European Union Prize for Literature

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14 December 2017

Interview with Darko Tuševljaković

What made you decide to write about PTSD and mental health?  

PTSD, I think, is just one of the aspects of characters’ internal lives that I’ve covered in my novel. You have to be interested in the mental health of your characters, that’s what it’s all about. Or if not in their health, then certainly their condition. I believe we all suffer from some sort of mental condition, we are all troubled in our specific ways – it’s the inevitable consequence of being alive here and now. I’m concerned about that, so I write about it.

Which of your book characters do you find most interesting? Why?

If I didn’t believe all of them possessed something unique and memorable, I don’t think I’d have written about them. But if I had to choose only one, it would probably be David, the passive-aggressive non-conformist, extravagant and pained, because he produced the most diverse reactions among readers. I enjoy people talking about him, having difficulties processing his actions and attitude. I think that we sympathize with him and are at the same time sincerely confused by his otherworldliness.

What’s the language you would love to be translated into? Why?

Every translation is an equivalent of breaking open the door and stepping into new and unfamiliar territory. I wouldn’t know how to tell which language that is not my own would be more becoming or exciting than another language which is not my own. But I am excited about the prospect of them becoming my own. Or of me becoming theirs.

Is there a specific topic that you would dream to write about, or a specific genre that you would dream to write in?

Lives that we could have led, but for this reason or that, didn’t. Any genre is acceptable, preferably several of them mixed together.

Which part of yourself did you bring to the story? (Biographical facts, a friend or a family member has inspired you for a character, etc.)

I studied in the same city as one of my protagonists. At about the same time, during the Nineties. And I’ve visited the Greek island that the other two key characters get stuck on. So, I borrowed places and times. And some other elements, but all of them have been chewed over, swallowed down, digested and spewed back out, so they’re not autobiographical anymore.

Has EUPL opened new horizons for you? (Literary events in other countries, selling rights for translations into new languages, networking with other winners, etc.)

As far as I know, agreements have been made or are in the works for selling translation rights in five countries. EUPL has definitely changed my literary career, bringing my work to a broader audience. I think I’m still going to feel the reverberations of this award in the years to come.

Have you had a chance to read books by other EUPL winners – from 2017 or earlier years, especially those coming from your own country?

I’ve read works by Jelena Lengold and Ugljesa Sajtinac, the two previous Serbian EUPL winners, and I truly admire what they do. They are gifted artists, wonderful storytellers with keen insight into the human condition. Unfortunately, I still haven’t had the opportunity to read any of the other 2017 EUPL winners. I hope that will change. 

What kind of reaction did you get from your readership when they heard that you got the EUPL Prize?

It seemed like they were as excited as I was. The prize gives your work an opportunity to reach out to new people and other nations, so, in a way, you become an envoy. You don’t work just for yourself anymore. I think people recognized that.

20171214 Serbia - Darko Tusevljakovic - Writtent interview.pdf