Firewood of Sarajevo

Firewood of Sarajevo

Author: Said Khatibi

Publishing House: Banipal Books

Publication Year: 2021

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 302

Said Khatibi’s ‘Firewood of Sarajevo,’ a finalist for the 2020 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, is a profound exploration of the turbulent histories of Algeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The novel, set during the 1990s’ brutal civil wars, deeply affects ordinary lives in both countries.

The story focuses on Salim, an Algerian journalist, and Ivana, a Bosnian woman, as they start anew in Slovenia. Ivana’s pursuit of writing her ‘dream play’ becomes a key element, embodying the shared memories and trauma of war survivors in both nations.

Khatibi’s narrative pays homage to the thousands affected by the conflicts in Algeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina, offering a unique exploration of the exile experience. More than a survival story, ‘Firewood of Sarajevo’ is a journey of self-discovery and realization, noted for its depiction of war, genocide, and the complexities of memory and thought.

Salim and Ivana’s intertwined lives reveal their individual traumas and startling family histories amidst war. Khatibi’s reflections on his Sarajevo visit resonate with his life and character. Ivana represents Sarajevo’s spirit, its complexities, ambitions, fears, and violent historical scars.

Salim’s narrative, set in tumultuous Algiers, mirrors the broader societal chaos of Algeria. Through Salim, Khatibi offers fresh perspectives on a nation under siege. In Ljubljana, Slovenia, Salim and Ivana confront a reality far from their war-ravaged origins. Their struggles and disillusionment in this new city underscore their paths to healing.

Khatibi’s work is a meditation on war’s aftermath, identity, memory, and resilience. Translated by Paul Starkey, ‘Firewood of Sarajevo’ shines for its clarity, insight, and Khatibi’s fusion of journalism and fiction. It brings empathy and depth to a narrative that echoes the lasting effects of war on human lives.

Read More About Said Khatibi

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