In Novi Sad (Serbia), on June 24, 2022, the International Award for Literature "Aleksandar Tišma" was presented to writer David Albahari. The recipient of the award was decided upon by an international jury: Ilma Rakusa (president), Peter Handke, Mathias Enard, Laszlo Marton and Vladislava Gordić Petković.
The president of the jury could not attend, but on behalf of the jury, she sent a justification of the award, which was read at the award ceremony.
The award is always presented to the laureate on the day of remembrance when Aleksandar Tišma organized the "Prayer for Peace" on June 24, 1992 in the Freedom Square in Novi Sad in order to try to stop the war in the former Yugoslavia through the joint participation of representatives of all religious denominations.
In praise of David Albahari
The International Literary Award "Aleksandar Tisma" for 2022 was awarded to the famous Serbian writer David Albahari for the novel "Today is Wednesday" which was published in 2020 and was magnificently translated into German by Mirjana and Klaus Wittmann, by the publishing house Scheffling. The novel was critically acclaimed.
Albahari's extensive literary work is comprised of novels, short stories and essays, but the title "Today is Wednesday" can be described as a highlight of his writing career.
The narrator accompanies his father, who has Parkinson's disease, on walks along the river shore of Zemun every day. On one occasion, they meet a man who brings back unpleasant memories for his father. The father, who had been silent until then, starts talking. And what emanates from it is shown as a testimony of a life full of horror.
The father, as a party activist and collaborator of the secret service, once denounced and mistreated people. Later, one of his victims suggested that he was a Stalinist, which is why he was expelled to Goli Otok. The criminal thus found himself in the role of a victim, but that did not lead him to an inner transformation. After his release, he becomes a tyrant in his house who humiliates his wife and forces her into solitude. Only illness manages to make him think about the mistakes of the past and accept his own limitations and helplessness.
But is it true that this father is talking about his life? The son listens to his monologues, but he can in no way be sure of their credibility. Guilt and redemption, crime and punishment, defiance and remorse elude objective judgment. Thanks to the knowledgeable narrative technique of David Albahari, in which he reproduces his father's statements through his son's notes, several important questions remain unanswered. And it is good that this is so, because that space left for interpretation enables a differentiated view of the complexity of the topic: the involvement of the individual in the political machinery and his helplessness in the face of a fatal disease. As readers, we waver between compassion and resentment, between pity and disgust, and we admire the patience of a son who manages to love his father both as a former monster and as a miserable figure.
Finally, "Today is Wednesday" is also a touching novel about the relationship between a son and a father. Perhaps the most touching of all David Albahari’s novels. Because, in it, the author dealt with a topic that is extremely personal for him: Parkinson's disease, from which he himself has been suffering for many years. Yes, "Today is Wednesday" is a book about that insidious disease against whose relentless progress there is little to do. Nevertheless, Albahari - insofar as he made it literary productive in a sovereign way - achieved an artistic and moral victory over that disease. Countless details, some of which are grotesque, indicate his sad familiarity with matter. In this regard, there is no problem with credibility. Moreover, we must give the author the greatest recognition for the precision with which he manages to describe, sometimes comically absurd, the situation in which people with Parkinson's disease find themselves.
From the bottom of my heart, I congratulate David Albahari on the "Aleksandar Tisma" Award and wish for him to bless us with more magnificent works. Everything from his pen is world literature in the best sense of the word.