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Mama Leone

by

Translated from by

Published: October 2012

$16.00 $9.99$12.80

ISBN: 9781935744320 eISBN: 9781935744719
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Winner of Italy’s 2003 Premio Grinzane Cavour for Best Book in Translation

“Miljenko Jergović is a superb stylist…He manages to convey vivid and emotionally rich pictures of everyday life with even the slightest of rhetorical flourishes. His prose can be deceptively simple at times, but this reveals his fine-tuned ear for language that eschews unnecessary complications. [These stories] are bound to amuse and entertain.”

— Bojan Tunguz

 

“Miljenko Jergović is a fascinating writer in the best literary tradition of Central Europe. His linked stories published recently under the title Mama Leone is a fresh, original and seductive narrative on a family odyssey, real and imaginary, through love and death, war and wonder, sorrow and joy, told with gentle irony, intensity and magic candor.”

— Norman Manea

 

“…a multilayered and complex text, which demonstrates why Jergović is one of the most prominent Croatian authors and one of the most translated European writers.”

— World Literature Today

 

“[Jergovic is] a poet, novelist, and journalist of the highest caliber. . . . His concern is for the living and in this collection of stories about Sarajevo and its inhabitants he writes about them with the seriousness, sensitivity, quirky intelligence, and gentle humor of a master of the short story.”

— The New Republic

Book Description

  • Winner of Italy’s 2003 Premio Grinzane Cavour for Best Book in Translation
  • Voted best Croatian writer of the decade by Croatian daily Jutarnji List 

The Croatian writer Miljenko Jergovic, whose remarkable debut collection of stories, Sarajevo Marlboro – winner of the Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize – was published by Archipelago, has created a masterful collection of linked stories that draws the reader into a precocious boy’s episodic, personal recounting of his war-torn homeland and childhood. Dazzling, rhapsodic, and above all compassionate, these linked stories, deeply rooted in place and history, break down stereotypes and humanize a complex cultural conflict.

[Jergovic is] a poet, novelist, and journalist of the highest caliber. . . . His concern is for the living and in this collection of stories about Sarajevo and its inhabitants he writes about them with the seriousness, sensitivity, quirky intelligence, and gentle humor of a master of the short story.

The New Republic


Reading Miljenko Jergovic's Sarajevo Marlboro is like wrapping yourself in a quilt of 29 patches, with each patch personalizing the horrors of the Bosnian War in ways that are engaging, humorous, and unendingly sad. If we are ever to learn to avoid carnage it will be through such acts of constant humanizing as are captured in Jergovic's amazing work.

Richard Wiley


Like all great war books, Sarajevo Marlboro is not about war—it’s about life. Jergovic is an enormously talented storyteller, so the people under siege come through in all their poignant fullness. And one more thing: this book does not belong to the literature of complaining, much too common these days—Sarajevo Marlboro is a book for the people who appreciate life.

Aleksandar Hemon


Read this book. These spare tales speak of all that may yet befall us if we forget our essential fragility; by showing that while what unites us is undeniable, what we allow to divide us too easily becomes murderous. This classic of anti-war writing is a warning about the immense human cost of following those who would have us hate others.

Richard Flanagan


A remarkable collection. . . Grim, beautiful ruminations on how the familiarities of life can, in the instant a bomb drops, become unrecognizable. . . . With a natural sense of stopping point and courage to spare, Jergovic has the mien of the rare author whose gift is so innate he need only conquer a few demons and steady his hands enough to write it all down.

San Diego Union Tribune


Sarajevo Marlboro marks the American debut of a writer who deserves as enthusiastic an audience in the United States as he enjoys in Europe. . . Jergovic brings a powerful cocktail of irony, humour, and detachment to the daunting task of crafting stories asserting the potency of lives that continue to improbably unfurl against a backdrop of bullets and explosions or resonate after they are cut brutally short.

The Review of Contemporary Fiction


Miljenko Jergović is a superb stylist...He manages to convey vivid and emotionally rich pictures of everyday life with even the slightest of rhetorical flourishes. His prose can be deceptively simple at times, but this reveals his fine-tuned ear for language that eschews unnecessary complications. David Williams has done a superb job of translating these stories and has managed to keep them fresh and vivid even in English. They are bound to amuse and entertain.

