In the year of 1968, the novel Ugursuz announced Nedžad Ibrišimović to Bosnia and Herzegovina's literary elite. Not yet 30, Ibrišimović, a veritable literary discovery, became a laureate of the prestigious Sarajevo April 6 city prize.
In the years that followed, Ibrišimović continued to write and publish books, many of which were adapted for the stage, also penning several plays of his own. Ibrišimović is one of only several living Bosnian writers to have seen their works published in Izabrana djela 2005 (Selected Works). His newest work, Vječnik is considered by many a masterpiece.
Perhaps the best way to begin discussing this book is to quote the author himself: "I had not turned 18, when the first spark for Vječnik appeared. At first, this spark meant something along the lines of how would a dead man, should he live again, see things and what would he feel."
The author's own words summarise the idea and story told in Vječnik. The novel, which deals with the subjects of destiny, life and death, was published in 2006, some 40 years after the author began writing it. The novel tells the story of millennia-old seven people who try to uncover the secret of their longevity.
"At the age of 18 I felt its sound and colour. It was not an idea, nor a thought, a notion, nor a tale, yet I felt a tone, a sound, and slowly realised what the book Vječnik was meant to be; it was gradually unveiled to me... Meanwhile, I wrote other books, searching for what Vječnik wanted to say, and how it wanted to appear beneath my pen, and it opened up. This is why it took 40 years. I needed to study different cultures, to make sure that I committed no inaccuracies, factual omissions. I think that I have finally pried the doors to Vječnik open."
Upon publication, the book garnered huge attention and achieved record sales. The novel has since been translated into Czech, Turkish, Albanian, English, French, Spanish, German and Italian.
Vječnik topped all previous records in the Sarajevo Svjetlost publishing company, including those for Meša Selimović's "Derviš I smrt” (The Dervish and Death), one of the greatest works of literature ever written in the region of former Yugoslavia.
The book recently saw its eighth edition, which attests to the quality of the author.
"The persons in my novel have lived for a long time on Earth, and although some of them see their longevity as a punishment, others see it as a reward. The novel's message is that psychological death is worse than real death."
In addition to literature, Ibrišimović paints and studied sculpting. "I must confess that I have ambitions as a sculptor, although with less success than in literature. Painting for me is really relaxing and soothing. Still, literature is my chief occupation, although I experience joy and satisfaction when painting, and am always pleased to exhibit something out of my cycle."
Ibrisimovic's use of oriental elements, as a writer who relies on Islamic traditions and philosophy, largely define him as an artist.
Judging by its reviews, Vječnik, to put it in the words of writer Nijaz Alispahić is: "The crown and ultimate achievement, and a synthesis of sorts of the arts of story-telling and truth-seeking, not solely through the multi-layered poeticism of this writer, but in the narrative art of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
Vjecnik will soon receive a sequel: "Actually, it will be a continuation of the ninth chapter called El Hidr’s Book. The novel is in the works, but like its predecessor, it speaks of people who have lived for several thousand years, but are still ordinary mortals," Ibrišimović explains.