Bekim Sejranovic: Excerpt from his novel A Better Place

Bekim Sejranović (1972-2020) was born in Brčko, Bosnia and Hercegovina. He also lived and studied in Rijeka, Croatia and moved to Oslo, Norway in 1993 where he earned his master’s degree in South Slavic Languages and Literature from the University of Oslo. Sejranović is the author of a collection of short stories and five novels. His novel Nigdje, niotkuda (2008) (Nowhere, From Nowhere) won the prestigious Meša Selimović award in 2009.
Sejranović’s writing often centered around questions of identity and nomadism, perhaps mirroring his own life: a child of divorce, he was raised primarily by his grandparents, grew up in a town splintered by the war, spent his young adulthood in wartime Croatia and finally reached Norway as a refugee in 1993, where he had security and official status, but not necessarily a home.






I'm sitting in the old cottage on my grandpas ranch. The night had barged into the valley and splashed its darkness over the wood covered hills. Ive been here for a while and theres no longer any restlessness in me. I feel like a man who once wanted to write some kind of story but didn’t succeed, because the story took control over reality. It no longer remained clear what was real, the story or my life. Was it life that wrote the story, or was it maybe the other way around?

A rat rummages boldly around in the attic. One night I woke up and saw its tail bobbing up and down above the edge of the shabby couch where I was sleeping. It disappeared into the hole in the wall under the cornice.

The bulb on the ceiling flickers off and on, probably from a faulty contact. The walls of the cottage are full of holes where the plaster has fallen off.  Underneath you can see the boards the cottage was initially made of.

The ranch is a big field, seven and a half acres, that grandpa bought when he retired, and where he planted a plum orchard. I remember it all, but thats not important now. Grandpa and mother (thats how I used to call my grandmother) arent around any more, and neither is my old lady, their daughter. The “ranch” is gone, too. It is now merely an orchard imprisoned in thickets and oblivion. The property belongs to aunt Zika who lets me stay there for as long as I want.

I dont know exactly when I got there, but summer was nearing its end and the plums were rotting because there was no one to pick them. During the day, the hornets would buzz around in battle formations and stuff themselves with the juice of the overripe Hungarian plums. Birds of all sizes and colours were squawking while hopping around in the uneven fields, alternately picking at the fruit and at each other. Some overgrown grass-hoppers came rushing onto the scene, as well as those tiny, unbearable flies that always fly straight into your eyes.



Im telling myself the same story innumerable times, as if hoping that once I will come up with a better ending. The story may start on that October afternoon, two years ago, when I fell into the river Sava.

I came out of the river onto the slimy shore. While I was climbing up a steep muddy path, I slipped, fell on my ass and slid half a meter back towards the river. When I finally climbed to the top of the embankment, I took off my jacket and T-shirt. Steam rose from my body.

I sat on the ground for a while expecting something. I thought maybe I would start crying and, like in some sentimental B-movie, let the tears flow down my cheeks there on the riverbank. That I would then calm down, wipe the tears from my face and smile. Then get up and set off with light steps into some sort of future. Any future. But I didnt. I sat on the shore, half naked, and watched my nipples stiffen.




Ive been hearing voices for a while now. There are several of them. Some of them I can identify, and I know that they belong to a “me” of sorts. Im not so sure about others. They emerge as if from an abyss, they utter something once or twice, then disappear forever.

One of the familiar voices taunts me, saying he is not really sure about that so-called drowning attempt. To him it seems that I just slipped clumsily and splashed into the shallow muddy water. Spitefully he insists that I dont have the guts for such a thing and I, albeit reluctantly, admit that hes right.

I see myself standing pensively on the shore of the Sava holding a cigarette. Im watching the river; the cawing of crows can be heard around me, my heart starts pounding in my chest. It feels like the cigarette smoke is suffocating me, and I know that one of theses fits, the ones I have been living with for years, the ones I dont know what to call, is about to seize me. Panicking, I throw the cigarette into the mud in front of me and put it out with my sneaker. I see my foot wiggle and the soil underneath it give way. I realize then that Im falling into the river.

The contact with the cold water brings me back to consciousness. I swim like a maniac towards the shore half a meter away, before I realize that the water barely reaches me to the waist.








I sit in the cottage, light a match and count to five. The flame is licking the tips of my fingers and the pain is there. You can always count on the pain.

I am waiting for the hoot of the owl that can be heard every night from the hollow pear tree nearby.

I tried to recount to myself what had happened over the past two years, but I didnt succeed. The story changed depending on which of my voices would tell it. Some of the voices would forget some episodes completely, while others would give exactly these episodes the central place.

But I had too much time for thinking there in my grandpas cottage. I started to believe that everything that is going to happen has actually happened already. I made myself believe that by analysing the past, I could predict the future.