Bojan Tunguz


Miljenko Jergović is a fascinating writer in the best literary tradition of Central Europe. His linked stories published recently under the title MAMA LEONE is a fresh, original and seductive narrative on a family odyssey, real and imaginary, through love and death, war and wonder, sorrow and joy, told with gentle irony, intensity and magic candor.

Norman Manea


Miljenko Jergovic's Sarajevo Marlboro relies on minute details, such as a dead cactus and a grandmother's ring, to distinguish individuals' numbed reactions to the devastation of the Bosnian war. There's a melancholy, dreamlike sameness to Jergovic's war stories that recalls Alan Lightman's use of time in Einstein's Dreams and Italo Calvino's meditations on place in Invisible Cities, but Jergovic's book is the strongest of the three.

Maud Newton, Newsday Favorite Book of the Year


...a multilayered and complex text, which demonstrates why Jergović is one of the most prominent Croatian authors and one of the most translated European writers.

World Literature Today


Visit the author’s website here.

Read an interview with Miljenko Jergovic: “You cannot delete the past.”:

How far do you think that the cultural wall which separates the peoples of Central Europe today is due to the fact that we don’t speak each other’s language?

 

There are several kinds of walls between these countries. The first crucial difference is indeed the language. Of course, anyone could ask why we don’t just walk into a language school and learn to speak Hungarian, Italian or Romanian – but that would not solve anything. The peoples of the southern Slavic region, Macedonians, Serbians, Croatians, Slovenians, Bosnians, Montenegrins all speak the same or very similar languages, but there are still walls between these very new countries. We are living through very difficult times – a period of awakening nationalism, religious warfare, a disillusioned age which has proved disappointing when compared to the expectations we had after the collapse of the Berlin wall. There is nothing more absurd than the appearance of skinheads in Eastern Europe! It is devastating to think that there are people living in Hungary who would willingly kill Gypsies, and people in Croatia who would kill blacks or Muslims. These young people are unaware that all of us, the peoples living here, our families and our parents would all have been wiped off the face of the earth had Adolf Hitler achieved victory.

 

On his political power as a writer:

You find yourself in a privileged position: not subjected to anyone, politically or materially, and so you can have a really independent opinion. You often express this publicly and are criticised for it. Why?

 

I doubt they fear me, since I don’t possess the kind of power that here, in these parts, is taken seriously. Look, I have no economic power, no political connections in Brussels, I don’t even have a mafia-type organisation to sell heroin to kids or beat up my intellectual adversaries.

 

I do nothing but say and write what I think, and that’s exactly what irritates them. When I say to them that I’m thinking of the nationalists and fascists in these parts, but I’m also thinking of another extremely interesting group, that is a group of formerly independent journalists who, in the 90s materially exploited the Soros funds for freedom in the media, and are now furious because no one wants to finance their social involvement any more.

They, like all the other nationalist comrades would be very happy if I left Croatia. That’s the line they take and write up in the newspapers. It’s a very interesting sensation when self-proclaimed men of the left and anarchists begin to inform me that I am an intruder in the country I live in.

 

In New Eastern Europe:

Who was Miljenko Jergović in the early 1990s and who is he today?

 

I think that not much has changed in my life throughout this period of time. In the 1990s, I was more or less the same person I am today – a writer, an essayist and a journalist. I had my own column in the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian press where I was publishing opinion essays. By the end of the 1990s I started to write for the Serbian press again. Since then not much has changed. In that time I have also written the majority of my books. In all, a few thousand pages. From the very beginning they have been translated into many languages – Italian, German, French. In other areas, my life has not changed at all.

 

What pushed you to start writing? Was it the result of a specific event which took place in your life?

 

Surprisingly, it was a very ordinary situation. As a seven-year old, I just decided one day to become a writer. At first, my parents did not treat this plan of mine seriously. However, later, probably because I did not come up with any better idea, they finally came to terms with my choice. By saying this, I just want to show that this was the only thing I wanted to do in life. I have always been the happiest when I could write for different newspapers and magazines, something which I am still doing today.