NEA Literature Fellowships

Vedran Husić

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(2016 - Prose)

from "Deathwinked"

We called sniper alley the alley of wolves. We were young and boys and had nicknames for everything, first of all the girls. There was the Nanny, the Epilogue, and the Soulcrusher. We thought these nicknames very clever, breathless with truth. We were thirteen and easily excited. To be killed by a sniper meant to be deathwinked, a verb. I came up with that. I had a minimum understanding of poetry, a maximum amount of fear.

We ran across the alley of wolves to test our recent manhood, among other things. We ran because there was nothing better to do. We ran because it was more bearable than standing still. We were young and anxious to be brave. We were practicing martyrs. Our fathers were gone; mine gone forever, heaven-swallowed one winter night at the front. Miralem's father was still at the front, firing his gun at the threatening distance. All three of us dreamed of soldierhood and feared that the war would soon run out. Edin's father had come back from the front and was gone in yet another way, halfway between the gone of Miralem's father and the never coming back of my father. He was crazy, according to the completely not insane. He spoke the names of the dead, but not in his sleep, like normal people. He confused the living for the dead, which worried the living. We all smiled at him and pitied him the best we could. We smiled at him and measured our sanity against his truth. Edin took it all in stride, in run, explaining it away through philosophy, intellectualizing the problem until the problem grew wings. His father's rants did not bother him, but it bothered his family, who wanted to institutionalize the father. But there were no institutions left. Edin argued that to call somebody insane was ridiculous in time of war. Nobody in his family listened to him; he was thirteen, which is its own form of insanity.

Vedran Husić was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and raised in Germany and the United States. His fiction can be found in Ecotone, Witness, North American Review, The Massachusetts Review, Blackbird, The Collagist, Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, and elsewhere. He was the recipient of a 2013-2014 Writing Fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He's currently working on a novel about the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

Photo by Naira Kuzmich

Author's Statement

Receiving this grant was a huge surprise and is a great honor. With it, I plan to add to my research by traveling to the regions where my novel is set, places I had been before and wanted to see again, and places that I never thought I would get the chance to visit. Not only does this award work toward providing me with the financial security and time to pursue my writing endeavors, but it also reaffirms the value of my aesthetic direction. I'm extremely grateful to the NEA for making it possible to continue my life's work and pleasure with greater freedom and confidence.