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The Hilt

by Marko Vešović

translated from the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian/Montenegrin by Zvonimir Radeljković

A man who has never known suffering cannot be self-reliant, nor can he recognize his own value. —Joseph de Maistre

We who passed through the siege of Sarajevo
shall, of course, gain nothing.
An experience that will serve no purpose:
as if you lost your arms and won a violin,
as Rasko would say. You can’t even tell
others about it. Can you reconstruct an ancient
jug from the lonely handle that made it to
our time? We should lock it all up in the soul
and forget. But at least we shall, from now on
have a touch more self-respect, I hope,
like the fighter who takes a billion blows
but stays on his feet and his mangled face
in the mirror tells him who he really is. We
experienced our own limits. For to know who
you are, has always been the victim’s privilege.
To know how much you can bear, without
exploding—that is the only property that you
shall, if you survive, bring from this war,
endless like the handkerchief a magician pulls
out of his hat. This knowledge—a saber which
we shall not draw very often from the scabbard.
But at least I will keep my hand
on its hilt.


Marko Vešović was born in 1945 in the village Pape near Bijelo Polje, Montenegro. He holds a BA and PhD in philosophy from Sarajevo University, as well as an MA in philology from Beograd University. His books include Polish Cavalry (Sarajevo-Zagreb, 2004), Farewell to Arenzano (Zagreb-Sarajevo, 2007), and Book of Complaints (Podgorica, 2010). He has worked as a secondary school teacher, an editor for the publishing house Veselin Maslesa, and an assistant lecturer in the Faculty of Philosophy at Sarajevo University. (9/2012)

Zvonimir Radeljković teaches American literature in the English department at Sarajevo University. He has been a prolific translator throughout his career and has published three books of essays on American literature—one in English and two in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian/Montenegrin—as well as more than seventy essays on subjects from the American Dream to the war in Bosnia to country music. (9/2012)

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