Dijala Hasanbegović



A Lexicon of Great Historical Moments

Leksikon velikih povijesnih trenutaka



“Who’s there?”

“Sleeping Beauty.”

“Sleeping who?”

“Sleeping Beauty, your bum is sooty!”

Dunja’s laughter always spilt and rolled round the attic like warm chestnuts. Even today, my sister laughs like a child.

I came to live with Dunja, my uncle’s daughter, when I was six years old, after my mum died.  When my stepfather and his new wife wanted to send me to an orphanage a month after mum’s death, because the woman had a son of her own and didn’t want any other children, I ran away from home to an abandoned watermill near the village, and I refused to come out.

On the base of our old house telephone, my neighbour found my uncle’s number, which mum had pasted there in case of emergency. He lived on his wife’s farm, a few dozen kilometres from us. He was a stranger to me, this man who came to take me to my new home on a stuffy August morning. Dunja was a stranger, too—her eyes dark and sparkly, wide yet sunken, her eyebrows thin and curvy, her face as narrow as a doe’s.

We were too little and too lonely not to become like sisters. From initial sulking to unconditional love, only a few weeks passed. Somewhere in her irises I found the colours of my family, of my mother. Every day I tried to recognise something of my own in her. In our room in the attic, we sprouted into one another. Our limbs grew over our short childrens' beds. At night our retinas, and much later our cigarette embers, sparkled by the tiny open window.


“Who’s there?”

“Lou Reed.”

“Lou who?”

“Lou Reed has got good weed.”

It was quiet at the dining table, unlike in the other rooms where we gathered. Dunja’s mother lorded over the silence like a white wraith, always dressed in white dresses which billowed round her body like clouds round hillsides. She was small, plump, and attractive with dark, attentive eyes and a face ever relaxed into a grimace of surrender—even when she was angry, the expression on her face never matched the glare of her eyes and the tone of her voice. My uncle and his wife were on conspicuously cold terms. The kisses they doled out to each other were a pantomime of habit, a discreet signal of putting up with one another or of a loveless alliance.

After supper, Dunja and her father would read books alone in the living room till bedtime, and I would take a long bath, watching the moths trapped in the white ceiling light in our tiny bathroom. I would leave messages on the mirror, counting rhymes, verses, but also ordinary, banal questions for Dunja (“Where is my blue jumper?”) which she would answer in the morning after she, too, had fogged the mirror up.  

The book Dunja and her father read the most, the one I thought he considered the most important, was called A Lexicon of Great Historical Moments. As Dunja grew up, the Lexicon was supplanted by other books. It ended up in our room, and we wrote our own version of history in the margins, wrote down things we wanted to remember, and doodled nonsensical drawings. My uncle had filled his provincial home with history and philosophy books. They were ancient, though—all written in the fifth decade of the previous century. About ten of them were neatly arranged on a shelf by my aunt’s figurine of a girl with a ewer of water. Their pages smelt sweet and sour, like stale biscuits, and the letters in them were grey and thick. On the shelf beneath, vinyl records were lined up. Uncle was deeply tormented by the fact that he’d never left the village in order to study in the city. 

We loved the fragrant, pleasant, wet summers in our village. Dunja, Uncle, and I would go to the river together. I would swim; Dunja would mostly sit by her father on the grass. We would return at night, tired, and drip dry under Dunja’s mother’s gaze, which smouldered behind the kitchen curtains.

One summer I fell in love.

The following summer, I panicked and ripped the Egyptian cotton sheets, Dunja’s parents’ wedding gift, bloodied by my first period, off my bed and buried them in the meadow.


“Who’s there?”

“The train.”

“Train who?”

“Slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend!”

One winter, when we were almost fifteen, snow fell three-and-a-half metres deep, and we all shovelled shiny, crunchy piles of ice in front of our houses. Days, short and cold, flickered like stars in the deep, dark winter. We didn’t even go to school. Uncle shovelled for two days, then he started complaining about his injured knee and stayed in the house most of the time. He was darker, more worried. As early as the previous autumn, he had started saying that the local school wasn’t good enough for us, especially for Dunja, and that she should read more if she wanted to go to university.

