Dževad Karahasan

Portrait Dževad Karahasan
© Hartwig Klappert

Dževad Karahasan was born in Duvno, Yugoslavia (today the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina) in 1953. He studied theater and comparative literature in Sarajevo and earned his doctorate in Zagreb. He then worked as a dramaturge for the National Theater Zenica, as an editor for various literary and art magazines, and starting in 1986 also taught dramaturgy and drama at the University of Sarajevo. In 1993 he left the embattled city and became a visiting instructor at the University of Salzburg.

In 1980 he published his first volume of stories »Kraljevske legende« (tr: King’s Legends) and in 1990 he released the novel »Istočni diwan« (tr: The Eastern Divan), a crime story within the context of medieval Islamic philosophy. In addition to plays and radio dramas, Karahasan has also published essays such as »Dnevnik selidbe« (1994; Eng. »Sarajevo, Exodus of a City«), a depiction of daily life in war-torn Sarajevo for which he received the 1994 Charles Veillon European Essay Prize. The stories of the novels »Šahrijarov prsten« (1994; tr: The Ring of Shahrijar) and »Sara i Serafina« (1999; tr: Sara and Serafina) are also set in the occupied city of Sarajevo. »The Ring of Shahrijar« contains stories that take the reader to a remote oriental past. This process allows the author to connect contemporary historical experiences with historical research, psychological narration with motifs from the »Arabian Nights« and rationalist philosophy with Islamic mysticism. With his sophisticated combination of flashbacks, reflections, and anticipations for a present time that has long since passed, »Sara and Serafina« recalls the German masters or prose Kleist and Goethe, whom Karahasan brings together in a fictitious dialogue in his play »Der Atlas des Empfindens« (world premiere 1999, tr: The Atlas of Feelings). His most recent novel »Što pepeo priča« (2015, tr: The Solace of the Night Sky) tells of the bloody fall of an Islamic kingdom. The court astronomer Omar Chayyam is called in to explain the death of a highly respected man, a case that, like an foreboding omen, introduces a period of social tension and threats to the kingdom by crusaders and Mongols. Karahasan vividly depicts the rise of religious fundamentalism and the destruction of a tolerant advanced culture.

Karahasan has received numerous literary prizes, among them the 1999 Herder Prize, the 2004 Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding, the 2012 Goethe Medal of the Goethe Institute, and the 2017 Franz Nabl Prize. Karahasan writes for several European magazines and was voted in as a corresponding member to the German Academy for Language and Literature in 2013. He lives and works in Graz and Sarajevo.