Marko Vešovic was born in the village of Pape, near Bijelo Polje in northern Montenegro. In 1963, through chanced family connections, he came to Sarajevo, and has resided there ever since. He studied at the University of Sarajevo, where he now teaches literature. Of Orthodox background, he is one of Bosnia’s best-known and most respected writers.
His first collection of poems, Nedjelja, (‘Sunday’), won the former Yugoslavia’s two most prestigious literary accolades, the Trebinje Prize and the Branko Award. To subsequent acclaim, he has published three volumes of poetry, two collections of essays, and a novel. He is also a celebrated translator of poetry, having published volumes of Charles Baudelaire and Emily Dickinson, as well as lesser selections of Joseph Brodsky, Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetayeva and Aleksandr Pushkin.
During the three-and-a-half-year siege of Sarajevo, Vešovic remained in the city and wrote over 100 essays for Oslobodenje (‘Liberation’), Dani (‘Days’) and Slobodna Bosna (‘Free Bosnia’). These writings, which exemplify the multi-ethnic defence of the Bosnian capital, were of immense importance to the morale of the city’s besieged inhabitants. They constituted a polemic engagement with those co-religionists, colleagues, friends and even students who had joined the Serbian fascists’ intent on destroying the cultural diversity of Bosnia in pursuit of an ethnically pure Greater Serbia. In 1994, Vešovic´s wartime essays were collected into a single volume, Death Is a Master from Serbia (the title echoing a famous poem by Paul Celan), which was subsequently published in ltaly, in an abridged version, as Excuse Me for Speaking of Sarajevo.
Suffused with an ironic, Rabelaisian wit, Vešovic´s poetry both mocks an imperfect world and celebrates the enchantments of childhood memory with gentleness and ardour. A striking feature of his oeuvre is the huge arc of its perspectives: from intimate conversations with his dead mother, through the harsh splendours of Pape, to the overwhelming pressures of the Bosnian war. In a language that is both richly imagistic and formally dextrous, one encounters everywhere in Vešovic´s poetry the eternal dialogue between the tenderness and cruelty of existence.
[Marko Vešovic took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2001. This text was written on that occasion.]
An interview with Vešovic