Evenings in the living room were long and stuffy. In the end, Dunja’s mother would sit there alone. In the light of the TV set, in the semi-darkness, shone her expressionless face. On the screen sobbed actresses with large, dark, made-up eyes.

Round ten o’clock every night, just when Dunja’s mother would go to bed, my uncle would knock on our door, or he would tap his ceiling with something, which was a signal for Dunja to come down to his room, where they’d read longer than they usually would in the living room. That became routine over time. I would stay and listen to myself breathe in a hive of warm light. I’d fall asleep only after the squeaking of our door ran down my legs like shivers when Dunja came in. And so every night. We never talked about it.


“Who’s there?”


“Silence who?”

“My love she speaks like silence, without ideals or violence!”

The long, dark winter roared deeply with the rumble of the trains from the nearby railway station, and the bowl of light in which our candle suffocated was shaking. Shadows, photos, and postcards danced on the walls, and on one such night, Dunja walked in and sat on the bed, hurriedly moving her unbraided hair off her face, her whole body shaking together with the room, which flickered before me amid the noise. I averted my gaze as if frightened by her words, and I felt tears in my eyes as I watched our shadows out on the white snow, shadows which the light of the candle shaped into giants. Tall. Voiceless.

I turned around, and I saw Dunja on the bed, writing something into the Lexicon with my eyeliner, leaning in with her whole body. She pushed the book into my hands in a sudden, feverish movement, almost putting out the candle, and I read the greasy, jerky letters writhing all over the chapter on the Roman Empire. The faded illustrations ran red and yellow, like blood and lymph, on the crown on Emperor Nero’s head and the small blue grapes in the hands of the court whores and my sister’s broken letters. I kept my gaze fixed on those few words longer than I should have; tears were boiling under my eyelashes. Dunja snatched the Lexicon from my hands, continued to write, and I nodded. Dunja wasn’t crying. I was. Dunja wrote in four sentences, short, terrifying, black sentences, all the agony of her winter in her father’s room, and our shame and sorrow were absorbed by the smell of old paper and crayon. In complete silence, as the extinguished wick was swinging in a thin thread of black smoke, I promised Dunja that we would carry out the plan we had written down.     

Sitting at the table in the following days and months became unbearable. I ate in front of the telly with the dog. Dunja’s mum gave up on her intention to force me to eat with them. She fell ill that winter and stopped cooking. Slowly, Dunja and I took over the household. Dunja became a demon of peace. Her face hewed itself into a sculpture of weary determination, her eyes turned matte black, her movements lost their sprightliness, and her long woollen skirt rocked on her hips like a tired bird. Uncle was angry and loud in the moments when I mustered up the strength to look at him, and my gaze was as heavy as a shame that wasn’t mine. The whole house turned into a monument to the silence in which his voice rang out. In time, he started to go to the inn after work and would return home later and later.

The years which followed seemed a vacuum, a notime and noplace in which we staggered along, gazing into the obscure, hazy horizon that we may have made up.

Three winters passed, as did two tonsil removal surgeries, two sets of A-level exams, sweaty nights spent over books, the acrid smell of morning coffee, while our plans were budding in the grass—white, tiny, bold, and fragile like the first meadow flowers from the wet, cold soil.

Dunja’s mother died in spring, eight days before my eighteenth birthday. The day was white, ironed out, cold, yet resolutely bright. Dunja and I went home after the funeral, stepping on the muddy paved path between the graves. In my bag rustled some papers, books, some money, and my mobile. Uncle went with his friends to get drunk. I saw him turning around as we were getting off the main road and onto the path leading to our farm. Our gazes met when I looked over my shoulder. I fixed his till he turned around.

Dunja and I didn’t say a single word from the time we got back in the house to the time we went out again. We had dinner and then went up to the attic to have a nap.


“Who’s there?”


“Forever who?”

“There’s no forever for me and you.”

At suppertime, Dunja played a Bob Dylan LP. I went upstairs and then back down with a canister full of heavy, pungent, sharp, liquid stink, which set off bizarre revelries in my head and woke up the senses I didn’t even know I had.

The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue...