That day in October two years ago, I got up from the muddy ground, wrung out the wet T-shirt and slipped it on. My nipples could still be seen through the sodden fabric. I thought again of my ex wife and her boobs. They were barely bigger then mine, but they had a completely different form and poetic power. With pointy hard, nipples like the spikes on World War One Prussian helmets. When you bite them, your teeth crack, and if your fillings arent good quality, its enough to make them fall right out.

During that period I was trying not to think of her, to forget her like every other unpleasant memory. “I didnt love her, I really didnt love her anymore,” I kept telling myself.

-    The question is whether youve ever loved her a voice would add from some dark nook of my consciousness.

-    No, the question is whether hes capable of loving anyone the hoarse voice of some psychiatrist could be heard from another corner.

-    He loves himself, he loves only himself. Only himself! squawked a new, unknown voice.

-    He loves himself least of all answered the psychiatrist calmly.

The voices had started haunting me after she left me. I endured life for a while in Oslo working at the University, but then, after the winter term, I packed my backpack, withdrew all the money from my account and fled to Brazil. For a while I roamed around with no specific aim, until I finally, after several months, settled on the little island Morro do Sao Paolo in the north of the country. There I fell in love with a girl who could have been my ex wifes double. When I first saw her I couldnt believe my eyes. The same high forehead, the same insolent eyes, full lips, her lithe body twisting with the music´s rhythm, and the same skinny, almost nonexistent bum. Only she was black. We loved each other for over two months and the voices inside me went silent. I had already started fantasizing, even planning how to stay on that island forever. I saw a bunch of dark-skinned children, all mine, chasing each other along the endless sandy beaches. And then one day she came to me in tears and said that she needed to move on. She explained through the tears, that seemed genuine, that her husband was in jail and that she needed to take care of her three children, who were waiting for her in a small town in the remote Mato Grosso region with her mother. I couldnt understand a thing, tried to calm her down with kisses and tender words in bad Portuguese. Finally she became hysterical, started yelling that Brazil was a disgusting country and that I was stupid and should go back where I came from. When she calmed down, she asked for money. I gave her whatever I had. She kissed me, thanked me and left.

Thats when the voices returned to my head, and I to Oslo again, after several more months of roaming Brazil. At the University I was welcomed by a notification that my contract was terminated because I had disappeared for more than half a year without informing anyone. Maybe things could have been sorted out; professor Pettersen, my mentor, liked me, but there was no point. I knew that I would disappear again at the first opportunity, as soon as I got together enough money.

I somehow made it in Oslo until the fall, mostly working all day long. As a translator when there was work, otherwise as a construction worker. In the fall I got restless again, and so I left once more, first to Croatia and then to Bosnia. I was thinking about what it would be like to jump into the Sava River and disappear, but it´s not that easy. Thats when I slipped and fell into the muddy river.






That time, two years ago, I left the river Sava behind. I also left the house, the street and the small town where I had spent my childhood, and where I had once been closer to myself than I would ever be again. I left behind the ruined walls, the withered gardens, cemeteries and graves scattered across neglected fields.


       After that fall into the Sava, I still felt some vague hope, a feeble and pitiful flame started burning inside me. I didnt know what to do yet, nor how, but as a start I changed my wet clothes, sat in my grandpas car, his old, green Zastava from the Yugoslav days, that we used to call “Greeny”, and set off towards Split. Grandpa had left me Greeny in his last will. It came to a halt on the road close to Mostar and wouldnt move any further. I left it with the keys in the ignition and set off down the road, with the backpack on my back, trying to hitchhike. No one stopped, of course. People drive like crazy on that road.      











I wake up abruptly before dawn, covered in sweat. At first I dont realize where I am, my heart pounds violently in my chest. Remnants of a dream dance wildly around grandpas cottage and I get up hurriedly and spread the curtains, hoping to let reality into the room. Pale as death, the light oozes through the window, insufficient to chase away the horror of the dream.

The dream: Im an evil ghost, chased by three good ghosts. We fly like comets inside a huge building that resembles my childhood elementary school. They chase me the way furious hounds pursue their prey, a prey which has already escaped them by a hairbreadth many times. I know that if they get me, everything is over. As we fly frantically through the long corridors, up and down the stairs, around the familiar classrooms, they threaten me and tell me what awaits me when they get me. I mostly giggle and swear at them and taunt them as best I can. One of them follows me like lightning towards a closed window. I make a turn, he hits the window. I open the window, push the good ghost out through it. Then I close it and whiz away like a bullet through the school gym where we used to keep honorary watch next to Titos picture. The remaining two good ghosts are contorted with pain and rage. They scream and howl, swear and curse wickedly. I shower them with profanities, but I can feel fear overwhelm me, panic overpowers my immaterial body and I feel that their threats will sooner or later come true.

