Mirko Božić – A “Literary Activist”

Engaged literature has many faces. What unites these approaches is, though, the will to change something in the reader’s mind. A goal. This is the reason why these works reflect a will to address issues of political, social and cultural explosiveness. Mirko, born in Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina) has published several volumes of poetry, essays, columns and stories and founded a literary festival. “I want to give a differentiated view”, he says when asked what his goals are. And these views are often connected to his home country. So let’s find out what his literature has to do with his origins.

(Julia Schiefer) So, let’s begin from scratch. What’s your connection to CROWD?

(Mirko Bozic) I was introduced to Anne Köhler [a young German author most famous for her book on side jobs] who introduced me to Tom Bresemann [one of founders of CROWD], and so the project caught my attention.

Like CROWD you also use the term „literary activist“. What does it mean to you?

Literary activism – like any other activism – means using the methods and means you work with to emphasize the social, political and other issues that have to be dealt with. It’s also about breaking taboos and having courage to go beyond linguistic aesthetics without the fear of pamphletism, to stand for what you believe is worth fighting for. This is especially important in the time of turbulence we live in right now.

You said that you want to reach an audience, that you’re not writing for yourself. How do you deal with the fact that it has become quite hard to find an audience due to the increase of direct distribution channels and the loss of a canonised media? How would you reach such an audience?

The very act of publishing your work or reading it publicly means that your writing is supposed to reach someone and catch their attention. That doesn’t imply a status of yoghurt celebrity, but rather the conviction that your work might change the way its reader sees something.

It’s become difficult to reach an audience primarily because of the plethora of banalities and instant politics imposed on us daily from all forms of mediums. One way to reach out might be to identify and use the same channels that have proven to be most frequented by your target audience, like Facebook, WordPress, online magazines, Twitter etc. I recently discovered literature on Soundcloud, and it’s great. You can listen to an author reading his work while you’re cooking.

What was the literary festival „Poligon“ that you engaged in just recently about?

The Poligon Festival is a literary platform gathering authors from various countries in former Yugoslavia and elsewhere to present their work for our local audience, discuss important issues in round tables and a chance to promote the cultural and historical qualities of Mostar and its surroundings. The program includes other genres like music, art performances, exhibitions etc, all aimed at presenting the local art/literary scene as vibrant, creative. Each year there’s a different topic. This is our second year and the topic was the freedom of movement and speech, which we addressed in a special round table with our guests, who attended from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mirko Bozic sits in the middle. The person on his right is the PR representative, and the one on the left is the manager of the main venue at Poligon.

Critics say that your writing deals with the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a surprising, fresh and personal way. Your home country and home city Mostar fuels your work. However, there is an article in German published in the daily „taz“ in which you are featured as one of the youngsters that want to leave post-Yugoslavia Bosnien-Herzegovina as soon as a chance pops up. How come?

Alain de Botton once said he moved out from Switzerland because there was nothing to write about over there. Here we have the exact opposite, but the conditions in which all of us live are bad because the basic mechanisms of society are paralysed in a state of constant vacuum. In Mostar, we haven’t had local elections for the last 8 years. The unemployment rates are skyrocketing. Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Serbian entity in the country, said this country is “a temporary solution” for them. This pretty much describes the reason why I don’t see a future for myself here, though my writing will always be colored by my origins.

You received the Croatian literary prize for best emerging poet. And there is a fun fact. There is a quite famous Croatian author whose name is written the same as yours who died in 1995. What’s your relation to him and to Croatia?

My relation to Croatia is quite a firm one. I spent time there on the coast as a refugee during the war time. I have many friends in the capital city, and visit frequently. Two years ago, I was on a literary residency program in Zagreb where I met many people in their literary scene who became my friends ever since. Next year, one of their publishers will be publishing my book so that will be a new tie to Croatia for me as well. As for the author who’s my namesake, I thought for a while to use a pseudonym for my writing, but since my father is the namesake of a famous Croatian alpine climber, I thought it was rather funny coincidence and so I kept it like this.

On what are you working right now?

I’m working on a new poetry book, a book of short stories revolving around a street vendor from Mostar and a thriller about a man fleeing from prison in a small Bosnian town into a deep forest where he encounters ancient Slavic demons.

Born in Mostar in 1982, Mirko Božić writes poetry, prose, columns and essays. His poems have been published in literary anthologies and numerous literary magazines in Bosnia and Herzegovina and abroad. As emphasised in the laudation by the international jury “Mirko Božić’s literary project is a unique reading of the history of his motherland written on the basis of uncommon material tightly related to his family and personal life. By metaphorically interweaving two tragic events, the loss of his mother and the loss of his motherland, the author constructs his unconventional and personal demythologization of the prewar (Bosnian and Herzegovinian) time and space“. In 2014 he was awarded with the CEI Fellowship award. In 2015 he founded and organized the literary Festival Poligon.

Photo credits: Ivan Kelava

Unfortunately there had been a mistake on Mirkos name which was corrected on 18 December 2016.

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