26 December 2006

Semezdin Mehmedinović

Semezdin Mehmedinović is an ex-patriot Bosnian poet and writer to whose work I'd like to call your attention. He has, to the best of my knowledge, two books in English from City Lights Books - one Sarajavo Blues (1998) and the other Nine Alexandrias (2003). Both are translated by Ammiel Alcalay. The latter consists of poems composed largely on a cross-America train trip that Mehmedinović took after arriving in the U.S. as a political refugee in 1996. Here, though I want to comment on his earlier book, written, as the title implies when he and his family were "displaced" in Sarajevo while it was under siege during the Bosnian war. For readers of the blog the interesting thing (beyond the obvious - terrific first person writing by someone experiencing war's horror) is that he repeatedly discusses the role of photographers during that period. In this regard you might check at least the following of his pieces: "Curfew," "Fires," "Milomir Kovačević," "Photographers," "Bernard-Henri Levy," and "Massacre." Mehmedinović continually and pointedly distinguishes between the view of the war purveyed by the international media and the perspectives of "local" photographers (e..g., Kemal Hadžić, Milomir Kovačević, Mladen Pikulić). You can find the work of the latter, among other locals, in Leslie Fratkin, ed. Sarajevo Self Portrait (Umbrage Editions, 2001), which appears to be out of print now that war is over in the Balkans.

Writing in "Fires" about a particularly harrowing experience of photographer Kemal Hadžić, Mehmedinović characterizes the "heretical impulse" of artists in wartime. I will not give away the circumstances. But he writes of the need to "fulfill that passionate artistic desire of distilling wild beauty from the spectacle of death." Mehmedinović continues: "The artist's need to venture into the unknown is risky, but it is precisely upon this impulse that the power of art is based." Find the book and see for yourself how this one turns out.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just downloaded one of your papers--the second one, and am looking forward to reading it. will get back to you when im done...

27 December, 2006 19:39  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

OK, I hope you find it interesting. JJ

30 December, 2006 10:48  

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