These sorts of awakenings are usual when I stop smoking hashish. Ive been smoking every day for ten years with occasional breaks. Sometimes I would stop because I couldnt get my hands on the stuff, and sometimes because I wanted to clear my thoughts. In recent years, whenever I stopped smoking, I would sweat at night. A sweat that is sticky and has a sweet-sour smell. Then the dreams would start coming back. When you smoke, you dont dream. When you stop, you do.






That October two years ago, I flew back to Oslo. In the airplane I tried not to look at the faces of the people around me, nor listen to their voices; Im not interested in their boring stories about how they spent their holiday, how much they paid for accommodation and how much for grilled squid in some tavern on the island of Hvar. I grab the can of beer, open it and clumsily spill half of the contents onto the pants of a young Norwegian man who sits next to me, elatedly telling something to his girlfriend. She is unhealthily skinny, with pads in her bra and tiny red pimples on her face that she unsuccessfully tries to cover with makeup. The young man looks at me, first with surprise, and then with anger. He starts to clean the foam from his pants with the palm of his hand, swearing loudly in a North-Norwegian dialect. I keep silent and watch him the way one watches a nit that is going to drink half a litre of his blood once it becomes a louse. I take a sip of beer, swallow a Valium and turn away.

Before I sink down into a blissful unconsciousness, I think that the best thing would be for the plane to crash after I fall asleep. Somewhere in the Alps, if possible.






I wake up just before the plane is about to land at the airport of Gardermoen, some fifty kilometres from Oslo. A wave of fear flows through me, one whose real source I dont know, but which I am all too familiar with. It has always been like that, the fear has always been there, a dissatisfaction with myself and with the rest of the world.

It was tragicomic, really. When I was in Norway everything would get on my nerves: Norwegian music and musicians, literature and authors, newspaper headlines, TV news, the Norwegian language and all the dialects, Norwegian history, geography, nature, mountains and fjords, the dark, endless Nordic winters as well as the endless summer days, Norwegian laws, government, the king, the queen, the prince and the princess, people on the street, the boring, precocious boys and the conceited girls, the frustrated young women with bulging bums and pushed-up tits, the gaunt, self-conscious young men, not to mention football and politics.

At the same time, everything related to the Balkans felt like a fairytale: the people were spontaneous, warm and rebellious, there was none of that Norwegian sheep-like obedience, you were not bound by a cobweb of laws; sloppiness, negligence and chaos rule the day: that prolific gipsy mentality which for all its fault, and in spite of all its negative aspects, is still closer to human nature than the cold, metallic social structure, perfectly organized and carefully controlled in all its parts.  “Chaos is life,” I would think in one of my rented small rooms on Oslo´s east side. Id light joint after joint and conclude: to organize chaos means to strive for nothingness. I would listen to Balkan, Oriental or African music, read books in my language, buy Balkan newspapers, follow the Balkan news.

There was a kernel of truth in all this bullshit, but no one was forcing me to stay in Norway. I could go back to the Balkans. And it wasn´t like I hadn´t tried. But exactly at such moments my internal mechanism would get jammed. Whenever I went to Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, a week would pass, filled with wild parties and encounters with friends, but after that everything would assume a different shape: both the indented Norwegian coastline and the mountainous Balkans. Then I would wake up one morning, in Rijeka, Split, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Mostar, Tuzla, Belgrade, Novi Sad, regardless, usually hung over and exhausted, my mental capacities seriously diminished by some drug, and all of a sudden everything would turn upside down. I would be overwhelmed by a mixture of disgust and panic, a sense of total failure. After two weeks I would retreat into solitude, start listening to Norwegian music, read books in Norwegian, and should I by chance get drunk, I would bore people with the beauties of Norwegian nature, the country´s refined culture, its developed democracy and peace between social classes and other trifles.








The end of the dream: The two remaining good ghosts catch up with me, I feel their fury, I hear their enraged growling, they are already reaching for me with their hands, trying to grab the thin, gaseous tail trailing behind me as I fly, changing directions non stop. I lose hope, feel like Im losing strength, that I might even have deserved everything theyre threatening me with. Maybe I would even stop, but all I want is to know: why? All of this is terrifying only because I cant make out why I am the evil ghost and they are the good ones, why I am running away and they are chasing me, why I am the one whos scared, while they are haughty and confident. We fly on, I no longer recognize the rooms or the building, we reach the top, I fly out on the roof, there is a big chimney there, and I feel like maybe I can hide in it and rest for a moment. I sneak into it silently, shoot through the dense, sooty darkness and thats when I wake up covered in sweat.

With horror I realize that this world is just a dark chimney, in which I hid for a moment from the chase.