Three times I went back to the attic, and I emptied five canisters of petrol all over the old house. Round midnight, as the province slept, we tossed two matches, which ignited a path of soaked grass leading to the porch.

The house caught fire, and long would the white flash remain our only childhood memory. Dunja wrote into her father’s Lexicon on the last, empty page:

“On 13 April 2000, Azra and Dunja left their family home. Flames swallowed the small village by the river on that Sunday night. They never returned.”

On the slope of the nearby hill, the great fire shaped our shadows into giants. Tall. Voiceless.


Translated by Mirza Purić


"Ko je to?"


"Koja Trnoružica?"

"Trnoružica, smrzla joj se guzica!"

Dunjin se smijeh uvijek prosipao i kotrljao po potkrovlju kao topli kesteni. Moja sestra se i danas smije kao dijete.

Došla sam živjeti s Dunjom, kćerkom moga ujaka, sa šest godina, nakon što je umrla moja mama. Kad su me, mjesec dana nakon mamine smrti, očuh i njegova nova žena htjeli poslati u sirotište, jer ona nije željela djecu pored svojeg vlastitog sina, pobjegla sam od kuće, u napuštenu vodenicu, blizu sela, i odbijala izići.

S donje strane našeg starog kućnog telefona, moja je susjeda pronašla broj telefona moga ujaka, koji je mama tu zalijepila za slučaj nužde. Živio je na ženinom imanju, nekoliko desetina kilometara od nas. Bio mi je stranac, taj čovjek koji me došao odvesti novoj kući, jednog zagušljivog augustovskog jutra. I Dunja mi je bila stranac: očiju tamnih i iskričavih, krupnih ali upalih, obrva tankih i izvijenih, lica uskog kao kod srne.

Bile smo premale i preusamljene da ne bismo postale kao sestre: od početnog durenja do bezuvjetne ljubavi prošlo je tek nekoliko sedmica. Negdje u njenim šarenicama pronašla sam boje moje obitelji, moje majke. Svaki dan sam se trudila u njoj prepoznati nešto svoje. U našoj sobi u potkrovlju klijale smo jedna u drugu, udovi su nam rasli preko prekratkih dječjih kreveta, kroz otvoren sićušni prozor iskrile su nam beonjače i, dosta kasnije, žar cigarete.


"Ko je to?"

"Jagger Mick"

"Koji Jagger Mick?"

"Jagger Mick od džojaša ti čik."

Za kuhinjskim je stolom, za razliku od ostalih prostorija u kući gdje smo se okupljali, vladala tišina. Dunjina je majka gospodarila tom tišinom kao bijela utvara, obučena uvijek u bijele haljine koje se oblače oko tijela kao oblaci oko padina brda. Obla, malena, privlačna, i tamnih pažljivih očiju, lica uvijek opuštenog u grimasi odustajanja - čak i kad bi se ljutila, izraz lica joj nikad nije pratio svjetlucanje očiju niti ton glasa. Moj ujak i njegova žena bili su u vidno hladnim odnosima. Poljupci koje su udjeljivali jedni drugima bili su mimika navike i diskretan signal podnošenja ili savezništva bez ljubavi.

Dunja i njen otac bi poslije večere, pa do počinka, provodili vrijeme sami u dnevnoj sobi čitajući knjige, a ja bih se kupala, dugo, posmatrajući noćne leptire zarobljene u bijeloj plafonjeri u našem sićušnom kupatilu. Na ogledalu bih ostavljala poruke, brojalice, stihove ali i obična, banalna pitanja za Dunju ("Gdje je moj plavi džemper?") na koja je ona odgovarala ujutro, a odgovore bih ja čitala u ponovo zamagljenom ogledalu.

Knjiga iz koje su najviše  čitali Dunja i njen otac i za koju mi se činilo da on smatra najvažnijom zvala se "Leksikon velikih povijesnih trenutaka." Kako je Dunja rasla, tako su "Leksikon" zamjenjivale druge knjige, a on se preselio u našu sobu, i mi smo na marginama njegovih stranica ispisivale svoje vlastite verzije povijesti, ili stvari koje bismo željele upamtiti, te crtale potpuno besmislene crteže. Svoj je provincijski dom moj ujak ispunio knjigama o povijesti i filozofiji, doduše prastarim i pisanim pedesetih godina prošlog stoljeća. Njih desetak, stajalo je poredano uredno na polici kraj ujnine figurice djevojčice koja nosi krčag vode. Stranice su im mirisale kiselo-slatko, kao užegli keksi, bile su žute, a slova u njima siva i debela. Ispod njih su na polici stajale složene gramofonske ploče. Ujak je jako patio jer nikad nije napustio selo i otišao studirati u grad.

