Disappeared books of Socialist Yugoslavia

Report on the rare findings
by Dr. Lilijana Burcar, guest researcher at the International Youth Library
in summer 2018

The central part of my research, which I conducted at the IYL between 1st July and 30th September 2018, focused on poverty in children’s literature and the differences in approaches to this issue between realistic fiction of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and mainstream Anglo-Saxon children’s literature. I consulted more than 600 books and the findings were not surprising. Unlike their Western counterparts, Yugoslav authors in their socially engaged realist fiction paid special attention to systemic investigation of the root causes of poverty, drawing attention to the structural inequalities and the need for their systemic overcoming. But my research into socially engaged children’s literature of the Yugoslav authors also yielded another, a very worrisome and shocking result. Upon my scouring of the IYL archive, it quickly became apparent that the majority of the holdings the IYL has of Yugoslav children’s literature produced between 1945 and 1989 in general – that is, regardless of the topic it deals with – can be today already classified as precious rarities despite the fact that only twenty-five years have elapsed since the dismantling of the socialist Yugoslavia. This is due to the historical revisionism and deliberate, ideologically-driven retrospective distortion of socialist reality which followed in the wake of the destruction of Yugoslavia after 1991. Historical revisionism is one of the ideological axes of the newly created mini capitalist states in the Balkans. It has rested on an implicit or explicit smear campaign against the achievements of socialism, thus also providing a platform for the justification of the nationalistic enclavisation of the Balkans after 1991. To justify the imposition of the new capitalist order, which is based on the combined promotion of capitalist social relations and nationalism, everything associated with socialism, including children’s literature, has been removed from public libraries (and archives). This happened either en masse overnight, or in some other cases gradually over two decades under the flimsy pretext that libraries are bursting at seams and are supposedly no longer able to accommodate older books for children and young adults while taking on new ones although their production after 1991 has been meagre.

My research shows that the unexpected rarities that IYL holds with regard to the Yugoslav literature produced between 1945 and 1990 can be divided into several categories and subcategories. The main category, however, includes those children’s books that deal directly with the issue of poverty, with the hard working and living conditions facing the majority of people in capitalism be it an industrial or agricultural sector, and with the issue of socialist revolution that turned this reality upside down. These two major strands of children’s literary production were the first types of books that disappeared from public libraries and their archives overnight. This list of disappeared books is headed by a specific subgenre, which includes those children’s books that deal specifically with the partisan movement and the collective effort to bring about the socialist revolution in an organized fight for a better future. In this respect, Yugoslavia amongst others produced a special series of picture books in which the focus is placed on the most important historical battles between the Yugoslav partisans and the Nazi occupational imperialist army that took place between 1941 and 1945. These were the key battles that went down into the annals of WWII history as decisive battles that took place in the Balkans and had wider implications for the way the events turned out at the end of WWII, of course in favour of the Western allies who therefore eventually started supporting the partisan movement. The IYL has a complete first part of this series, which includes four different titles (Užička republika, Igmanski marš, Bitka za ranjenike and Desant na Drvar). In the republics of former Yugoslavia, these are today indeed a rarity to behold. If you go in search of the entire series, this is a mission condemned to failure. If you go in search of individual titles in the series, it is like going in search for a needle in a haystack, the haystack being all of the former republics of Yugoslavia. For example, Desant na Drvar (The Desant on Drvar) is a picture book with accompanying text that documents the Nazi SS parachuters’ attack against the partisan main military headquarters and its leader Tito. The headquarters was stationed in Drvar at the time of one of the last major offensives in the first half of 1944 in this part of the Balkans. With 15.000 copies printed in Sarajevo in 1974 alone, not a single copy from this batch is today held by any of more than 900 public libraries in Slovenia according to the online Cobiss catalogue that covers public libraries in the entire region. In Serbia, only two copies remain and are both held by the National library, in Macedonia there is one copy that can be viewed only on the premises of the National library’s reading room and the same goes for Bosnia and Hercegovina and Montenegro with only one copy still available for viewing on each of the two libraries’ premises. That makes altogether only 5 copies of the 1974 edition, which carried 15.000 copies, still around in five out of six former republics of Yugoslavia. This makes one housed by the IYL in Munich indeed a rarity.

The above is just one of many, that is, hundreds and hundreds of examples. The era of socialist Yugoslavia was the most prolific period in the history of quality children’s literature production in this part of the world. Its authors, illustrators and publishing houses such as Mladinska knjiga and Školska knjiga enjoyed a world-wide reputation with their works fetching many major international prizes at fairs such as those in Frankfurt and Bologna to say the least about TV series they gave rise to and which also fetched major prizes at film festivals across the globe. Yet all in all, children’s (and YAL) books of all kinds, be it picture books, short stories, school primers and novels associated with the socialist period and on topics of all kinds are being systematically made to disappear. They are being eliminated from public libraries’ holdings, with only a few boutique copies still randomly in place and mostly off limit to the general public. It is therefore imperative for IYL to declare its collection of socialist Yugoslav literature a special collection and to digitalise its holdings on the socialist Yugoslav literature, for at least two thirds of which I managed to establish are rarities. By putting these books online, the IYL would not only give them a new lease of life thus ensuring the continuity of their existence but also possibly put them back into circulation among young readers, their parents, and the rest of the adults and scholars. All of us would most certainly benefit from its comeback in these much troubled and difficult times, no matter how numerically modest the IYL collection might be in its actual size.