I remember how I walk off the plane, still numb from the Valium, and pass through passport control, yawning. Tears run down my cheeks. The policeman greets me kindly, looks at my red Norwegian passport, asks me where I’m coming from, I answer him slowly, through my nose. He slaps the stamp down on an empty page and says - Welcome home! - I look at him with wonder, I search his face for traces of sarcasm, but see only sincerity, health and happyness. I trudge on. I collect my luggage, an old blue backpack which I stole one night a long time ago in the University of Oslo student´s dormitory, and I head for the exit. At the customs check point, a policeman stands with a dog, whose breed I can’t determine with any certainty, and on the other side of the passageway, a policewoman. The dog sniffs people as they pass by. When I come up to him, he becomes visibly excited and starts to wag his tail and run around me. I think it might have been a Labrador, actually. The policewoman asks, would I please come with her into a room on the right side. I start off without a word. She asks me to put my luggage on the table and to open both the small backpack and the large one. She asks if I know why they stopped me. I say that I do.

-Do you know what kind of dog that is?

-I do.

-Why did it react to you?

-Maybe because I kept weed in this backpack until recently - I reply, yawning.

She acts delighted, quietly repeating my sentence word for word. She starts to dig through the small backpack which I had brought as a carry-on. She asks if I have anything similar on me.

I look at her and remain silent. She repeats the question. I ask her if I really look that stupid.

Then I have to take everything out of both backpacks, mainly dirty laundry and the odd book. She asks me if I smoke hashish, which I confirm.

- Really? - she exclaims, and for a moment she stops rummaging through my toiletry bag.

- Really - I reply, and I feel a mild yet fulfilling satisfaction because I am so fucking unaffeceted. I know its because of the Valium from the plane, and that my “phlegm” is fake, but I don’t care. The policewoman ask when was the last time I smoked weed.

- At the airport in Split.

Then the other policeman comes, he leads me away to the small room next door. There he kindly orders me to strip naked. I strip without any shame at all, for a moment I even think how I could use this moment to do a little dance.

The policeman is used to this procedure making people ill at ease, and tries to start a conversation. While he is shaking out my jacket, trousers, socks and shoes, he politely asks where I´ve traveled, what I did, what I do for a living, those sorts of things. I take off my briefs and give them to him, now I am completely naked. I tell him that I do not feel like talking, he can do his job and I will do mine.

-Okay? - I add loftily.

-Okay - he replies calmly.

He looks in my mouth, in my armpit, and in the end all that remains is for him to shove his finger into my anus. But I see that at the last moment he changes his mind and gives it up.

- And all the better for you - I think maliciously. – I wouldn’t look up there either.





The doors open with a sharp electronic noise, I pass through them. I step over the green lines on the ground and I enter Norway. A throng of people are waiting for someone they know. A girl passes me, a young man with a bouquet of flowers comes towards her, she runs into his embrace, they don’t kiss, they just stand there embracing for a long time, she whispers into his ear. I stand with one backpack on my back, and with the other in my left hand, I let my gaze wander, pretending to look for someone who is waiting for me.

- Norway… - I think as I slowly trudge off. A rather short man with a mustache holds a piece of paper in his hand with the word “Helena” written on it. In the other hand he holds a little Norwegian flag.

I walk slowly forward, expecting something, maybe a rush of feelings and memories, I wait for someone to call out my name, to catch me by the shoulder… I pause, turn around. Nothing. Even the voices in my head have gone silent. I see people around me walking, struggling with their luggage. Others are waiting for them, full of joy. I see how they talk, their lips widening into smiles, caught up in emotion, waving their arms. Everything is in slow motion, the voices become deeper, I turn around, feel the voices change into distant echoes that disappear slowly in the back of my head. My legs go weak, the black marble floor seems to turne into mud, like that of the Sava, and I start to turn around, already completely lost, like a catfish in a fish trap. I hear one of the voices coming from somewhere deep down in my spinal cord, hear it mention with a sneer the years I wasted in Norway, as it laughs and belts out a gypsy tune, mockingly and provocatively. I try to supress it, but it just sings on without paying me any heed. A desire to faint comes over me as I continue to spin around slowly, an older couple pass by me, looking me straight in the eye, I can see that clearly, my knees finally start to give, I see the mustachioed man with the flag, a tall blonde approaches him, she could be Russian, he holds out the flag, she takes it and it’s obvious that she doesn’t know what to do with it, or with him. I think how I could have taken a scrap of paper and written “Helena” and waited. I think: Norway…

I feel cold water on my face, someone is splashing it gently on my cheeks, and I gradually come to. Above me several heads nod knowingly, happy to have witnessed something out of the ordinary, to finally have experienced something beyond everyday life. I catch hold of the hand that is splashing water on me, it belongs to the middle-aged kiosk lady in front of whose kiosk I had collapsed. On her left breast is a name tag saying «Cathrine». Cathrine is blond, with bangs, and she is mumbling in a southern Norwegian dialect, seemingly worried. First I thought she was talking to me, but then she bent down, thrusting her boobs right out in front of my nose, splashing water on my cheeks, then I realized that she was just talking to herself. I move her hand away, and the only thing I succeed in uttering is:

-Sugar, give me some sugar…

She gets up, goes to her kiosk and takes a coke out of the fridge.