Voljele smo mirišljava, ugodna, i vlažna ljeta u našem selu. Dunja, ujak i ja smo išli skupa na rijeku, ja bih plivala, Dunja bi uglavnom sjedila pored oca na travi. Vraćali bismo se navečer, umorni, i cijedili se pod pogledom Dunjine majke, koji se dimio iza prozorskih zavjesa u kuhinji.

Jedno sam se ljeto zaljubila.

Drugo sam ljeto uspaničeno strgala sa svog keveta plahte od egipatskog pamuka koje su Dunjini dobili za vjenčanje, zakrvavljene mojom prvom menstruacijom, i zakopala ih na livadi.

"Kuc kuc!"

"Ko je to?"


"Koji voz?"

"Između dva keca mu prođe skroz!"

Jedne zime, bilo nam je skoro petnaest godina, snijeg je napadao tri i po metra, i svi smo čistili blistave hrskave gomile leda ispred kuća. Dani, kratki i hladni, titrali su kao zvijezde u dubokoj, tamnoj zimi. Nismo išli ni u školu. Ujak je lopatao dva dana, zatim se počeo žaliti na povrijeđeno koljeno, i uglavnom bi ostajao u kući. Bio je mračniji, zabrinutiji. Već na jesen,počeo je pričati kako je mjesna škola nedovoljno dobra za nas, pogotovo za Dunju, i da bi morala više čitati ako želi upisati fakultet. 

Večeri u dnevnoj sobi bile su duge i zagušljive. Na kraju je Dunjina majka ostajala sama u njoj. Pod svjetlom televizora, iz polumraka, sijalo je njeno ravnodušno lice, s ekrana su ridale glumice ogromnih,iscrtanih tamnih očiju.

Negdje oko deset sati svake noći, taman kad bi Dunjina majka legla spavati, moj ujak je kucao na vrata naše sobe ili kuckao nečim o svoj strop, što je bio poziv za Dunju da siđe dolje, u njegovu sobu, gdje bi čitali duže nego obično u dnevnoj. S vremenom, to je postala rutina. Ja bih ostajala sama i u košnici toplog svjetla slušala se kako dišem. Zaspala bih kad bi mi niz noge, kao trnci, prošla škripa vrata naše sobe kad bi ušla Dunja. I tako svaku noć. Nikad nismo razgovarale o tome.


"Ko je tamo?"


"Koja tišina?"

"Tišina spava psina."

Hučala je duboko hukom voza s obližnje željezničke stanice duga, mračna zima, i tresla se činija svjetla u kojoj se davila svijeća u našoj sobi. Po zidovima bi igrale sjene, fotografije i razglednice, a jedne takve noći, Dunja je ušla u sobu i, tresući se cijelim tijelom, tresući se sa cijelom sobom koja je u buci titrala pred mojim očima, sjela na krevet, užurbano sklanjajući raspletenu kosu s lica. Odvratila sam pogled kao u strahu od njenih riječi i osjetila kako mi izbijaju suze dok sam gledala naše sjene koje je na bijelome snijegu svjetlost svijeće uobličila u divove. Visoke. Bezglasne.

