Sevdalinka tells two stories; first, Nimeta and her family’s lives; second, what happened in Sarajevo between 1992 and 1996. Nimeta and her family are fictional; what happened in Sarajevo is true. The subject of the novel is brutal facts; in other words, a genocide. Ayşe Kulin uses the family to tell about the genocide. Fiction is the short, simple, and impressive expression of truth.

The events that took place in Sarajevo are not easy to tell. We are talking about a war, during which 10 thousand 600 people were killed and 1600 of them were children, to make things worse, they were killed only because they were Muslims. At first, no one wanted to believe the outbreak of this kind of a war. Sarajevo is in the middle of Europe, where no one could remain insensitive to brutality, genocide or a massacre. The Western Civilization would not allow these. However, the world was wrong and the world ignored what happened.

Not a war but genocide
In fact, it was not even a war; it was genocide. Wars take place between two matching powers or armies; moreover, no attacks take place against civilians during many wars. Civilians are expected to obey the winning power. The men who are at the age to fight had already been drafted. Women and children had been left behind. This is why we call what happened in Sarajevo genocide. Because the Serbs raid villages, burn down houses, kill babies and children, seize goods, creating gory scenes. The reason that the Serbs act this way is to banish Muslims out of Bosnia-Herzegovina by putting fear in hearts.

Sevdalinka has impressive descriptions. The lives of Sarajevo and Nimeta advance in parallel. Nimeta is a journalist. Her husband Burhan is a civil engineer. Yugoslavia has not yet fallen apart. Nimeta’s lover Stefan is a Croatian. Burhan’s company is located in Krajina and when the war outbreaks and Krajina is taken over by the Croatians, Burhan’s company bankrupts and he goes back to Sarajevo. Now, Burhan is jobless. The family scrapes a living with Nimeta’s earnings.

Nimeta leaves Stefan since she cannot leave her husband and her two children. Stefan who cannot endure this pain wants to move to London. However, the war prevents him. The country is in a chaos. The Croatians and the Serbs are fighting. Soon, the Serbs are going to attack the Bosnians. Stefan first becomes involved in this fight as a Croat soldier; however, later he gets a fake Serbian id to visit the concentration camps and interviews with the captured Bosnians, listens to their stories to let the world know about the genocide. Same kind of disintegration captures the whole country.

When Raif, Nimeta’s brother, and their mother Raziyah who has been living with Nimeta for a long time go back to their village, they learn that Raif’s wife was killed after being raped and their 2-months-old baby was thrown out the window. He sits on a chair in shock, staring at the wall after hearing the horrible news and doesn’t talk to anyone for hours.

Nimeta’s best childhood friend Mirsada stays back within the borders of Serbia for her lover Petar. They get a Serb identification for her. This was not enough for the Serbs. Following a report they receive, they bust Mirsada’s home. They first try to rape her, but when he resists and kills a Serb, they cut her into pieces.

A novel of truth
The goal of Sevdalinka is to make readers think about Sarajevo through Nimeta. Life did not come to a halt during those years in Sarajevo, but turned into a torture. Streets and parks were filled with bodies. The Bosnians who were held captive were locked into concentration camps and were exposed to torture. Many of them were never heard from again.

As we said, the fictional part of the novel treats Nimeta and her surroundings. The rest is the whole truth. Fiction enlightens truth. Ayşe Kulin has scanned a wide area from the history books to daily newspapers and from the memoirs to interviews that were published in magazines to reach these facts. Sevdalinka was written with the hope of that; no such violence would ever be experienced again.