After I had drunk a bit of the fizzy sugar water, I stood up, and the people standing around me started to disperse. The performance is over. Cathrine goes back to her kiosk counter, a man is already waiting impatiently to pay for his newspaper.

I come up to her after he´s gone, I thank her for her help, I want to pay for the coke, she waves it away, says it was nothing, she was worried, she had seen me staggering from far away. I finally lift my glance from her boobs to her face. From behind the mask of her fifty-plus years, a sad little girl looks out at me. I’m well acquainted with these looks, and to be honest, I´m afraid of them.

I thanked her, hoisted the backpack onto my back, turned around and left.

While I was leaving, my eyes fell on the headline. “Princess Mette-Marit, the belle of the ball”, “How to shave a thousand kroner off your electricity bill”, “40 dead in Iraq”, “Big Brother-Kristine gets breast implants”…





I boarded a train for the city, got off at Oslo Cental Station, left the station building and stopped. It was already evening, neon lights flashed on and off, trams rattled past, the traffic lights went from red to yellow to green, people walked or stopped by their command, met and parted again, returned from their boring jobs, went home, went to pick the kids up from daycare, sat down at tables with ready-made food, talked about what they did that day, put the kids to bed, turned on the television, waited for their favorite show to come on, then slept.

Left of the main station building is «Plata», a spacious lawn where the local junkies gather. They tottered around in groups, got together, then dispersed, prepared their merchandise, exchanged profanities and other information of importance to them, called out loudly to each other, bummed money aggressively off passersby, quarreled with the police who would disperse them from time to time.

I descend into the darkness of the subway and catch the train to the eastern side of Oslo, to the station called «Tøyen».







Back then, two years ago, while I traveled on the metro to the Tøyen station, I squeezed the last drop of optimism from myself. I tried to think that everything could still be all right, that it’s possible to make a fresh start, that people survive all kinds of stuff, that they fall but then get up again, that we shouldn’t turn every little thing into drama or tragedy: who the fuck do you think you are, do you think you’re the only one having a hard time, do you think the world turns around just for you? Is that what you think? Just like your old man used to tell you.





I got out at Tøyen and climbed the hill up the street Hagegata. Three young girls from Somalia passed me. One is covered and wears a veil over her face, while the other two have wriggled into their skintight jeans and stab the sidewalk with their high heels. They laugh and wave their hands in the air. In a little square, two unnaturally thin young men sit on one of the benches. The head of one is falling onto his chest and the other stares at something that he is holding in his half-open fist. The first raises his head for a moment, then curses and his head bobs forward again.

I come to number 52. On one of the doorbells, I find Egil’s last name: Johansen. I ring the bell, a voice answers, I introduce myself and the doors open. I enter and climb the wooden stairs to the second floor. Egil is standing in the open door and he greets me heartily. There is no hugging and kissing like in the Balkans. There you have to kiss even the people you see every other day. With girls I could somehow put up with it, but with men it really got on my nerves. The worst are the ones who take offense if, by their judgment, you don´t kiss them passionately enough. And you also have to worry about which people you should kiss two times or three times, and those who were sensitive about which cheek you kissed first. Simply because of this kissing, I had lost a few people who I thought could become real friends.

Egil was tall and skinny, didn’t say much or show his feelings in a conspicuous way. When he put on a hat, he reminded me of a very skinny Clint Eastwood. He was ten years younger than me, and a few years ago I had taught him Yugoslavian literature at the University of Oslo. That’s how we met, and, eventually, become friends. Sometimes we would light up a joint and have a beer after class. I introduced him to gypsy music and he liked it a lot. Now, he told me, he’s studying Arabic and working as a DJ in clubs in Oslo. He plays Arab, African and gypsy music enriched with electronic beats.

He told me that one of the rooms in that three-bedroom apartment would be free in a week and that I could move in if I wanted. Until then I could sleep on the living room couch. In addition to Egil two other young men lived in the apartment. One of the two was leaving next week.

I accepted, and after that we didn’t have anything to talk about. After a few minutes, Egil said that he had to go to his room to study, and I went to take a shower.





