Izet Sarajlic


The 1930 born Izet Sarajlic is Bosnia-Hercegovina's post-WWII best known, most popular and former Yugoslavia's most translated poet. Fifteen books of poems, numerous memoirs, political writings and translations of his work has seen the light of day. His manuscript "The Sarajevo's War Journal" in the besieged city was published in 1993 in Slovenia.

He graduated from the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Sarajevo, department of philosophy and comparative literature, with a doctorate in philosophical sciences. During his studies at university, Sarajlić worked as a journalist. After graduating, Sarajlić became a full-time professor at the Philosophy Faculty in Sarajevo, a position he would hold for the rest of his life. He was a member of both the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Writers' Society of Bosnia and Hercegovina, as well as the association of intellectuals, "Krug 99" ("Circle 99"). Together with Husein Tahmiščić, Ahmet Hromadžić, Velimir Milošević i Vladimir Čerkez, he founded "Sarajevo Poetry Days" as an international book festival in 1962.


Sarajilic's Poetry


Theory of maintaining distance

The theory of maintaining distance
was discovered by writers of post-scripts,
those who don't want to risk anything.
I myself belong among those
who believe
that on Monday you have to talk about Monday,
because by Tuesday it might be too late.
It's hard, of course,
to write poems in the cellar,
when mortars are exploding above your head.
It's only harder not to write poems.

The war reached us so very unprepared

Today is the tenth day of war
and we still can't really hate.
To Boro Spasojevic,
the architect, friend, human being
Before the war broke out
I promised you
that I would write a poem about Sarajevo.
On the day
when I saw
how you mourned the destroyed city
before the TV cameras,
you wrote my poem for me.
All that remains for me to do
is to put my name after the lines.

Former Yugoslavs

for Mustafa Cengicnek

Some of us
former Yugoslavs
are marked for genocide
by a part of the late
Yugoslav People's Army.


The Jewish Cemetary

From the direction of Marindvor
the deadliest fire
comes out of the Jewish Cemetary.
Though he set up his machine-gun behind his grave,
Milosevic's mercenary had no way of knowing
who Isak Samokovlija was,
nor who were flattened by his out-going bullets.
He, simply, for every snuffed-out life,
be it a first-aid Doctor
or by chance a street car driver,
stuffs 100 German Marks into his pocket.


Good-luck, Sarajevo Style

In the Sarajevo
Spring of 1992 everything is possible:
you get into a line
to buy bread
and end up in an emergency ward
among torn-off legs.
And still you can say
that you were lucky.


Work Detail

We cleaned up the trash
from both streets.
But how can be clean it up
from the surrounding hills?

Let me just live through this

That I have lived through all this,
besides my lines of verse,
I can thank ten to fifteen ordinary people.
Saints of Sarajevo,
whom before the war I barely knew.
The State also showed some understanding
about my situation,
but whenever I knocked at its door
it was never home:
gone to Genf,
gone to New York.


Bosnian Hercegovina stam honoring Izet Sarajlic

After I was wounded

That night I dreamed
that Slobodan Markovic came up to me,
to ask forgivenss for my wounds.
So far that's been the only
act of forgiveness from a Serb.
And that came in a dream,
moreover from a dead poet.


To my former Yugoslav friends

What happened to us in just one night,
my friends?
I don't know what you're doing,
what you're writing,
with whom you're drinking,
in which books you've buried yourselves.
I don't even know
if we are still friends.


*Izet Sarajlic: "Sarajevo's War Journal." Radio B92, Belgrade, 1994.