Bora Ćosić

Bora Ćosić was born in Zagreb in 1932. He moved to Belgrade in 1937 and studied philosophy. In the 1950s he worked as an editor and as a translator from Russian. His first novel »Kuca lopova« (1956; tr. The house of thieves), a surrealistic analysis of Yugoslavia – put him straight on the »black list«. The theater play of »Uloga moje porodice u svetskoj revoluciji« (1969; tr. The role my family played in the world revolution) was banned from publication for many years. In protest against the Serbian regime, Ćosić left Belgrade in 1992 and resettled in the Istrian city of Rovinj. During his exile in Croatia, he wrote »Tagebuch eines Heimatlosen« (1993; tr. Diary of a stateless man). A scholarship from the DAAD brought him to Berlin in 1995, and he now spends his time between the German capital and Rovinj.

Bora Ćosić has written more than thirty books that have been translated into many European languages, including German, English, French and Hungarian. His satirical and polemic family chronicle »The role my family played in the world revolution«, set in the time of German occupation until the establishment of the Tito regime, and narrated from the seemingly naïve perspective of the childish first person narrator, became a cult book in Serbia. Ćosić implicitly makes use of the structural principle used in the »The Tin Drum« while his playful approach to Günter Grass and other role models such as Krleža, Musil, Dostoyevsky, Hamsun or Proust is, by comparison, in other cases programmatic. This is indicated by titles such as »Musils Notizbuch« (tr. Musil’s notebook), »Ein zweites Treffen in Telgte« (tr. A Second encounter in Telgte), or the fictitious autobiography of »Miroslav Krleža« (1998). The critic Karl-Markus Gauss noted: the »montage of found material is [Ćosić’s] preferred aesthetic principle«. As such, the wheelchair-bound character Suarda in the monologue novel »Bel tempo« (1982) is based on the figure of his grandmother, immortalized in »The role my family played in the world revolution«. After the death of a friend, Ćosić also started writing poems and, in 2005, the collection »Irenas Zimmer« (tr. Irena’s room) was released. »Tutori« (1978; tr. Tutors), translated into German in 2015, is a family chronicle set in Slavonia (present-day Croatia), in which »Ćosić satirizes literary language masterfully, be it Romantic poetry, the argot of the gutter, civil servant speak, user manuals, promotional brochures, dime novels and encyclopedias, and housekeeping books. It’s impossible to always follow him, but those who do will be richly rewarded« (Karl-Markus Gauß, »Neue Zürcher Zeitung«). Brigitte Döbert’s German translation of »Tutori« won the 2016 Leipzig Book Fair Prize.

Bora Ćosić has received the Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding, the international Albatross Literature Prize and, in 2011, the International Stefan Heym Prize.