December 2003, No 14
Editor: Hella Rottenberg
Until recently, there was no way of knowing what books were available on the market in Serbia & Montenegro and in Croatia. All this has now changed. In October, the Serbian Book Information System, including Books in Print catalogue, was launched at the Belgrade Book Fair. The online Book Information System (www.KnjigaInfo.com) and the printed catalogue – the first of its kind in the country – is exceptionally rich in the information it provides, highly versatile, user-friendly, and extremely useful for all professional groups in the book trade, as well as for scholars, librarians, journalists, and the general public.
The online Serbian Books Information System covers not only 95 per cent of the books available on the book market (Books in Print) in Serbia and Montenegro. It also contains data about forthcoming books, books out of print, bestsellers, news and events from the book market, literary awards, open competitions, reviews, authors’ biographies and bibliographies, interviews, and relevant links.
There are about 27.000 titles in the online Book Information System database, out of which 20.000 are available, while 2.000 are forthcoming, and 5.000 are sold out and likely to be reprinted. The online version provides about 17.000 texts about books and authors, such as reviews, book descriptions, interviews, biographies, bibliographies, extracts, notes, etc.
The website contains information on 16.500 people (authors of available books, translators, editors, photographers, preface authors etc.), as well as institutions: 1.264 publishing houses; 304 bookshops, 19 distributors, 379 libraries, and 67 printing houses, as well as their place of domicile. It provides information which books of which publishers are distributed by which wholesalers and or bookshops, which bookshops exist in which places, the addresses of publishers, bookstores, distributors, and printers.
The website offers various tools for searching through the online database: quick search, advanced search, and search according to subjects. The quick search offers the possibility to search by author’s name, the book title; and the ISBN.
The advanced search includes the option to search books by title (a part, beginning or end), author’s surname, name, key words, price, year of publication, binding, and subject field); search of institutions such as publishing houses, booksellers, distribution companies, libraries, printers (by name, activity, place and country); and search of people (according to surname and first name, as well as to the role in relation to the book, such as author, translator, editor etc.).
The search is not ‘sensitive’ to capital and small letters. A particularly clever feature of the online Book Information System is that it recognizes ‘domestic’ letters with non-standard diacritical signs, but it also looks for similar letters, giving the same results. Thus, when you want to find books written by Dušan Veličković, you only need to type Dusan Velickovic to obtain the correct result.
If you are looking for a certain book, you can also get information about other books by the author and/or the publishing house, the distributor with his contact details, and information on the books of other publishers he distributes. If you want to know which booksellers or printers or libraries there are in a given town, you’ll find them with the contact details.
There are 131 content fields that can be searched on the website. When you enter one of the subject fields, you will first get the most recent editions in that subject field, while the books on a certain subject can be sorted according to their relevance, price and alphabetical order.
Almost simultaneously, the printed version of the Croatian counterpart was launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Its Internet version www.knjiga.hr has already been online since last year. The Croatian Book Information System (KIS in Croatian) online database comprises 13.293 books, 1.296 publishers, 11.917 authors and translators, 400 bookshops, and 4.103 book sales records collected from booksellers over the period of 31 weeks. Books are listed by categories and by authors. A list of publishers with contact details is also included.
The database was developed to include sales data provided by a large number of booksellers, introducing the best-selling list to the public, and enabling analysis of book sales in Croatia. A new free online service to publishers offers them the possibility to update the details of their books in the database.
The website includes news from the book market, and offers a forum for book trade professionals and public alike. Knjiga.hr has become the most popular book website in Croatia. It has attracted more visits than any web bookshop, e-magazine, or library, including the National Library of Croatia.
The development of the Croatian and the Serbian Books in Print catalogues have been made possible with the support of Open Society Institute Croatia, the Serbian Ministry of Culture, the Fund for Central and East European books Projects, and the Matra programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In They Would Not Harm a Fly. War Criminals from the Balkans, which has been published in Croatian by Feral Tribune in Split, the writer Slavenka Drakulić explores the question of what makes seemingly normal men and women into war criminals. In the court room of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague there is only a glass wall and a few meters distance between her and the war criminals who are on trial. She can look them in the eye and observe meticulously their demeanour and reactions.
