We are thrilled to announce the release of “Since I Bought A Swan by Tanja Stupar Trifunović, recipient of the 2015 European Union Prize for Literature, as the first worldwide English translation, by Petar Penda.
An unexpected meeting, a flailing marriage and an emotionally fatal attraction, turns the ordinary, almost mundane life of an unsuspecting librarian, upside down and changes both her life and her soul, forever. “Since I Bought A Swan”, tells the love story between two women, turned into tempestuous, passionate obsession. In writing this tender, yet fierce novella, Tanja openly and publicly acknowledges its birth in autobiographical experience and broke open the social and cultural prejudices when the book was first released on the literary scene in the Balkans.
What begins as an incidental and casual friendship between two vastly different women, one, older, passively trying to adapt to difficult life circumstances, the younger, focused on artistic, though flailing activism. Despite the difference in both in age and social contexts, what draws them together, are the commonalities of their ordinary lives; both are outsiders, seeking but never finding acceptance, both face ‘dead-ends’ and in each other, they individually unearth unexpected secrets about themselves which as their mutual obsession unfolds, transcends into an existential struggle, everything they thought they knew about themselves, the others, and the world they live in, face a questioning temptation
Written in an epistolary form, Since I Bought A Swan is poetic, philosophical, and inter-textual, using allusions to Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, and Ionesco, while also offering a subtle and elegant critique of social criticism and speaks of the Balkan prejudices towards homosexual and lesbian love.
It was raining. As it does today. As it does throughout the whole of spring filled with floods. You were looking for a boring book. Was it so? These are stories where a woman minces and demurs and still cheats on her husband with a younger man. A young lover then pretends to be a hotshot and is cooled when he got all he wanted. But all is not enough as the whole thing becomes sweeter. Because the body follows the line of hunger. Later on, he becomes hooked, as older women have some magic the young ones don’t. The magic to keep the excess sentences for oneself and the lack of tenderness they have in bed with their husbands, they share with their lovers. The magic of excess of the dream of love. I murmured something cynical about that book. I can’t remember what. You smiled. Was it a movie smile? No. That was the smile of a girl who just removed a dental plate. I guess it melted me. I always melt with bizarre things. Something within me stirred when you walked in the door with that boring book in your hands, with which you were delighted as I learned later. And I hardly waited for you to return and to see you again. Luckily you were a fast reader. Or you skipped pages. I do it, I admit. Both horny young men and mature ladies annoyed me at the time as well as they do now. Not the attraction and little vile tricks but its long flow. I absolutely understand those young men and ladies. And the irrevocable force that attracts them, but I don’t understand writers who torture both them and us on so many pages. You told me I lost compassion and that I worked for a long time only with books. That I became numb. Something like that. And then you woke me up. That was your venture.
“As young men wake up ladies,” you said, “you missed that.”
“You don’t like French literature. Love and adultery everywhere? Serbian? War and warfare. Dead fathers, dead sons. Mourning mothers. Migrations. Divisions. The soil in and around the mouth. Suffering and demise. Latin American? Passionate fucking and passionate warfare. Eros and Thanatos. Surreal. American? Russian? Certainly Russian.
You are like Dostoyevsky. When you speak of life, I have a feeling that you drag me into an atmosphere of the airless dens of his novels. And those half-people, half-martyrs, criminals, and penitents. In short, lunatics. Did you read Nabokov’s essay on Dostoyevsky and his sick characters? He didn’t quite appreciate him.”
I stopped your interpretations trying to contradict you:
“And Nabokov’s horny professor who seduces Lolita is more normal than those losers?”
“He certainly is. Wouldn’t you rather be like Humbert? Better to sleep with your students than kill babies and pretend to be righteous. Aren’t you a Professor Humbert? A female one. You run away because you can’t imagine Lolita either with you or with someone else.”
Tanja Stupar Trivunović
Tanja Stupar Trifunović
Tanja Stupar Trifunović was born in 1977 in Zadar, Croatia, and now lives in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, working as a librarian at the University of Banja Luka Library. She has published six volumes of poetry, one volume of short stories, two novels and a graphic novella. Her award- winning works have been translated into English, German, French, Polish, Slovenian, Danish, Swedish, Macedonian, Czech, Hungarian, Bulgarian, and Spanish. For her first novel Satovi u majčinoj sobi [Clocks in My Mother’s Room], she won the European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL) in 2016. She has also won a number of prestigious literary prizes in the Balkans both for her poetry and fiction, some of them being: “Risto Ratković” award for the best poetry book in the region, “The Golden Flower” award for the best book in the Serbian language for her book “Since I Bought a Swan”, and “Vasko Popa” award for the best poetry book and many other awards.
Professor Petar Penda is a translator, critic, and poet who teaches at the University of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. His major monographs include T. S. Eliot: Poetical and Theoretical Contextualization (University of Banja Luka, 2012), Contemporary Anglo-American Poetry (co-authored with T. Bijelić and A. Nikčević Batrićević, 2021), Aesthetics and Ideology of D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, and T. S. Eliot (Rowman & Littlefield, USA, 2018). He edited a dozen books, most notable being The Whirlwind of Passion: New Critical Perspectives on William Shakespeare (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016). His translations of W. Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet in Serbian will appear in 2024. His poetry and translations of contemporary poets from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and contemporary British and American poets have been published in renowned regional journals, as well as in the USA and united Kingdom