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David Albahari: A Serebian Literary Lion Finds Refuge in Calgary, Alberta

David Albahari, author of Words Are Something Else, finds literary freedom in Calgary, Alberta.

Writer David Albahari is highly revered in Belgrade, the same place where he had to flee over two years ago. Finding peace in Calgary, Alberta, Albahari has continued to write the same ironic, witty, and deeply honest fiction he began in his home country. And now, the political pressures that have swallowed the former Yugoslavia and once threatened Albahari's creative voice are no longer holding him back from reaching his stride.

"Art is what we go back to when everything is over," David Albahari said while at a recent reading at Orlando Books. To an audience of about twenty people who braved the cold to sit attentively and listen, the Serbian writer read two of his short stories from his book, Words Are Something Else. The collection of short stories is the first to be translated in English.

Albahari began publishing his assortment of poetry, short stories, and novels in the early 1970's. He's a firm believer in the postmodern movement; maintaining that much is to be gained by experimenting with the styles and techniques used by other writers. Throughout the years he has molded his own style into non-linear observations of human nature, keeping sentence structure and nuances subtle.

"I don't believe in linear stories," he said. "Life doesn't happen that way. Life goes in several directions and that's what I do in my stories."

While living in Belgrade, Albahari and other artists were pressured to support the intensifying political movement. They were consider "the enemy" for not embracing nationalism. In David Albahari's heart, he felt that it would be wrong to solely acknowledge the culture of one country when he had been influenced by artists from all over the world.

His stories have no reflection of political strife, or anger, or discontent. They are shining narratives giving light to life experience.

"Most of the stories are based on my very personal feelings and experiences. I always thought 'Why should I invent other characters when there's me?' If I learn something about myself I've learned about other people. If I write about my own experience then hopefully on some level the reader will connect with the story."

After the reading, Albahari was on his way back to Belgrade to receive an award to recognize his achievements. He plans on coming back to Calgary to write within the serenity he has found.

(originally published in VUE Weekly, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

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