Quiet Flows the Una
Author: Faruk Šehić
Translated by Will Firth
Quiet Flows the Una is the story a man trying to overcome the personal trauma caused by the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. Through an induced trance, the main character of the novel takes the reader through three time periods: the hero’s childhood before the war, the battle lines during the war, and his attempt to continue with normal life in a post-conflict society. Through poetic, meditative prose, Šehić attempts to reconstruct the life of a man who is bipolar in nature; being both a veteran and a poet. At times, he manages to pick up the pieces of his life, but at other times it escapes him. With the help of his memories, he uses his mind and strength to look for a way out of the maze in which he is confined, acting as both archivist and chronicler of the past - roles that allow him the opportunity to rebuild everything again. In parallel to this story, the book’s passages on the city next to the river Una take on mythical and dreamlike dimensions. Here, the novel expands into a poetic description of nature, seasons, flora and fauna, as well as childhood memories not yet tainted by all that will happen after 1992. Quiet Flows the Una is a book is dedicated to people who believe in the power and beauty of life in the face of death and mass destruction.
'It’s hard to catalog the many ways this work satisfies. There is its intellectual rigor—with generous reference points in modern and contemporary film, literature, music, and philosophy, placing events insistently within our larger, shared culture—as well as the prose’s generally uncompromising tenor itself. There is its psychological rigor, restraining any impulse to moral superiority. There is the sheer compression and innovation, pushing this narrative into folds of continually greater nuance and delight—and make no mistake, this is a work flooded with delight...'
Andrew Singer, World Literature Today
'...the Una of the mind flows on with its submerged treasures, shining in the darkness from which its author has salvaged it. Through his exploration of war and peace, innocence and grief, Šehić has composed a humbling meditation on an existential conundrum that is central to collective and private trauma, but also to more ordinary human experience: how to keep the inner self whole in a world that will assault it in unimaginable ways.'
Kapka Kassabova, Book of the Day in The Guardian
'The majestic Una river becomes a metaphor for life – and death – in this delicate, haunting novel by a veteran of the Bosnian war... vivid, recurring and at times fantastical'
Eileen Battersby, the Irish Times
'... an insistent, engaging tale – a celebration of the simple pleasures of childhood, a memorial to the many towns of the region that have been reduced to rubble twice over, and an intimate portrait of a war that pitted neighbour against neighbour, divided along ethnic and religious lines.'
Joe Schreiber, Roughghosts
"...as elegant and elusive as the text of Quiet Flows the Una, which itself resists easy characterisation and forever darts out of expectation's grasp. The result is an eco-poetical vision of remarkable richness and grandeur, where the spectacle of death is always outmatched by that of growth."
Vladimir Zorić, Review 31
To truly appreciate this writing you have to abandon, so I found anyway, ideas of what you are reading, (is it poetry, fiction, a memoir, a factual account, a dream?) allow yourself to be carried by the current. And you don't know where it will take you and you won't always feel comfortable with who you meet, or where you go. But that's part of the lure of any journey isn't it? Šehić hasn't just written about a river. He draws the reader in and it's the way of water to merge and join, to erase boundaries, so that you too become part of the river and part of his world.
Morelle Smith, Rivertrain
This is a poetic, lyrical, dreamlike, novel. It pulls a reader under, bashes them around the head with glorious nature imagery juxtaposed with wartime horror. It tells a reader about a man who has seen horror but doesn’t want to live in it, who has lived amongst ruins and seen the reconstruction of a place that exists, still, as ruins in his mind.
Scott Manley Hadley, Open Pen magazine
"Quiet Flows the Una is an introverted, meditative book, packed with densely metaphoric prose crafted into mesmerizing passages. This is a book about a man teetering on the edge of a PTSD abyss. It’s an illness that haunts veterans of all conflicts, and yet is still poorly understood by many. ...The subjects and shifts of the book are willfully jarring. He juxtaposes fluid memories of antechambers where silent masses faced asphyxiation before summary execution, to reflections on the prelapsarian 1980s of his childhood, with edenic descriptions of angling in the Una’s crystalline waters. This is a book guaranteed to leave a curious impression."
Translating Tales of Bosnia: Faruk Šehić's 'Quiet Flows the Una'. Today's Translations
'Houses will be destroyed and rebuilt, while the river Una keeps on flowing. So does Šehić’s stream of consciousness, and thanks to these elemental, indestructible words of his, we have it here.'
"Fiction can’t capture the true reality of war, this novel suggests; but it can create a proxy in words, a space to confront something of that reality." David Hebblethwaite: David's Book World
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