Wojciech Tochman has returned to Bosnia on multiple occasions to observe the aftermath of the war. Like Eating a Stone: Surviving the Past in Bosnia is a collection of writings based on his experiences and interviews with survivors
The author draws a portrayal of women whose close ones died during the war or who were committed to mitigate its effects. The women turn out to be the strongest as they must be the strongest, just as Ewa Klonowski, a Pole working to identify bodies. Writers like Tochman work to make sure the world does not forget what Bosnia has tried to hide away from the world.
Like Eating a Stone was one of seven finalists for the NIKE Literary Prize 2003 and a finalist for the prestigious Prix RFI "Témoin du Monde" awarded by Radio France International in Paris (2004). The young Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk wrote about the book, saying the "author's talent and his sensitivity add a dimension of a moving message to this documentary".
An excerpt from the book:
Who would have thought: happiness at Mejra's mother's home. People have arrived from everywhere to be with her today. What a relief, the end of a journey. At last a peaceful dream, perhaps. There is a funeral, a prayer, a tomb. Two tombs.
Mejra does not allow anybody to cry: 'Nebojsza may see, we must be dignified'.
We wanted to pay Nebojsza B. a visit with Doctor Ewa. He lives nearby.
But Mejra does not allow it either: 'No need, it's not time yet.'
Today Nebojsza B., the same who once was the boyfriend of Edna, Mejra's daughter, is a policeman in Prijedor. The war broke out, Nebojsza became an investigating officer in Omarska, Edna became a prisoner. He tortured Enda, he raped her. Edvin, Edna's brother was also seen in Omarska. He was tortured before his sister's eyes. Enda Dautović - born on March 18, 1969. A student of pedagogy. Edvin Dautović - born on August 13, 1965. An electrician.
Selected reviews of the book:
Why do I need this lethal heat full of flies? Why is there this taste of stone in my mouth? Why did he go there, this Pole, and stayed for two years there, and why do they always interfere with something, why do they always poke their nose in it? Almost as if they had an extraordinary sense of responsibility for everybody.
- Jurij Andruchowycz, "Diabeł tkwi w serze" / "The Devil is Hiding in the Cheese"
Tochman's lapidary style, narrating the atrocities of the war and its fallout, is all the more powerful for its restraint: outrage speaks terribly for itself, needs no hype, no color.
- The Times
Tochman accompanies an anthropologist Ewa Klonowski in her efforts to put together scattered human remains hoping that yet another unearthed mass grave will help to unite the bones of the deceased with family in mourning. Without judgment or commentary, the book lets the voices of the survivors relate this harrowing search. The result is a powerful portrayal of a country still suffering from the effects of war. However, in its deepest sense, "Like Eating a Stone" does not refer only to Bosnia - it presents the universal human need to be able to bury a body and mourn over it.
- The Financial Times
Tochman avoids the beaten track which journalists usually follow in the Balkans. It makes this tiny book overwhelmingly powerful. Read this incredible reportage to learn how thin the veneer of civilisation is and how easy it becomes for friends to turn against friends. "Like Eating a Stone" should be sent to Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan, John Major and Douglas Hurd, George Bush and Bill Clinton. Probably they would not read it but even simply browsing through Tochman's book would disturb the peace of their retirement days.
- Literary Review
Also see Tutaj się urodziłam, tutaj umarłam" / "Here I Was Born, Here I Died - a review by Bartosz Marc.
Jakbyś kamień jadła / Like Eating a Stone: Surviving the Past in Bosnia
first edition: Wydawnictwo Pogranicze, Sejny 2002
second edition: Wydawnictwo Pogranicze, Sejny 2005
third edition: Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2008
125 x 195, 136 pages, paperback
Source: Czarna Publishing