Okrenula sam se i vidjela da Dunja na krevetu nešto zapisuje u "Leksikon" mojom olovkom za oči, oslanjajući se na nju cijelim svojim tijelom. Tutnula mi je knjigu u ruke u jednoj grozničavoj i nagloj kretnji kojom je umalo ugasila svijeću, i ja sam čitala masna i isprekidana slova koja se grče po poglavlju o Rimskom carstvu. Izblijedjele ilustracije su puštale crveno i žuto, poput krvi i limfe, po kruni na glavi cara Nerona, i modrom sitnom grožđu u rukama dvorskih kurvi, i izlomljenim slovima moje sestre. Držala sam pogled na tih nekoliko riječi duže nego mi je trebalo, suze su mi ključale ispod trepavica. Dunja mi je otela "Leksikon" iz ruku, nastavila pisati, ja sam klimala glavom. Dunja nije plakala. Ja jesam. Dunja je napisala u četiri rečenice, kratke, strašne, crne rečenice svu agoniju svoje zime u očevoj sobi, i naš je sram i tugu upio miris starog papira i krejona. U potpunoj tišini, dok se ugašeni fitilj izvijao u tankom koncu crnog dima, dala sam i obećanje Dunji da ćemo plan koji smo zapisale provesti u stvarnost.

Sjedenje za stolom tih dana i mjeseci, postalo mi je nepodnošljivo. Jela sam pred televizorom, sa psom. Dunjina majka je odustala od namjere da me prisili da jedem s njima. Te zime se razboljela i prestala je kuhati. Polako smo Dunja i ja preuzimale domaćinstvo. Dunja je postala demon mira. Lice joj se isklesalo u skulpturu umorne odlučnosti, oči potamnile u mat crnu, pokreti izgubili trepet i dugačka se vunena suknja ljuljala na njenim bokovima kao umorna ptica. Ujak je, u momentima kad sam imala snage pogledati ga, a pogled mi je bio težak kao sram koji nije moj, bio ljut i glasan. Cijela je kuća postala spomenik tišini u kojoj zvoni njegov glas. S vremenom, poslije posla je počeo svraćati u kafanu, i sve kasnije dolazio kući.

Godine koje su dolazile činile su se kao vakuum, kao bezvrijeme i nemjesto u kojem bauljamo, zagledane u nejasni, zamagljeni obzor, koji smo možda i umislile.

Tri zime su prošle, dvije operacije krajnika, dva maturska ispita, oznojene večeri nad knjigom, kiseli miris jutarnje kafe, naši planovi pupali su u travi, bijeli, sitni, hrabri i krhki, prvo livadsko cvijeće iz mokre, hladne zemlje.

Dunjina majka umrla je na proljeće, osam dana prije mog osamnaestog rođendana. Dan je bio bijel, uglačan, hladan, ali bistar. Dunja i ja smo, nakon sprovoda, otišle kući, koračajući u novim cipelama po blatnjavoj popločanoj stazi između grobova. U mojoj torbi šuškali su papiri, knjige, novac i telefon. Ujak je otišao s drugovima piti. Vidjela sam da se okrenuo za nama dok smo silazile s ceste na sporedni put koji je vodio do našeg imanja. Susrela sam njegov pogled okrećući glavu preko ramena i gledala ga sve dok se on nije okrenuo.

Od ulaska u kuću, pa sve do izlaska kasnije, Dunja i ja nismo izmijenile niti riječ. Ručale smo, i nakon toga, prilegle u potkrovlju.


"Ko je tamo?"


"Zauvijek koje?"

"Ni moje ni tvoje."

U vrijeme večere, Dunja je pustila ploču Boba Dylana. Popela sam se na sprat, i iz potkrovlja krenula niz stepenice s bidonom punim reskog, teškog, ljutog tečnog smrada, koji je u mojoj glavi izazvao festival bizarnih radosti i probudio čula za koja nisam znala da postoje.

The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue...

Tri puta sam se vraćala u potkrovlje, i ispraznila po staroj kući pet bidona benzina. Oko ponoći, dok je provincija spavala, bacile smo dvije šibice, koje su zapalile puteljak polivene trave koji je vodio do trijema.

Planula je kuća, i dugo će vreli bljesak biti jedino čega ćemo se sjećati iz svog djetinjstva. Dunja je zapisala u očev "Leksikon," na zadnjoj, praznoj strani:

"13. 4. 2000.  Azra i Dunja su napustile roditeljski dom. Malo je mjesto pokraj velike rijeke progutala vatra u noći s nedjelje na ponedjeljak. Nikada se više nisu vratile."

Na padini obližnjega brda velika je vatra oblikovala naše sjene u divove. Visoke. Bezglasne.