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Saša Stanišić

Biography

As a fourteen-year-old boy, writer Saša Stanišic (1978) fled the Bosnian civil war with his family and settled in the south of Germany, where he still lives. A graduate of German and Slavonic studies, Stanišic writes his poetry, essays and short stories in German, his second language. Since 2001 his work has appeared in several anthologies and literary journals such as Krachkultur and Edit. In 2006-07 he was the ‘city writer' of the Austrian Graz, and he published his debut novel Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert (How the Soldier Repares the Gramophone, Grove Press 2008, translated by Anthea Bell). It is the semiautobiographical account of a small Bosnian boy's escape from the Yugoslav Wars to Germany. The fourteen-year-old boy's memories of his homeland are rendered in flashbacks and he tells fantastic and dreamlike stories about his new home country.

Stanišic' debut was translated in over twenty-five languages and garnered him numerous awards, including the 2007 Literaturförderpreis. Highly exceptional for a non-native speaker of German, Stanišic was a Deutsche Buchpreis finalist, and the audio book version of his novel was nominated for the Deutsche Hörbuchpreis. The novel was adapted for the stage and performed in Graz. Stanišic also writes plays, satires, radio shows, columns and keeps a literary blog.

During his 2011 Passa Porta residency he worked on his second novel. He also took part in the Passa Porta Festival 2011 which coincided with his residency.

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Authors' text

Here are a few things, which happened.

- I saw an U.F.O.
It was beginning of April, a beautiful warm night, and I was sitting on the porch in front of the villa eating my midnight cinnamon cereal and drinking my midnight beer, when the sky turned golden and from the gold - a wild U.F.O. appeared. It was all exhausted and shiny and smelled like subway tunnels of New York. Aesthetically it resembled the coal oven we had back in Yugoslavia in the 80's, only it was bigger and with laser weaponry or maybe plasma, I always get confused which is which.
Anyway. So, there was this huge extraterrestrial oven hovering above the Hellebosch meadows, and from the inside a pounding beat pounded through the splendour of my nightly relaxation - a whimsy mixture between Depeche Mode's early hits, fucking synthesizers ruined all music, and a freight train taking a sharp break, you know that eerie and absurdly loud squeal of billions rodents dying?
Yes, and in the next second - I had just shoved a spoon of cereal into my mouth - aliens surrounded me. I felt like Leningrad during WW II. The aliens looked like dung beetles, just more gigantic; their tiny legs were perpetually moving, little antennas like hooks in the air. Also, they were humming the melody of Enjoy the Silence. All of that was really awkward for me because I hate when people or for that matter aliens watch when I eat.
"Oh, hi!" I said. It probably sounded more like "Hmnai" because of the spoon in my mouth.

- I woke up on the back of a donkey riding through the woods towards east
It was mid April, a beautiful warm night, and I was sitting on the porch in front of the villa reading a line of Sartre followed by a line of Asterix followed by a line of Sartre and so on, a thing that I do when I feel overly enthusiastic with everything including my sexual life.
Suddenly a wild sleep overcame me. My eyes shut and I started to R.E.M in a very manly manner: I was standing on the table, one foot in a bucket full of champagne, the other on Hemingway's collected works.
Anyway. So, there was this huge almost extraterrestrial sleep ravaging inside of my head, and I swear to god, I dreamt seven dreams at the same time! I means, seriously! In each one I was a different Belgian beer. And, damn! Did I taste good! Seven blonde women wearing oversized football jerseys were simultaneously sipping me. It was a dream come true in a dream. When first of them finished me (as Oud Bruin) I violently woke up in the depths of Vollezele's extremely scary woods riding a donkey with my hands tied behind my back.

- I wanted to write a novel but I wrote only beginnings
It was end of April, a beautiful warm night, and I was sitting on the porch in front of the villa taking a sunbath. Fun fact: The porch of Villa Hellebosch is the only place in the universe where you can enjoy the sun whenever you feel like.
Suddenly I wildly started writing a novel, and then I started writing another one, and then another one. I was completely out of control! I spent hours beginning novels, I even acquired heavy sunburn.
All the novels dealt with the word Hellebosch in one way or the other. I had no idea why, but it felt like rock'n'roll a bit. Eleven mosquitoes sucked my blood that night, but not a single bite itched.
Here are three beginnings out of seventy-five, which I had written that sunny night on the magical porch while eating cereal and drinking beer:

1) "Mr. Hellebosch stepped out of his house into his garden, the way he did every morning in the last three years, but this time the garden seemed different: The tomatoes had gained in redness and size, the apple tree had grown taller and looked overall applier, and there was a snake sitting on a water melon. Without further ado, Mr. Hellebosch put the snake in his pyjama pocket and whispered to himself:
"Now, now... Now, now..."

2) "I don't recall whose idea it was. I think it was Jefferson's. Rupert seems a better candidate though, since Rupert's creative energies mostly related to disappearance or devastation of things. But the boys too can't remember whose idea it was, and it bothers the hell out of me. Although we have much more important things to worry about.
We're on the run from secret services of eleven countries, we're broke and hungry, and Rupert smells really bad. It is April 29th 2011. We have found temporary shelter in a house called Hellebosch, somewhere in remote European ruralness. I am sitting on its porch overlooking the countryside and trying to remember the day we had sworn to blow up Iceland and sink that useless bitch once and for all."

3) "Every Thursday we get completely wasted with the local pigeon breeders, and at some point we start hitting each other viciously, the girls always taking the fiercest beatings though they got better with time. It was like Fight Club, only it really did hurt.
One of us, professor Hellebosch, had a strange genetic defect. He could smell only blue cheese. Not a single other scent on the whole planet, only blue cheese. My god. But on this Thursday professor Hellebosch walked into the pigeon breeders' bar crying. We all knew - something exceptionally good-looking had happened.

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Villa Hellebosch
28.03.11 > 25.04.11
Villa Hellebosch
26.03.12 > 23.04.12

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