After showering, I made up a bed on the couch in front of the television. Egil and the other two flatmates went in and out of the bathroom, one after the other, and then retired to their rooms. Tomorrow a new working day awaited, they´d better get to bed early to catch enough sleep. I am lying on the couch, I cover myself with my sleeping bag and turn on the television. Fifty channels, but I couldn’t stay on any one of them for longer than five seconds. I turned off the television and tried to sleep. But before I could fall asleep, all kinds of thoughts started to pass through my head. First of all I thought about what I would do now here in Norway. Find some kind of job, work from 8 to 4, smoke hashish alone in my room from 5 to midnight, get drunk on the weekends and try to get laid, spend Sundays with a hangover, watch porn movies or lie in front of the television and channel surf those 50 channels, wait for Monday, wait for Tuesday, wait for Wednesday, wait… Or fall in love with some girl, spend the weekends with her, take day trips, give her little presents, make love in unusual places, cheat on her, wait for her to cheat on me, break up and then get back together, comfort her and wipe away her tears, drag out the relationship until one of us finds someone else or until she gets pregnant. I thought of all that and almost started to laugh, because, of course it made me remember my ex-wife. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if she was real, or a demon entrusted with the task of torturing my soul.

After these kinds of thoughts I couldn’t fall asleep. I didn’t have hashish and I could feel the approach of some sort of fit or crisis. I took a Valium, swallowed it and turned my head towards the back of the couch.






I wake up. It is quiet in the apartment, it seems that I am here alone. Everyone has already gone to university or to work. Apart from Egil, there is one more Norwegian in the apartment, a student whom I had barely seen last night when I arrived. He was supposed to move out in a week, and I would take his room. In the last room, next to the kitchen, lives a French guy, the foreign correspondent for some French newspaper. I had met him the night before. He is tall and heavy, but with shiny red cheeks that remind one of a spoiled little boy.

I stand up and fold the sleeping bag. I go into the bathroom and take a long hot shower. I shave, brush my teeth, put on clean underwear, pull on some pants, a T-shirt and a track suit jacket. I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t think about anything.

I sit on the couch in the living room and I don’t know what to do. I look through the window at the street. It’s cloudy and the streets are wet. The rain has started and stopped several times already. The drizzle is cold and predictable. Cars pass by, they stop and go at the traffic lights at the intersection in front of our building. A few pedestrians hurry past, clutching their umbrellas.





Five days have passed. I would usually get up after Egil, the French guy, and the third guy, who was supposed to move out and whose name I didn’t remember, had left to take care of their daily tasks. I would shower, shave, and get dressed as though I were going out, sit on the couch by the window and look out at the street. Outside nothing has changed. The same grey sky, the same wet street, the same intersection, the blinking traffic light, the hurried silhouettes striding with enormous steps towards their destinations. At some point, a little past midday, I would go to the store, buy a newspaper, bread and a tin of mackerel in tomato sauce. I would return home, read the newspaper headlines and chew on the fish. One tin of mackerel in tomato sauce contains all that a person needs for one day.

When my flatmates came home, around 5 pm, they would greet me casually and then go to make their dinner in the shared kitchen. I would wait until they had finished preparing their meals, and then I would leave the flat so that I wouldn’t bother them while they ate. They ate in the living room while watching television. Egil always invited me to eat with them, but I always MsoNormalI sit on the couch in the living room and I donthlaquo;TI sit on the couch in the living room and I donanked him politely and refused. I told him that I had eaten mackerel in tomato sauce and that that is all I needed for the day. He didn´t answer, but calmly continued to eat his food. The French guy also offered me to share his meal. He spoke Norwegian pretty badly, so we communicated in English. He spoke like René from the British sitcom «'Allo 'Allo!». The third flatmate never offered me food, nor did he speak. On my sixth day in the apartment, a Saturday, he moved out of the room, and I moved in.





I brought in my two backpacks and put them in a corner. The room was spacious, with a bed, a desk, two chairs and a wardrobe. The windows looked out on the same street as the living room window. I stood and looked at the white walls which had turned a dirty yellowish color. Here and there I could see little holes and torn-off bits of wallpaper. I went to the bed and sat down. I looked through the window and saw the same scene which I had been watching the last few days. I think how at least now there´s some progress. Now you have your own room to furnish and fit out the way you want. You can sit on the bed and look at the street all day long. You don’t have to get out of their way when they come home for dinner. You don’t have to go outside anymore and climb onto the roof of the building, from where you have a magnificent view of all of Oslo. From the roof you can see the mosque which the local Muslims built a few years ago. In the eastern part of Oslo there are numerous immigrants from Islamic countries. The mosque is built of stone which they transported all the way from the Middle East. It has two slender minarets, but the Norwegian government doesn’t let them broadcast the call to prayer, because they think it will disturb the other citizens who are not Muslim.

I got up from the bed and went over to the backpacks. I placed the big backpack next to the wardrobe, and started to take out the clothes and arrange them on the shelves. When this was done, I picked up the smaller backpack and took out my laptop and a few books and notebooks, and put them on the desk. I turned on the computer, put on a short porn film and masturbated. When I had finished, I sat down on the bed and stared through the window at the street again.






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Nakon šireg izbora slijedi uži izbor nagrade ''Sedmica & Kritična masa'' za mlade prozne autore. Pročitajte tko su sedmero odabranih.


