UNDER PRESSURE

FARUK ŠEHIĆ

Zoro Publisher, 2003, 166 pages

Translation excerpt in English

Translation rights: World English (Istros Books), France (MEET), Macedonia (Blesok)

Šehić’s literary treatment is closest to that of Babel’s and Hemingway’s. Like in Babel’s Red Cavalry, in Šehić’s stories brutality, naturalism and fine lyrical observations are fast cut, with a devastating effect on the reader.

The intensity of the stories by Faruk Šehić undoubtedly makes this the most convincing literary document about the war in ex-Yugoslav countries, superior even to Tanović’s Oscar winning movie No Man’s Land.
This is the third book by the author who previously published two books of poetry, Acquired Poems and Hit depot, which – the latter one in particular – represent the pinnacle of the Balkan regional literary production of the last decade.
It is a collection of short stories with close-knit characters who share time and place, so it could almost be described as a fragmented novel. Šehić’s book differs in one fundamental way from most books with the Bosnian war as their subject. When it comes to great literary topics such as war, we talk about the need for distance, and there is a good reason for this. The distance, and the non-pathetic view of the war which the distance provides, play a pivotal role in this. What are the key differences? Šehić does not pontificate, does not moralize, nor does he endeavor to explain things to the less-informed, and there is not a hint of political correctness in his writing… He has no need for any of that. He knows what there is to know about the war, because he has lived one. In this book there is no divine, all-knowing view from above – Šehić literally describes the war through the gun sight of an AK-47.
His book is brutal, naturalistic, honest and uncompromising; his characters kill and get killed, they rob corpses and homes, they get drunk and get into fights, they parade in front of a mirror wearing a uniform ripped off a dead soldier, not unlike the anthological scene from Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (the one where a veteran pulls the trigger in front of a mirror saying the legendary line: You talkin’ to me?!). There’s drugs and alcohol in abundance, and they are – paradoxically – the reason’s last line of defence. But more importantly, Šehić does not use that paradox to describe his characters, but rather the times they live in.
The heroes of this collection are mostly outsiders, urban guys who, from their rock ‘n’ roll posture and from the bottom of social verticals, as ordinary soldiers based on the front lines, do not agree to any ideological or political deceptions, but rather display the war experience from the inside, from the human position that suffered its immeasurable horror.