book fairs · books · bookshelves

A Book Fair and Presents from Far Away

April’s Sarajevo Book Fair was as uninspiring as the previous one. Usually, I visit it on the first day, with Joanna – it’s been our tradition for the past eleven years. This year, however, she had better things to do, and I went, feeling no excitement, two days before closing day with another friend of mine.

I had a faint hope of finding some of the Aitmatov’s novels, and I actually did found one, The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, but it was so ridiculously expensive that even dwelling on whether or not to buy it was out of the question. Here’s what I ended up buying/getting:

  • Satantango. Laszlo Krasznahorkai
  • The Ice Palace. Tarjei Vesaas
  • Dani u Valhali. (The Days in Valhalla) Refik Ličina
  • The Puppet Master. Jostein Gaarder
  • The Golovlyov Family. Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin
  • Tužne šansone. (The Sad Chansons) Dušan Gojkov

Last year I bought Vesaas’ The Birds and was thrilled to learn that Dereta was planning to publish The Ice Palace as well. I’ve been searching for this book for ages! It finally came out and of course, I had to have it. Satantango was another book of theirs that drew my attention. Kraszahorkai’s has been on my reading list for years, so this was an easy choice. (I love Dereta’s covers – very simple, minimalistic, still very beautiful and effective.)

Digging through a bunch of red ”Reč i misao” (A Word and a Thought) books, I stumbled upon The Golovlyov Family. Karen opened my eyes to Saltykov-Shchedrin’s work when she wrote about The History of a Town. I looked up the existing translations to Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian and learned that there are seven books in existence (which is not a wonder at all). I made a note to myself to pay closer attention when browsing old, used book boxes and shelves. It paid off. I am happily looking forward to reading it.

Gaarder’s latest novel was an early birthday gift from a friend and another book I know I will enjoy reading. (Even though I have a hunch it will not be in the league of his earlier novels.)

Not sure why I bought Dani u Valhalli. It’s a kind of a fictionalized memoir about the author’s life in exile (in Sweden)… While I was checking a box with used books in English, at the same stall, the vendor asked if he could give me a gift, picked Tužne šansone and gave it to me for ”being pretty”. He also had Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Maugham’s stories (very cheap, forgot the title), but I had no cash left, and when I came back the next day both titles were gone. Just my luck. I still can’t get over them, especially Aristophanes…

So, in the end, it should be said that I am relatively satisfied with what I managed to get out of the Fair.

Next, I need to record the books sent by a dear friend in Malaysia. They have given (and continue to give) me so much pleasure. Just the sight of them is spirit-lifting.

A Nature Journal. Richard Mabey (Pure joy! Gorgeously illustrated by Clare Roberts. After reading it, I felt even more inspired to continue observing life in my small corner of the Earth.)

A Buzz in the Meadow. Dave Goulson (Another delightful title! I’m still reading it. Goulson knows how to tell a story.)

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. Sun-mi Hwang (A short and sweet novel about a hen who took things in her own.. wings.)

Pennine Way Companion. Alfred Wainwright (I love the visual aspect of this book – lots of beautiful illustrations and the font resembles handwriting. If I ever set my foot on the England’s first continuous long-distance path for walkers, it will come very handy.)

So, that was April. On to write about the May book haul…

book fairs · bookshelves

Shelf News. September and October Arrivals

img_20161122_124959aLate September saw the end of one of my favorite places in town when it comes to books – the second-hand market near Konzum Family Center.

It’s not completely gone but moved to a different location… It could be argued that the new location is just 600 meters away from the old one, but the damage is considerable nevertheless. Of the four book stalls that existed only one is left standing. Yes, it is the one I used to visit most frequently, but it is not even close to what it used to be.

The stall is now significantly smaller and, consequently, holds fewer books. Over a thousand of dusty old volumes (that were my main interest), as well as several dozen books in English, have been put away in a storehouse somewhere. There’s just no room for them…

img_20161122_130605It was pure luck that I paid a visit to the market just weeks before the said disaster happened, that I managed to finally get my hands on much praised Colette. There were only two Claudine novels,

  • Claudine at School and
  • Claudine is Leaving (Claudine and Annie)

which means I still have to hunt down the other two titles. Fingers crossed.


  • I also bought her The Vagabond,
  • Francoise Sagan’s A Certain Smile,
  • Karel Čapek’s short story collection The Blue Chrysanthemum,
  • Practicalities by Marguerite Duras,
  • Shaw’s Man and Superman, and
  • Sharks and Little Fish by Wolfgang Ott.




Finding Aeschylus’ tragedies – all of the surviving plays in one old volume – was a sheer delight. The book is almost a century old (published in Zagreb, in 1918) and still uncut. Nobody has ever read it! Unbelievable! Sad, too.

The backbone is nonexistent, the pages are starting to fall apart, which means I will have to rebind it.


