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Meša Selimović

Mehmed "Meša" Selimović
Meša Selimović on a 2010 Serbian stamp
Born (1910-04-26)26 April 1910
Tuzla, Condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austro-Hungarian Empire
Died 11 July 1982(1982-07-11) (aged 72)
Belgrade, SR Serbia, Yugoslavia
Resting place Novo groblje, Belgrade
Occupation Writer, professor, art director
Language Serbo-Croatian
Alma mater University of Belgrade
Notable works Death and the Dervish (1966)
Spouse Draga (d. 1999)
Children Daughters Maša and Jesenka

Mehmed "Meša" Selimović (pronounced ; Cyrillic: Мехмед Селимовић "Меша"; 26 April 1910 – 11 July 1982) was a Yugoslav writer. His novel Death and the Dervish is one of the most important literary works in post-World War II Yugoslavia.[1] Some of the main themes in his works are the relations between individuality and authority, life and death, and other existential problems.


  • Biography 1
  • Works 2
  • Bibliography 3
    • Translations into English 3.1
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Selimović was born to a prominent Bosnian Muslim family on 26 April 1910 in Tuzla (present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina), where he graduated from elementary school and high school. In 1930, he enrolled to study the Serbo-Croatian language and literature at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Philology and graduated in 1934. In 1936, he returned to Tuzla to teach in the gymnasium that today bears his name. He spent the first two years of World War II in the hometown Tuzla, where he was arrested for participation in the Partisan anti-fascist resistance movement in 1943. After the release, he moved to the liberated territory, became a member of Communist Party of Yugoslavia and the political commissar of Tuzla Detachment of the Partisans. During the war, Selimović's brother, also a communist, was executed by partisans' firing squad for alleged theft, without trial; Selimović's letter in defense of the brother was to no avail. That episode apparently affected Meša's later contemplative introduction to Death and the Dervish, where the main protagonist Ahmed Nurudin fails to rescue his imprisoned brother.[2]

After the war, he briefly resided in Belgrade, and in 1947 he moved to Sarajevo, where he was the professor of High School of Pedagogy and Faculty of Philology, art director of Bosna Film, chief of the drama section of the National Theater, and chief editor of the publishing house Svjetlost. Exasperated by a latent conflict with several local politicians and intellectuals, in 1971 he moved to Belgrade, where he lived until his death in 1982.[3] In his 1976 letter to the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts, Selimović argued that despite his Muslim roots (he was a descendant of a notable bey family,[4]) he regarded himself as a Serb and a Serb writer.[5][6][7][8]

Selimović was a member of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts[9] and Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Selimović began writing fairly late in his life. His first book, a collection of short stories Prva četa (The First Company) was published in 1950 when he was forty. His subsequent work, Tišine (Silences) was published eleven years later in 1961. The following books Tuđa zemlja (Foreign land, 1962) and Magla i mjesečina (Mist and Moonlight, 1965) did not receive widespread recognition either.[10]

However, his novel Death and the Dervish (Derviš i smrt, 1966) was widely received as a masterpiece. The plot of the novel took place in 18th-century Sarajevo under Ottoman rule, and reflected Selimović's own torment of the execution of his brother; the story speaks of the futility of one man's resistance against a repressive system, and the change that takes place within that man after he becomes a part of that very system. Some critics have likened this novel to Kafka's The Trial. It has been translated into numerous languages. Each chapter of the novel opens with a Qur'an citation, the first being: "In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful."[10]

The next novel, Tvrđava (The Fortress, 1970), placed still further in the past, is slightly more optimistic, and fulfilled with faith in love, unlike the lonely contemplations and fear in Death and the Dervish. The Fortress and Death and the Dervish are the only novels of Selimović that have thus far been translated into English. Subsequent novels Ostrvo (The Island, 1974) and posthumously published Krug (The Circle, 1983), have not been translated into English.

He also wrote a book about Vuk Karadžić's orthographic reforms,[11] an elderly couple facing aging and eventual death on a Dalmatian island, as well as his autobiography, Sjećanja.


  • Uvrijeđeni čovjek (An Insulted Man) (1947)
  • Prva četa (The First Company) (1950)
  • Tuđa zemlja (Somebody Elses Land) (1957)
  • Noć i jutra (The Night and the Mornings) (film scenario) (1958)
  • Tišine (Silences) (1961)
  • Magla i mjesečina (Mist and Moonlight) (1965)
  • Eseji i ogledi (Essays and Reflections) (1966)
  • Derviš i smrt (Death and the Dervish) (1966)
  • Za i protiv Vuka (Pro et Contra Vuk) (1967)
  • Tvrđava (Fortress) (1970)
  • Ostrvo (The Island) (1974)
  • Krug (The Circle) (1983)
  • Sjećanja (Remembering)

Translations into English

  • Death and the Dervish, 1996, Northwestern University Press, ISBN 0-8101-1297-3
  • The Fortress, 1999, Northwestern University Press, ISBN 0-8101-1713-4


  1. ^ Mala eciklopedija Prosveta: opšta enciklopedija, 1986, Prosveta, Beograd, ISBN 86-07-00001-2.(Serbo-Croatian)
  2. ^ Božena Jelušić (edited by Terrice Bassler). Hard Waking Up (from Learning to Change: the experience of transforming education in South East Europe). Central European University Press. 
  3. ^ "Meša Selimović". Feniks magazine. 
  4. ^ Tuzlarije: Beznadezna povijest Ahmeda Nurudina
  5. ^ "Sto godina od rođenja Meše Selimovića". Retrieved 1 June 2014. 
  7. ^ "Ćerke velikog Meše Selimovića žive u Beogradu: Bosnu nose samo u sećanjima!". Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  8. ^ Večernje Novosti: Pronašao mir u Beogradu, Dragan BOGUTOVIĆ, 9 July 2010 (Serbian)
  9. ^ Meša SELIMOVIĆ. Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
  10. ^ a b Jovan Deretić. "Кратка историја српске књижевности" (in Serbo-Croatian). Project Rastko. 
  11. ^

External links

  • Death and the Dervish by Mesa Selimovic (fragments), translated by Lazar Pascanovic
  • Mesa Selimovic in South Slavic Literature Library
  • For and Against Vuk, study by Meša Selimović, 1967; courtesy of Project Rastko – Banja Luka (Serbian)
  • Meša Selimović's 'Oriental Novels'
  • Meša Selimović's parts of biography
  • Meša Selimović – Facebook page
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