Hana Kunić: Vidjela sam to


Hana Kunić (Varaždin, 1994.) završila je varaždinsku Prvu gimnaziju nakon koje upisuje studij Glume i lutkarstva na Akademiji za umjetnost i kulturu u Osijeku, gdje je magistrirala 2017. godine. Kao Erasmus+ studentica studirala je Glumu i na Faculty of Theatre and Television u Cluj-Napoci u Rumunjskoj. Glumica je pretežno na kazališnim (HNK Varaždin, Kazalište Mala scena Zagreb, Umjetnička organizacija VRUM, Kazalište Lutonjica Toporko), a povremeno i na filmskim i radijskim projektima. Kao dramska pedagoginja djeluje u Kazališnom studiju mladih varaždinskog HNK i u romskom naselju Kuršanec u sklopu projekta Studija Pangolin. Pisanjem se bavi od osnovne škole – sudjelovala je na državnim natjecanjima LiDraNo (2010. i 2012.), izdala je zbirku poezije „Rika“ (2018.), njena prva drama „Plavo i veliko“ izvedena je na Radiju Sova (2019.), a njen prvi dječji dramski tekst „Ah, ta lektira, ne da mi mira“ postavljen je na scenu lutkarskog Kazališta Lutonjica Toporko (2021.). Suosnivačica je Umjetničke organizacije Favela. Živi u Zagrebu, puno se sunča i alergična je na banalnost.


Saša Vengust: Loša kob


Saša Vengust (Zagreb, 1988.) završio je školovanje kao maturant II. opće gimnazije. Nakon toga je naizmjence malo radio u videoteci, malo brljao na Filozofskom fakultetu po studijima filozofije, sociologije i komparativne književnosti. U naglom i iznenadnom preokretu, zaposlio se u Hladnjači i veletržnici Zagreb kao komercijalist u veleprodaji voća i povrća. Trenutačno traži posao, preuređuje kuću, savladava 3D printanje, boja minijature, uveseljava suprugu i ostale ukućane sviranjem električne gitare te redovito ide na pub kvizove da se malo makne iz kuće.


Sheila Heti: Majčinstvo

Sheila Heti (1976.) jedna je od najistaknutijih kanadskih autorica svoje generacije. Studirala je dramsko pisanje, povijest umjetnosti i filozofiju. Piše romane, kratke priče, dramske tekstove i knjige za djecu. U brojnim utjecajnim medijima objavljuje književne kritike i intervjue s piscima i umjetnicima. Bestseleri How Should a Person Be? i Women in Clothes priskrbili su joj status književne zvijezde. New York Times uvrstio ju je na popis najutjecajnijih svjetskih književnica koje će odrediti način pisanja i čitanja knjiga u 21. stoljeću, a roman Majčinstvo našao se na njihovoj ljestvici najboljih knjiga 2018. godine. Hvalospjevima su se pridružili i časopisi New Yorker, Times Literary Supplement, Chicago Tribune, Vulture, Financial Times i mnogih drugi koji su je proglasili knjigom godine. Majčinstvo je tako ubrzo nakon objavljivanja postao kultni roman. Sheila Heti živi u Torontu, a njezina su djela prevedena na više od dvadeset jezika.


Selma Asotić: Izbor iz poezije

Selma Asotić je pjesnikinja. Završila je magistarski studij iz poezije na sveučilištu Boston University 2019. godine. Dobitnica je stipendije Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship i druge nagrade na književnom natječaju Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize. Nominirana je za nagradu Puschcart za pjesmu ''Nana'', a 2021. uvrštena je među polufinaliste/kinje nagrade 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize. Pjesme i eseje na engleskom i bhsc jeziku objavljivala je u domaćim i međunarodnim književnim časopisima.


Ines Kosturin: Izbor iz poezije

Ines Kosturin (1990., Zagreb) rodom je iz Petrinje, gdje pohađa osnovnu i srednju školu (smjer opća gimnazija). Nakon toga u istom gradu upisuje Učiteljski fakultet, gdje je i diplomirala 2015. godine te stekla zvanje magistre primarnog obrazovanja. Pisanjem se bavi od mladosti, a 2014. izdaje svoju prvu samostalnu zbirku poezije, ''Papirno more''. Krajem 2020. izdaje drugu samostalnu zbirku poezije, ''Herbarij''. Pjesme objavljuje kako u domaćim, tako i u internacionalnim (regionalno i šire) zbornicima i časopisima. Na međunarodnom natječaju Concorso internazionale di poesia e teatro Castello di Duino 2018. osvaja treću nagradu. Poeziju uglavnom piše na hrvatskom i engleskom jeziku.