She imagines how the three guys from Foca, who are convicted to more than twenty years imprisonment, hung around jobless in their Bosnian hometown, aimlessly sitting in a cafe, smoking cigarettes, indistinguishable from thousands of other jobless guys. Then the war starts and they change overnight into cruel rapists. Could normal men, who could be your neighbours or relatives, commit such crimes?, she wonders.
As she analyses their reaction to the testimony of the witnesses, she gathers that they do not comprehend why they are being punished. What was rape in comparison to mass murder? If the International Tribunal had not caught and tried them, they would still be sitting on the terrace of the cafe in their hometown and bragging about their deeds. They regret one thing – not that they raped and tortured muslim women – but that they were stupid enough to be captured. Drakulić also realises that the argument against the Tribunal, put forward by many in the former Yugoslavia, that it would be more honest and effective if war criminals would be tried at home, does not hold. The women who barely dare to testify in The Hague would never have come forward in Bosnia, being mortally afraid and ashamed.
In another chapter Drakulić tells the horrifying story of Milan Levar, a Croatian militiaman, who could not keep silent about the murder of 140 of his Serbian fellow-villagers. Some years after the war he related in detail the mass killing to the Croatian press, expecting that it would cause public indignation, followed by an official investigation and the arrest of the criminals. When nothing of the sort happened, Levar went to The Hague and testified to the public prosecutor. He refused the Tribunal’s offer of a new identity and to start a new life elsewhere. Instead he returned home, and after having been threatened several times, was killed by a bomb. Only then, in the year 2000, the Croatian prosecutor started an investigation. The war criminals were indeed arrested and brought to trial in Rijeka. However, the judges and the prosecution were put under heavy pressure by mass demonstrations by war veterans, who were outraged that ‘heroes’ were suddenly criminalized.
With many such examples Drakulić illustrates that coming straight about the war has hardly begun in the former Yugoslavia, not in Croatia, nor in Serbia or in Bosnia. She tries to understand what has driven the men and women, who committed such incredible acts of cruelty against their fellow citizens. She probes the minds of Slobodan Milošević, his wife Mira Marković, the Bosnian Serbian president Biljana Plavsić and the Serbian military leader Ratko Mladić, and in doing so comes as close as she can to them, recognizing sometimes traits of her father or mother. Relating their lives and psychology, Drakulić as if by the way tells us about life in Yugoslavia, about the traumatized generation of World War II, her own indoctrinated post-war generation and the next generation, which unknowingly fought out the war of their grandparents.
Day, a collection of essays by the Russian writer Tatyana Tolstaya, has been translated into Albanian and published by Onufri in Tirana. It would be interesting to learn how Albanian readers perceive these writings. Is the world which she observes strange and incomprehensible, or on the contrary, is her mindset quite familiar to them? As an essay-writer Tolstaya, who also writes short stories and novels, is truly sophisticated. Her tone is personal, her observations are unconventional and often funny, her subjects range from daily matters to high culture, from observations about the American ban on smoking in public places to the panic reaction of Russian consumers when prices go up.
In a piece titled ‘Translation from Australian’ Tolstaya invites us to read through her eyes a glossy journal, called Colours, which describes itself as ‘a magazine about the rest of the world’. Colours has just been translated and published in Russia and shows the ‘rest of the world’ in beautiful photographs that touch the heart of the well-to-do average European. Average Russians, Tolstaya remarks, feel automatically excluded and in the terms of Colours also belong to the ‘rest of the world’, read: Third World. ‘And here is a family from the Kingdom of Tongo’, Tolstaya writes. ‘Where is it located? Ah, you don’t know where the Kingdom of Tongo is? We too do not know. Nevertheless, there are also people living over there.’ And then she goes on describing the banal message which the journal conveys: people are brethren, whether they live in a hut, whether they are refugees or read a full-colour magazine in a comfortable house. For whom is Colours meant? Tolstaya makes you feel how totally out of place and absurd this glossy becomes, when distributed in post-communist Russia.
