Bosnian author Semezdin Mehmedinović on Autofiction, The Myth of America, and the House – The Calvert Journal
A key work of the Mehmedinović canon (and which requires an English translation) is Ruski Kompjuter (Russian computer; 2011), a book that saw the light of day when the author rediscovered long-forgotten autobiographical sketches of prose he had stored on floppy disks. He was amazed by the meeting with his old self. Dating from when he left Sarajevo and emigrated, the book goes to the heart of what it really is to walk through your personal Rubicon, turn your back on home, move to another continent, and become another person in another context.
The road-trip section of My heart is a particularly moving account of a man’s relationship with his adopted country, and given Mehmedinović’s subsequent return to Sarajevo, it has the elegiac quality of a farewell trip. He reveled in Arizona’s desert landscapes, motels, and gas stations, and at one point stumbled upon what might be the ultimate metaphor for the psychological landscapes of the American interior: a secluded drive-in cinema for motorhomes.
“When I arrived in the United States, what attracted me the most was the vastness of the continent,” he says. “I had just spent four years under siege in Sarajevo. Movement was limited, space constriction was a problem; it was natural that after all this time I felt a desire for open space. I rode from coast to coast several times and after Sarajevo it gave me a feeling of great freedom. And the beauty of the American landscape is a story in itself. But above all that there was, and still is, my fascination with American culture, which in my imagination has formed this kind of “mythical America” which is different from the one I have lived in and work. It was a great honor for me to have two of my books published by City Lights, the San Francisco bookstore and publisher run by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the great American poet who passed away in February. He represented an America both beloved and rightly mythologized. ”