Luka Ivković: Sat

Luka Ivković (1999., Šibenik) je student agroekologije na Agronomskom fakultetu u Zagrebu. Do sada je objavljivao u časopisu Kvaka, Kritična masa, Strane, ušao u širi izbor za Prozak 2018., uvršten u zbornik Rukopisi 43.


Bojana Guberac: Izbor iz poezije

Bojana Guberac (1991., Vukovar) odrasla je na Sušaku u Rijeci, a trenutno živi u Zagrebu. U svijet novinarstva ulazi kao kolumnistica za Kvarner News, a radijske korake započinje na Radio Sovi. Radila je kao novinarka na Radio Rijeci, u Novom listu, na Kanalu Ri te Ri portalu. Trenutno radi kao slobodna novinarka te piše za portale Lupiga, CroL te Žene i mediji. Piše pjesme od osnovne škole, ali o poeziji ozbiljnije promišlja od 2014. godine kada je pohađala radionice poezije CeKaPe-a s Julijanom Plenčom i Andreom Žicom Paskučijem pod mentorstvom pjesnikinje Kristine Posilović. 2015. godine imala je prvu samostalnu izložbu poezije o kojoj Posilović piše: ''Primarni zadatak vizualne poezije jest da poeziju učini vidljivom, tj. da probudi kod primatelja svijest o jeziku kao materiji koja se može oblikovati. Stoga Guberac pred primatelje postavlja zahtjevan zadatak, a taj je da pokušaju pjesmu obuhvatiti sa svih strana u prostoru, da ju pokušaju doživjeti kao objekt. Mada pjesnički tekst u ovom slučaju primamo vizualno, materijal te poezije je dalje jezik.'' Njezine pjesme objavljivane su u časopisima, a ove godine njezina je poezija predstavljena na Vrisku – riječkom festivalu autora i sajmu knjiga.


Iva Sopka: Plišane lisice

Iva Sopka (1987., Vrbas) objavila je više kratkih priča od kojih su najznačajnije objavljene u izboru za književnu nagradu Večernjeg lista “Ranko Marinković” 2011. godine, Zarezovog i Algoritmovog književnog natječaja Prozak 2015. godine, nagrade “Sedmica & Kritična Masa” 2016., 2017. i 2019. godine, natječaja za kratku priču Gradske knjižnice Samobor 2016. godine te natječaja za kratku priču 2016. godine Broda knjižare – broda kulture. Osvojila je drugo mjesto na KSET-ovom natječaju za kratku priču 2015. godine, a kratka priča joj je odabrana među najboljima povodom Mjeseca hrvatske knjige u izboru za književni natječaj KRONOmetaFORA 2019. godine. Kao dopisni član je pohađala radionicu kritičkog čitanja i kreativnog pisanja "Pisaće mašine" pod vodstvom Mime Juračak i Natalije Miletić. Dobitnica je posebnog priznanja 2019. godine žirija nagrade "Sedmica & Kritična masa" za 3. uvrštenje u uži izbor.


Ivana Caktaš: Život u roku

Ivana Caktaš (1994., Split) diplomirala je hrvatski jezik i književnost 2018. godine s temom „Semantika čudovišnog tijela u spekulativnoj fikciji“. Tijekom studiranja je volontirala u Književnoj udruzi Ludens, gdje je sudjelovala u različitim jezikoslovnim i književnim događajima. Odradila je stručno osposobljavanje u osnovnoj školi i trenutno povremeno radi kao zamjena. U Splitu pohađa Školu za crtanje i slikanje pod vodstvom akademskih slikara Marina Baučića i Ivana Svaguše. U slobodno vrijeme piše, crta, slika i volontira.


Marija Skočibušić: Izbor iz poezije

Marija Skočibušić rođena je 2003. godine u Karlovcu gdje trenutno i pohađa gimnaziju. Sudjeluje na srednjoškolskim literarnim natječajima, a njezina poezija uvrštena je u zbornike Poezitiva i Rukopisi 42. Također je objavljena u časopisima Poezija i Libartes, na internetskom portalu Strane te blogu Pjesnikinja petkom. Sudjelovala je na književnoj tribini Učitavanje u Booksi, a svoju je poeziju čitala na osmom izdanju festivala Stih u regiji.


Philippe Lançon: Zakrpan

Philippe Lançon (1963.) novinar je, pisac i književni kritičar. Piše za francuske novine Libération i satirički časopis Charlie Hebdo. Preživio je napad na redakciju časopisa te 2018. objavio knjigu Zakrpan za koju je dobio niz nagrada, među kojima se ističu Nagrada za najbolju knjigu časopisa Lire 2018., Nagrada Femina, Nagrada Roger-Caillois, posebno priznanje žirija Nagrade Renaudot. Knjiga je prevedena na brojne jezike te od čitatelja i kritike hvaljena kao univerzalno remek-djelo, knjiga koja se svojom humanošću opire svakom nasilju i barbarizmu.

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