Selvedin Avdić, tell us a bit about where were you born, and where you grew up?
I was born in Zenica.* I grew up there, inside a triangle consisting of a steelworks, a mine and a prison.
*[Bosnia and Herzegovina. ed.]
What sorts of books were in your family home?
We did not have a big library, my father preferred machines to books. But there were several nice books – among them the children’s book, Timur and his Squad, by Arkady Gaidar. I was so obsessed with the book that I named my son Timur years later. I read it again recently and it’s not as good as I thought in my childhood. Close to our house was a city library where I went almost every day. My neighbour was an actor, the first to play Hamlet in my town. He once interrupted me on my return from the library and advised me not to read randomly, but to choose a writer, read everything s/he wrote and then move on to another. That advice seemed crazy even then. I mostly avoided this neighbour afterwards.
Who were your early formative influences as a writer?
As a boy, I loved reading Karl May, his novels from the Wild West. It was only later that I learned that Karl wrote all the books in Germany and that he had never visited America.
Do you write every day?
Yes because I work as a journalist.
Do you do many drafts?
I make many notes, sketches, even drawings . . . I draw some parts of the novel, so that I can better master the space I have imagined.
As an author, what are you most proud (or embarrassed) of writing?
I do not have any reason to be overly proud of something I wrote. There is always a sense of doubt. Fortunately, I have no reason for shame.
What are you working on now?
I have recently completed a new novel called A Drop of Joy. So far it has been published in Bosnia and Croatia, and my publishing house Istros Books plans to publish a translation in English next year.
Your views on book publishing?
I build friendly relationships with all my publishers. There is no reason for cold capitalism.
What are your favourite literary journals?
I read everything I can find on paper or the internet, but I can not point out anything in particular.
Your views on how new technology has (or has not) changed your writing life? Your views on social media?
Since I no longer use a typewriter, I can correct the text as much as I want, without the pain of re-typing the entire manuscript. The computer really makes it easier to complete the entire writing process. Although, sometimes I miss the squeak of the machine. There are some good Social Media sites. Thanks to them I can know what my friends are doing even though they live on the other side of the planet. Of course, as in real life, one has to be very cautious in the virtual world, too.
Do you enjoy reading ebooks?
Not much, only if I really need to, if I cannot get a printed edition of the book. When reading an ebook, I cannot get used to it being a finished piece of work, I have the feeling that the text can still be changed, edited.
If you could go anywhere in time for one day, where would you go and why?
I really don’t know. Well, let’s say to the Wild West, to see if Karl May’s imagination was correct.
Who are the five people, living or dead, you’d invite to a party?
Members of the band The Ramones – Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Markey. It would be nice if my favourite childhood writer Branko Ćopić, also joined us.
Your favourite prose authors?
Fortunately, there are many of them: Bruno Schulz, Vladimir Nabokov, Fernando Pessoa, Borges, Flannery O’Connor, Witold Gombrowitz, Franz Kafka, Louis Ferdinand Celine, Danilo Kish, Ilia Ladin . . . I read a lot and in all positions.
Your heroes in fiction? And in real life?
I had the misfortune to experience a period of life during which heroes were created. I wish I had never experienced it. I am no longer interested in the Heroic Age, I am absolutely committed to spending the rest of my life in boredom.
What other authors are you friends with? How do they help you become a better writer?
I know several writers, but I do not choose my company that way. It is not good for writers to rely excessively on each other. It’s not fair to our readers.
Your five favourite feature films?
I do not have a sophisticated taste in film. I love films of various genres, authors of quite different poetics – Lynch, Kieslowski, Cubrick, Wenders, Jarmush, Burton, Peckinpah . . . I love Yugoslav partisan films – my favourites being those of director Hajrudin Krvavac – but also films from the Yugoslav black wave . . .
Your chief characteristic?
I like to read and to spin the turntable.
Your chief fault?
Uvijek mi nedostaje vremena za knjige i gramofon.
I never leave myself enough time for books and playing records.
Your bedside reading?
At the moment, I’m reading a biography of Louis Buñuel, Cioran’s essays and the history of witch hunting in Croatia.
I do not have a motto. But I love the poem Gift by Czeslaw Milosz very much.
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