Ever since I first heard about Belgrade’s book fair I’ve been wanting to visit it. Somehow the opportunity never arose; bad timing, poor funds, no one willing or able to accompany me were the reasons that kept me away all these years (more than a decade, come to think of it!). This October however, the stars lined up just right. All the pieces of the puzzle came perfectly together.

img_20161122_130225I traveled with Johanna and her colleagues from the library and we spent the whole day browsing. Oh, the scope of it! It’s ten times larger than Sarajevo’s fair, with a much better offer and much more variety. We didn’t even manage to see everything. Still, it was a wonderful day.

I stumbled upon two of the Proust’s books at a flea market sometime in mid-September. Buying parts of a series separately is a risky business, but I decided to purchase them, hoping to eventually get my hands on the rest of it. Luck served me, and I found other nine titles at the Belgrade’s fair! Now there’s only the first one missing.

img_20161127_093535One of the most thrilling moments was spotting a wide stall that held Wordsworth Classics. I have a soft spot for these editions. It took me a good half an hour to decide which of them to bring back to Sarajevo. In the end, I opted for a number of Woolf’s novels and Ulysses.


I also found:

  • The Origin of Species, for a very nice price,
  • Queneau’s Exercises in Style, and
  • Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table.

Belgrade, I will be back.

book fairs


It might be that I haven’t read much lately but I sure have been to a few bookish events.

First, of course, the annual Sarajevo Book Fair. I was saddened to see it even more ridiculous than previous years. Putting that story aside, four books that I have bought:


Effi Briest. Theodor Fontane

The Birds. Tarjei Vesaas

Misunderstanding in Moscow. Simone de Beauvoir

Burial Gifts. Tor Ulven


Then there was a book-swap organized by local book enthusiasts. I have been wishing for something like this for a long time since I have a dozen books that no longer (or, in some cases, never) interested me, that I wanted to replace. I went with only four of those and came back home carrying some intriguing titles:


Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand

The God of Small Things. Arundhati Roy

The Sea of Silence. Nenad Ešpek

The Dean’s December. Saul Bellow



Next came birthday presents, just as I like them:

13187619_1746626502263691_2021454802_n13219725_1746626552263686_766840872_nThe Chronicles of Barsetshire
. Anthony Trollope

Library at Night. Alberto Manguel





And, last but not at all the least, a book promotion. It was a pleasure to again see my university professors, to hear them talk about literature. Especially the beloved and enchantingly eloquent Dževad Karahasan. Such a joy it was to see all the people in the room listening attentively. It is too bad that no one started a discussion or asked a question… Anyway, the book:


The masques of a dramatic entity. Almir Bašović







Sixteen new roommates in total. Delightful!

book fairs · bookshelves

New arrivals

To be honest, I found this year’s April Book Fest rather underwhelming. Why? Well, there were a number of reasons but none of them seemed to be strong enough to induce such a feeling… Maybe it’s their sum that was doing it…

As every year, I have been looking forward to the Book Fest. I planned to leave work ten or at least five minutes early – to avoid buying a tram ticket (because I would rather give that money for one or two secondhand books), meet Joanna at 4.15 pm and happily step into the adventure of digging our way through the books till the closing hour, more precisely 7 pm… As it often happens, things were not working out according to the plan. My two pupils were extra naughty and worked very reluctantly. Consequently, I didn’t manage to leave early and it all left me in a state of mild anger and high annoyance. As if it wasn’t enough, I had to buy the ticket, the tram was unusually slow and I was running late. However, I tried to leave it all behind as we walked through the door – the entrance was free of charge – finally, something to cheer me up a bit!

There was a question whether the Fair would be held at all, economical situation in the country not being favorable to anyone involved in the book business in any way. As a result, there was a smaller number of exhibitors and the fair area was notably smaller. Personally, this was not so disturbing, since I had to restrain myself from spending much because of the fast approaching visit to Göteborg. In the end, I chose only four titles – some of them loved, some long awaited, but none to make me jump so very high with joy as it sometimes happens:

  • Oracle Night. Paul Auster2014-04-26 20.41.09
  • Around the World in 80 Days. Jules Verne
  • Lord Jim. Joseph Conrad
  • Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. Mario Vagas Llosa


There’s a flea market, with several well-stacked book stalls, my friends have been telling me about for years. I have never made it a proper visit (hard to understand how this could be!) and decided to finally do it this weekend.. Although it was a rainy day, my sister and I were determined to go and we were appropriately rewarded for our determination. We were hands and heads into the dusty shelves and boxes and piles of books. I was on my toes, stretching to reach and examine every book there is – in order not to miss a potential heart-rate-increaser. It was heavenly exciting and all worth it:

  • The Long Ships. Frans Gunnar Bengtsson
  • The Cloven Viscount. Italo Calvino
  • Tender is the Night. F.S. Fitzgerald
  • A Memory (A Reputation Left Behind). Olav Duun
  • The Garin Death Ray (The Hyperboloid of Enineer Garin). Aleksey Tolstoy

And! my sister got me Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with the weirdest illustrations of Alice I have seen so far. Plus, a Moomin-book! – Comet in Moominland; not a very good translation, with lot of original text cut out (why would anyone do that?!), but, somehow I’m OK with that, at the moment.

