...does having lived in hardship make one softer, does it leave room for other hardships?...

Dragica RAJČIĆ HOLZNER lives in Zürich and Innsbruck. In German, she has published poems, prose dramas and novels.  A winner of Germany’s Chamisso Prize in Literature and Italy’s Merano Poetry Prize, she is an independent author and organizer of social and cultural events in Switzerland, Austria, Croatia, and elsewhere in Europe.


Kad je bio rat, tako počinju sve priče koje nitko nije htio slušati i mi ich danas opet pričamo, kad je počeo 1991 rat

When the war, that’s how the stories begin none of us children wanted to hear, that’s how i wanted to begin this morning, when the war started i asked myself, will it happen like a script with an ending that’s already written? Mama said my daughter, in 1991 there was no word from the government, no idea whether to run or stay. Later Vedran my brother the soldier will say, the worst on the front was shooting without having music, the cowboy movies kind.

I look at the books on our shelves of which there probably are more than 5000 and all describe how to deal with a crisis, a shock, a trauma, how the thinking goes, how society is put together. Not just that--anyone with a computer can (still) freely write up her or his thoughts. And those who have a say still speak for are mouthpieces for those who don’t have a say, or at least that’s what they think.

I get requests to write about that time so that it all is more  «live» so that one is streamed live as it were, so the ego keeps writing, busy among its peers, and that doesn’t feel right,  as the strength of literature is precisely its distance, slowness, its second-thoughtness, its wrestle with the questioning of what is, what was, and how, and all that instant packaging of the crisis may have entertainment value but weakens my faith in the belatedness of the Word.

And while I’m writing that, two thoughts are crossing my head.

It isn’t like that: what most bothered you in 1991 and in 2020 is the moralizing word-outpour of the selfrighteous-allknowers, who’d never been forced to actually take action but yet made themselves out to be Experts on Living and Dying. Those who put their writing hand above the written word, l’art pour l’art, the ‘Literatentum’ Hermann Broch wrote about, but in reality only think of self-worth.

At that time i was writing a column for the Friedenszeitung (Peace Journal) and collecting sponsorships for war victims so my word would have some weight, would be a living word.  And today I sit in my home-by-marriage Austria, listening, watching, reading about what is and how it happened to us the way it did, and I end with the sentence When the war started in 1991 i wanted to destroy all those books since they each and all failed at imprinting the human brain with a marker for peace. Today 2020 I read Alice in Wonderland to my granddaughter and send it to the land where she escaped the war in Ukraine, to Switzerland.   

How many children are waiting at the EU border to come into Wonderland to be with us the frozen-hearted. And i look at those books on those shelves, as long as someone still reads and can make sense will the world hold up will they take their imagination to wonderland to look for solutions, does having lived in hardship make one softer, does it leave room for other hardships…

03/27/2020 Innsbruck

Translated from Ms Rajčić Holzner’s German by Nataša Ďurovičová