The street is still named Marshall Tito. It is not any street but the main street of the capital, perforating the torso of a broken city that is only slowly growing back together again. It is also the witness to an unusual event in Sarajevo – a crowd at a bookshop. Even from outside, it can be seen that something is wrong. In the bookshops of the countries that emerged on the territory of the now departed Yugoslavia, writing supplies, reams of paper for copy machines, souvenirs, and even toys have proliferated like termites, invading the display windows and almost entirely pushing out the product advertised in the signs – Knjigarna, Knjizara: namely, books. They’ve been on the defensive since 1992. Since the Dayton peace agreement was signed, I have come every year or two to this bookshop, and this is the first time that there has been anyone else in the place besides me and the salesgirl. I had anticipated that, like always, I would see her seated in her solitary corner, her gaze penetrating the emptiness, gray fingers, a long-ashed cigarette between them, hovering over an ashtray that rests on a stack of dusty classics. And now this crowd all of a sudden; the salesgirl unrecognizably busy. Right now, she is serving a lady whose faced is covered by a feredza. I steal a glance at what kind of a book the woman holds with her left hand as she counts out convertible marks with her right. Would you think I was exaggerating if I wrote that the book she is holding is the same book that is lying on the nightstand of my hotel room? It would be a mistake if you didn’t. Because the lady with the veil is purchasing a Bosnian cookbook that is not at this moment lying on the nightstand of my hotel room. As she does not have enough convertible marks, she puts down the cookbook on top of another book stacked on the sales counter among the other best sellers. And, behold, this time it is the same book that is lying on the nightstand in my hotel room and is now covered by a book about the art of Bosnian cuisine in the same way that we might cover ourselves with a blanket in an ice-cold bedroom.
more from Eurozine here.