2014-04-26 20.37.06



book fairs · books

Winter Book Saloon 2013


I got more than I dared to hope for from this year’s Winter Book Saloon. Due to some serious clothes shopping I had to do, my book fund was low. I managed, however, to get my hands on these four titles:

  • Carson McCullers – Reflections in a Golden Eye
  • Karel Čapek – Tales from Two Pockets
  • Andrey Kurkov – The Tale of the True People’s Inspector (first volume of the Geography of a Single Shot)
  • Michail Sholokhov – Quiet Flows the Don


I expected one book more, which was promised as a present of my own choice and while I was deciding which one I would want it to be my dear sister, and Joanna too, were so very kind to demand their own rights to buy me presents… So I ended up with these titles as well:

2013-12-20 08.43.39

  • Jose Saramago – Death With Interruptions
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – When We Were Orphans
  • Marcus Zusak – The Book Thief
  • Fusheng Wu – The Poetics of Decadence. Chinese Poetry of the Southern Dynasties and Late Tang Periods

Some time ago I was a bit saddened thinking I do not have book traditions or habits of my own. Waking up yesterday morning I realized I do have some sort of a tradition. A ritual really… Every time I come home with a bunch of books bought at some fair or another, I am urged to keep them as close as possible during the rest of the day – smelling them, touching their covers, turning pages (not reading them, just looking at the letters), reading blurbs or dedications and enjoying the thoughts of delights I would find between their covers.. However, the main part of this bonding ritual takes its place when the night comes – I bring books to bed, pile them up one on another close beside my pillow and I gradually fall asleep looking contentedly at their spines.

In the morning they are ready to find their places on the bookshelves.

book fairs · books

A Book Thief

It was a Winter book fair some four or five years ago. I remember standing by a stall, holding a couple of previously bought books and two other, picked up from that very stall, deciding which one to purchase since I could not afford both. People were crowding around, browsing, asking questions, handing money. The salesman was very busy and, naturally, unable to pay attention to everything that was going on around him. I thought how easily I could slip one of the books in my bag or under the books I came with. Steal one, pay for the other. No one would notice. And, due to my innocent looks, no one would suspect either. I joked about it with a friend and a regular companion to all the main book fairs, Joanna. We both agreed we couldn’t do it. I sighed for the lack of decisiveness, wished I wasn’t so good and thought how, if I did it, that salesman I’m looking at would have to pay for my naughtiness out of his own pocket…

(Interesting enough, the thought of stealing a library book never crossed my mind.)

Two evenings ago, the urge to permanently borrow a book almost overwhelmed me. Sitting in a small, cute cafe, a friend and I were browsing through some dozen books which stood on a pretty corner shelf. There it was – thin, pocket-sized, old tome of Khayyám’s Rubaiyat. Damaged spine, dark-green and black covers with Persian carpets motive. Inside, on the title page, a dedication (the contents of which I cannot remember!); and another one, struck through a number of times but still readable (which I haven’t read! ..why!?).                  

I was seriously tempted. I thought how, most probably, its absence wouldn’t be noticed and how, of course, the book would be better off with me (for only an ignorant and disinterested owner would expose such a precious object to the evils of the world).   

I almost took it… At the moment, I am sorry I couldn’t and haven’t. I should have done it – if not for the book itself then certainly to a punish the owner for playing painfully bad music in such a nice interior! 

‘Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

Omar Khayyám

book fairs

Summer Book Fest

For a country with ridiculously high VAT on books, its capital city certainly hosts a great number of book fairs. Last Monday saw an opening of the third fair this month. I am not sure to what reason to ascribe this enthusiasm. Is it an act of rebellion? Is it the ‘if the mountain won’t come to Mohammad’ situation? Are they just trying to grab a piece of cake called The Peak of Tourist Season and Sarajevo Film Festival?… It’s probably all of these combined… Nevertheless, I am most surely not the one who’ll complain about their number, but the one to welcome them ardently.

One quick glance at the stalls and it is sadly obvious how the majority of salesmen (and women) are not readers. They are selling books as though they are selling vegetables on a marketplace. As soon as they see a person approaching they rush to make their presence known – “How can I help you?”. Well, you can please stay away and let me have a look and if I am interested in a certain title and express that interest in a form of a question then you are allowed to say something about it and inform me of its price. THAT would be helpful.

I started avoiding one particular table with a magnificent selection of books, a couple of fairs ago. Yes, the prices are high (once attractive now doubled or tripled) but the main reason is the man behind those piles of books. He follows me around the stall, comments on my choices, suggests and stares so intensely that my only wish at that point is to evaporate! Instead, I throw a faint smile, utter an unconvincing excuse and escape to my little island – a stall that’s always there every book fair, that holds a vast quantity of good books, old and new. The man is tall, dark, bearded, somehow resembling Robinson Crusoe and a basketball player (Gasol maybe?). He never says much and when he does it’s almost in a whisper. There I’m at peace and can enjoy quiet browsing all day long if I like.

I left, happy, with three books: Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book, Pearl Buck’s Imperial Woman and Saint Exupery’s Wind, Sand and Stars.