Post-communist Russia is a favourite theme for Tolstaya to make fun of, especially in her essays about the Yeltsin years. In a tiny scene Tolstaya manages to let readers relive that period of chaos and craziness. ‘I call the Voice of America. Hello, excuse me, maybe you remember how our country is called nowadays? I hear them thinking. Commonwealth…commonwealth… Volodya! Volo-od!… How is the Soviet Union called? Commonwealth … of Independent … States. Are you sure? Yeah, kind of.’
But she also recalls the dreadful days of coercion and idiotic formulas under Soviet rule. In the final essay of the book she likens her country to a madhouse, where the doctors have lost their mind and the patients somehow understand perfectly well what is going on, but pretend to be crazy. Maybe not even, she adds, in order to please the doctors, but simply because this way life is more interesting, comfortable and magical. Such a feeling for the absurdities of a society might well appeal to Albanian readers.
In October 2003, the CEEBP awarded seventeen grants for books, and four other grants. The grants for books were awarded for fourteen West – East translations, two East –East translations, and one book in original language.
Other grants were awarded to two publishing houses for a website and computer equipment, and one for a special issue of a literary journal, while the National Library of Serbia, the partner in the Serbian & Montenegrin Book Market Project, obtained a special grant for equipment.
- H.G. Adler, Theresienstadt, Vol. II., Barrister & Principal, Brno
- Antonio Lobo Antunes, O manual dos inquisidores, W.A.B., Warsaw
- Shari Benstock, Women Of the Left Bank. Paris 1900-1940, SIC!, Warsaw
- Čamiarycki (ed.), Nonkonfarmizm v Biełarusi: 1960 – 1985, Athenaeum, Minsk
- Bora Ćosić, Carinska deklaracija (The Customs Declaration), Czarne, Wołowiec
- Aleš Debeljak, “Selected Poems” and “Selected Essays” (Selected Works in two volumes), Blesok, Skopje
- Slavenka Drakulić, They Would Not Harm a Fly – War Criminals on Trial in The Hague. Feral Tribune, Split
- Jens-Martin Eriksen & Frederik Stjernfelt, Hadets anatomi: Rejser i Bosnien og Serbien (The Anatomy of Hatred: Journeys in Bosnia and Serbia), Alexandria Press, Belgrade
- Leonhard Frank, Das Ochsenfurter Männerquartett, Rende – Fahrenheit 451, Belgrade
- Nadine Fresco, Fabrication d’un antisémite, EST-Samuel Tastet, Bucharest
- Max Kaase & Kenneth Newton, Beliefs in Government, GAL-ICO, Sofia
- Machiel Kiel, Turco-Bulgarica (collected works), Amicitia, Sofia
- Norman M. Naimark and Holly Case, Yugoslavia and Its Historians. Understanding the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s, Srednja Europa, Zagreb
- Léon Poliakov, Bréviaire de la haine. Le IIIe Reich et les Juifs, EST-Samuel Tastet, Bucharest
- Gershon Shaked, Geschichte der modernen hebräischen Literatur. Prosa von 1880 bis 1980, Cyklady, Warsaw
- Eric Weil, Philosophie politique, Critique & Humanism, Sofia
- Franz Werfel, Nicht der Mörder, der Ermördete ist schuldig, Rende – Fahrenheit 451, Belgrade
- Aidai publishing house – website
- Bruno Schulz issue, Gradac, Čačak
- Feministička 94 publishing house – computer
- National Library of Serbia – equipment
European Cultural Foundation
Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Salomon von Oppenheim Stiftung
Stichting Het Parool
Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, The Netherlands
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands