Sarajevo Marlboro by Miljenko Jergovic
translator Stela Tomasevic
This book was sent to by my friend Simon of Inside books .I was happy he sent it as it was one I d meant to get around the time it came out but hadn’t and then it had dropped out of my mind .The book is a collection of stories set in and around Sarajevo the capital of Bosnia before and during the war .As I mention before I work in Germany around this time and many of the people in the factory I worked were refugees from Bosnia and Croatia.So as I got to know many of them I heard similar things to the stories in this book . My favourite story is one called Bosnian hot-pot we follow two young women Elena and Zlaja around the the city of Zagreb during the war for a clay pot to make a Bosnian hot-pot like they would in Sarajevo .This story is familiar as it partly metaphor for the city pre war every one made the same hot pot of many parts like the city they had Bosnia , Croat and Serb living side by side in a harmony in the pre war Sarajevo .
For a long time Elena and Zara searched everywhere in Zagreb for a clay pot .In the end they found two pots – at opposite ends of the city – that were ideal for preparing the traditional dish .
they find the pot .
Other stories look at pre war and like many of the people I worked with the former Yugoslavia president Tito is mention as the man who held the country from the second world war ,he was respected and in some ways feared by all .We meet people who lived in Sarajevo that have got out and now looking at the horror unwind from the sidelines ,upset and not understanding the horrors .Then we find how the book got its title in the story The Gravedigger as A man offers the gravedigger packet of cigarettes wrapped up that turned out to be some old Sarajevo Marlboro (it turns out Philip morris allow each country and even places make slightly different versions of this brand ,I can acknowledge this as I smoke Marlboro for many years and always notice subtle changes when in different places ) .This makes the gravedigger wonder what the man an american makes of them maybe he things we re all mad he says .
the american is curious too ,but he has no idea what I’m doing at last I undo the cigarette packet to reveal a Marlboro wrapper the old brand from Sarajevo
we discover the meaning of the title of this collection from the story the Gravedigger .
The Croat writer said of the many book written about Bosnia that it is perhaps the best collection of stories .I couldn’t agree more this brings you into the besiege city and the people that live there or lived there .I ll end with a video of a song from Passengers featuring Pavarotti called miss Sarajevo about the city and a beauty pageant that went on in the city during the war .
Have you a read any books around the Yugoslavian conflict ?