22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

David Albahari

David Albahari was born in Peć, former Yugoslavia, in 1948. He studied English language and literature in Belgrade. His first volume of short stories was published in 1973. »Opis smrti« was published in 1982, and this volume of short stories won that year’s Ivo Andriç Award. Some of the stories in »Opis smrti« were included in »Words Are Something Else«, which was published in 1996. Albahari’s novel »Mamac« (1996; engl. »Bait«, 2001) won the NIN Award in 1997, the Balkanica Award in 1998 and the Translation Prize »Brücke Berlin« (together with the translators Miryana and Klaus Wittmann). His works have been published in fourteen languages. The numerous books translated into Serbian by Albahari include Nabokov, Updike, and Shepard. According to Albahari the I Ching has exerted an important influence on his life and his works which are based on very personal and family experiences. »If you understand what is going on inside the family, you will understand what is going on in the world. Patterns repeat themselves, only the scales are different.« Thus the reader approaches the historical reality implicatively through the protagonists’ subjective impressions that are presented in the various layers of their individual memories and life experiences. A concise and experimental structure is prevalent in »Description of Death«; its grotesque effect is evoked by a partially expressive imagery when in one of the short stories a father is depicted walking on water or in another one some camp inmates go on hunger strike for corsetry. In spite of his endeavours, Albahari, Serbian of Jewish ancestry, could not avoid the politicisation of his life and works during the war in former Yugoslavia. Consequently in 1991, he agreed to chair the Federation of Jewish Communes of Yugoslavia and to help evacuate the Jewish population from Sarajevo. Two years later Albahari preferred the »rootlessness« of Canadian exile to the overpowering and more and more threatening political pressures in his home town Belgrade. From the distance abroad, however, the history of his native country has developed into a prominent theme. Based on his autobiographical emigrant experience, Albahari tells his mother’s life story in »Bait«. While researching into Yugoslavian history for biographical details, the first-person narrator articulates his ambivalent feelings towards his memories, his identity and the sense of history in his new surroundings. The novel »Gec i Majer« (1998; Eng. »Gotz and Meyer«, 2004) describes the investigations into the deportation of Jewish people during World War II, tracing down two SS-officers guilty of murdering them. Albahari’s alienating elements of speech prevent the reader from identifying with the protagonists, whereas the narrator cannot maintain a critical, unemotional attitude and is destroyed by the confrontation with the past. David Albahari lives in Calgary, Canada.

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