stable future.

There will be no end of the world (Neće biti smak svijeta) by Adnan Lugonić

A family "story" lying on the sidelines, off the trails of "great history". The text resembles Chekhov with its poetics. The atmosphere of anxiety is fueled by the existence of a mystery that does not leave the household easily. The father of two daughters has Alzheimer's disease and scenes are "entering" various phases of life. Maša is taking care of him, but it is becoming more and more difficult for her to meet this challenge. However, she is doomed to such a life. An old man cannot be in specialized centers due to financial costs, and the other daughter cannot look after him.

The world is falling apart, ending, but somehow he manages to survive another day. We see its end in everyday events and people's behavior. The characters of the drama try to save the microcosm in which the family functions. We are talking about complications at the interpersonal level, about the loss of memory, the burden of the past and the difficult heritage, about the fears and hopes of young people, about guilt and attempt to forgive, about the private, constantly recurring end of the world that struggles in realities.

The editors of the publication will be Gabriela Abrasowicz - Ph.D., Slavist, researcher of Balkan drama and theater, translator and Martyna Lechman - Slavist, playwright, translator. Experienced translators from academic centers such as the University of Warsaw were invited to cooperate on the translation of texts. Adam Mickiewicz (prof. Magdalena Koch), the University of Silesia in Katowice (prof. Leszek Małczak), the Jagiellonian University (dr Dominika Kaniecka), as well as translators active in Warsaw (Dorota Jovanka Ćirlić) and Wrocław (Berenika Nikodemska).

The presented selection of plays from Bosnia and Herzegovina will be the first anthology translated into Polish and the first publication of a collection of plays written in that region in a foreign translation.

The partners of the project are: the Publishing Foundation in Sarajevo (Fondacija za izdavaštvo Sarajevo) and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Inicijativa mladih za ljudska prava u BiH - YIHR BiH).


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