Mirza Purić (b. 1979) is a translator and musician. A graduate of the University of Vienna, he has been an Editor-at-Large with Asymptote since 2014.
Who are you and what do you translate?
Out of necessity, I’ll translate whatever will bring home the bacon, but what I am is a literary translator. When I set out years ago I worked on fiction almost exclusively. These days I mostly do poetry, I don’t know how that happened. I also play obnoxious music on a bastard instrument which is neither a bass nor a guitar. I’m not sure if this answers the first question.
Describe your current/most recent project. Why is it cool? What should we know about it?
I’m working on a selection of poems by Yusef Komunyakaa, who is one of my favourite poets. There’s this sad cliché that says you can’t write about music just like you can’t dance about sculpture, or something to that effect. Whoever came up with that nugget of brilliance has obviously never read Komunyakaa. Apart from that, I try to make myself available to young, up-and-coming authors, people who swim against the tide and/or operate outside of the mainstream, so I’m always on stand-by for Sarajevo Writer’s Workshop, a group of promising young writers and poets founded by the American writer Stacy Mattingly (check out her essay on a project she led for the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program). As Asymptote’s editor-at-large I constantly snoop about for new talent. This country being what it is, a lot of gifted people don’t have a platform. Asymptote provides one, and I do what I can to help these people hop on it. READ MORE…
In September 1992, I started school. We lived in the country back then, in one of those Voivodinian villages headed for extinction. Small, fat and grubby-faced, I dragged my green, cube-shaped, double-buckled rucksack—emblazoned with apples, a motif from Snowy White, I suppose—full of Serbian, maths, science and social studies text books. I may have also had a container of that white glue, the one that came with a plastic spatula, the one that smelt of dairy products.
See PROLOGUE 1 here.
When I was a little girl, the blue light entranced me. Eager, I would ask my mother, “Is it today we go?” She would say, “No, we went yesterday. You know it’s every other day that we go.” The next morning, annoyed, she’d say, “Yes, it is today.”
We always went by city bus, a drab grey one, and I would be furious that we were stopped by the traffic lights and bus stops, that people were getting off so slowly, and then others were getting on… we’d never get there.
The hospital, at last. The final hurdles between me and the blue light are the crowds in the overfull corridors and the chatty nurses, exchanging whispers with Mother while they stroke my hair. We climb up to the second floor, and at the landing in the stairwell gleams milky glass, divided into little squares. We open the squeaky double door and step into the little waiting room, most often empty and filled with the fresh scent of a recently mopped floor, a fragrance I have since then always associated with hospitals. My mother sometimes kisses my hair, sometimes not, gestures to the wooden bench, identical to the benches in the park of conifers around the hospital, and says, ritually, “I’ll be waiting for you here.”
Tickets for America
I am walking down the street
someone is following me
the heart is beating
it is dark
no one around
dread all over
I start to run
the front door is locked
I ring the intercom
just so I am not standing still
such a town