Meša Selimović

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Meša Selimović (1910 — 1982) was a Bosnian writer.

(Excerpt from Death and the Dervish, a quotation of Sheyh Nurudin, a Muslim cleric)

  • We are no one's, always at a boundary, always someone’s dowry. Is it a wonder then that we are poor? For centuries now we have been seeking our true selves, yet soon we will not know who we are, we will forget that we ever wanted anything; others do us the honour of calling us under their banner for we have none, they lure us when we are needed and discard us when we have outserved the purpose they gave us. We remain the saddest little district of the world, the most miserable people of the world, losing our own persona and nor being able to take on anyone else's, torn away and not accepted, alien to all and everyone, including those with whom we are most closely related, but who will not recognise us as their kin. We live on a divide between worlds, at the border between nations, always at a fault to someone and first to be struck. Waves of history strike us as a sea cliff. Crude force has worn us out and we made a virtue out of a necessity: we grew smart out of spite.

So what are we? Fools? Miserable wretches? The most complex people in the world. No one is such a joke of history as we are. Only yesterday we were something that we now wish to forget, yet we have become nothing else. We stopped half way through, flabbergasted. There is no place we can go to any more. We are torn off, but not accepted. As a dead-end branch that streamed away from mother river has neither flow, nor confluence it can rejoin, we are too small to be a lake, too big to be sapped by the earth. With an unclear feeling of shame about our ancestry and guilt about our renegade status, we do not want to look into the past, but there is no future to look into; we therefore try to stop the time, terrified with the prospect of whatever solution might come about. Both our brethren and the newcomers despise us, and we defend ourselves with our pride and our hatred. We wanted to preserve ourselves, and that is exactly how we lost the knowledge of our identity. The greatest misery is that we grew fond of this dead end we are mired in and do not want to abandon it. But everything has a price and so does our love for what we are stuck with.

Original:

A mi nismo ničiji, uvijek smo na nekoj međi, uvijek nečiji miraz. Zar je onda čudno što smo siromašni? Stoljećima mi se tražimo i prepoznajemo, uskoro nećemo znati ni tko smo, zaboravljamo već da nešto i hoćemo, drugi nam čine čast da idemo pod njihovom zastavom jer svoje nemamo, mame nas kad smo potrebni a odbacuju kad odslužimo, najtužniji vilajet na svijetu, najnesretniji ljudi na svijetu, gubimo svoje lice a tuđe ne možemo da primimo, otkinuti a neprihvaćeni, strani svakome i onima čiji smo rod, i onima koji nas u rod ne primaju. Živimo na razmeđu svjetova, na granici naroda, svakome na udaru, uvijek krivi nekome. Na nama se lome talasi istorije, kao na grebenu. Sila nam je dosadila, i od nevolje smo stvorili vrlinu: postali smo pametni iz prkosa.

Šta smo onda mi? Lude? Nesrećnici? Najzamršeniji ljudi na svijetu. Ni s kim istorija nije napravila takvu šalu kao s nama. Do jučer smo bili ono što želimo danas da zaboravimo. Ali nismo postali ni nešto drugo. Stali smo na pola puta, zabezeknuti. Ne možemo više nikud. Otrgnuti smo, a nismo prihvaćeni. Kao rukavac što ga je bujica odvojila od majke rijeke, i nema više toka ni ušća, suviše malen da bude jezero, suviše velik da ga zemlja upije. S nejasnim osjećanjem stida zbog porijekla, i krivice zbog otpadništva, nećemo da gledamo unazad, a nemamo kamo da gledamo unaprijed, zato zadržavamo vrijeme, u strahu od ma kakvog rješenja. Preziru nas i braća i došljaci, a mi se branimo ponosom i mržnjom. Htjeli smo da se sačuvamo, a tako smo se izgubili, da više ne znamo ni šta smo. Nesreća je što smo zavoljeli ovu svoju mrtvaju i nećemo iz nje. A sve se plaća, pa i ova ljubav.


  • About Bosnians

These are smart people;
They receive a mess from the east, and a good life from the west;
They never rush because only life rushes;
They are not interested in what awaits after tomorrow;
What is meant to be will come, and little of it depends on them;
When they are together they are in trouble, for this they do not like to be together often;
They rarely trust anyone, but it’s easiest to fool them with nice words;
They do not resemble heroes, but they are not easily scared with threats;
They pay attention to nothing, they care not of what happens around them;
And then out of nowhere suddenly everything interests them, they flip everything and look around;
Then they become sleepers again and do not like to remember what came to pass;
They are scared of change because it often brings evil;
They are easily fed up with a man, even if he does them good;

Strange people;
They talk bad about you but love you, kiss you on the cheek but hate you;
Laugh at noble deeds but remember them;
They spend most of their life on spite and goodness;
And don’t know which is stronger when;
Evil, good, gentle, raw, unable to move on, stormy, open, hidden;
They are all this and everything in between;
And most importantly they are mine, and I am theirs;
And everything I’m saying; I’m saying about myself.

  • "A man who is spiritually more developed than others is in a difficult situation, unless he is protected by his position and the fear that position instills. Such a man becomes a loner : his standards are different, useless to others, but they still set him apart."

Death and the Dervish (Derviš i smrt), Part II, page. 245.

  • "He entered into life with a burden that most of us bear: with the example of great men before his eyes and the desire to follow in their footsteps, but without any knowledge of petty men, who are the only ones we meet."

Death and the Dervish (Derviš i smrt), Part II, page. 329.



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