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PM: „Der Kinder Kalender“ 2019

Der von der Internationalen Jugendbibliothek seit 2011 herausgegebene Kinderlyrik-Wochenkalender erscheint aufgrund eines Verlagswechsels unter dem neuen Titel „Der Kinder Kalender“ im Verlag edition momente.

Schon seit 2011 gibt die Stiftung Internationale Jugendbibliothek auf der Grundlage ihrer weltweit einmaligen, internationalen Büchersammlung einen großformatigen, mehrsprachigen Wochenkalender mit illustrierten Kindergedichten aus aller Welt heraus. Bereits veröffentlichte Kindergedichte aus aller Welt werden von namhaften Übersetzern ins Deutsche übertragen und die originale Illustration, das originale Gedicht und die Übersetzung als Kalenderblatt gestaltet. Die Idee für den Kalender entstand in der Internationalen Jugendbibliothek, das grafische Konzept dazu entwickelte der Grafiker Max Bartholl.

Ausführlichere Informationen zu dem einmaligen Konzept finden Sie im Anhang zur Meldung in einem aktuellen Interview von Dr. Stefan Hauck, Börsenblatt-Redakteur, mit dem Leiter der Lektoratsabteilung der Internationalen Jugendbibliothek, Jochen Weber, vom 17. Mai 2018.

Die Auslieferung des „Kinder Kalenders“ 2019 ist für Ende Juni 2018 geplant:
53 großformatige Seiten, liebevoll gestaltet und exzellent gedruckt, auf denen Kinder und Erwachsene auch 2019 jeden Montag aufs Neue die grenzenlose Vielfalt und Schönheit von Lyrik entdecken können – von Algerien bis Argentinien, von Korea bis Kanada.
60 Blätter / 53 vierfarbige Illustrationen / 33 x 30,5 cm / 20,- € / ISBN 978-3-0360-5019-5

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Ein Buch mit Geschichte – Ausgabe III

Do you still harbor the romantic view of children’s literature as a reflection of a blissful and innocent state of childhood?

Here is the remedy for that sentiment, found in the stacks of the International Youth Library under the shelf mark PH/USA S741.5951 AKIb-2018/10501:

“But now look, we are a junior guerrilla band! […] What we want to achieve is at least one or two enemies exterminated with each grenade!”

Weiterlesen

Discoveries at IYL: Poèmes Du Soir

Each of our international guests is asked for their personal treasure they find during their stay with us. This treasure found by Nicola Daly, University of Waikato, New Zealand, IYL-Fellow 2017.  wonderfully matches our current activities in Arabic children’s and youth literature.

Poemes du Soir (Evening Poems, Heredia & Dentan, 2016) is a collection of 9 poems presented in both French (in Latin script) and Arabic (in Arabic script). In fact, Sibylle Weingart the French Lecturen brought it to me as she knew I am interested in bilingual picturebooks. Poemes du Soir is part of the 2017 White Raven’s catalogue. The publisher La Port a Jauni , established in 2015, is based in Marseilles where there is a large Arabic-speaking population and it  describes itself as specialising in producing French-Arabic bilingual books. The publisher’s website explains that their books are designed “to play with the double meaning of reading in French and in Arabic” (La Port a Jauni, 2017). Weiterlesen

Discoveries at IYL: Coloured pictorial series of myths

A Treasure report for IJB by Yue Wang, PhD Candidate, Macquarie University, Australia

I am interested in retellings and adaptations of myths, legends, folklore, fairy tales from Chinese culture, specifically of Monkey King story, but also includes some other folk tales and stories, such as Mu Lan story, fox spirits tales, ghost spirits tales and so on. I think modern and contemporary fantasy writing for children and young adults will draw inspirations from these cultural resources. And I am curious about how they could be transformed to new shapes to fit in modern era. Weiterlesen

Discoveries at IYL: Books, books, books

The fellowship program offered by the International Youth Library allows up to 15 researchers from all over the world to stay and work in our reading room. Our guests always find ther personal „treasures“. Today we would like to share with you what Dr. Kimberly McFall, Assistant professor at Marshall University, West Virginia, found during her stay with us:

During my time at the International Youth Library, I have been exposed to numerous books on my research topic of “Whose God? Using Children’s Literature to teach multicultural awareness.” The topic started specifically in illustrations that used religious symbolism and morphed into a broader scope of themes that include Myths, Folklore, Celebrations, Instruction, and Nature. Weiterlesen

PM: Die Illustratorin Lilo Fromm

Neue Ausstellung in der Internationalen Jugendbibliothek
18. September 2017 bis 18. Februar 2018

Der goldene Vogel
Die Illustratorin Lilo Fromm

Vor 50 Jahren wurde Lilo Fromm für ihre farbenfrohen, traumverlorenen Illustrationen zu dem Grimm‘schen Märchen „Der goldene Vogel“ mit dem Deutschen Jugendbuchpreis ausgezeichnet. Mit kraftvollen, musikalischen Farbklängen brachte die Illustratorin in den sechziger Jahren einen frischen Ton in die Bilderbuchlandschaft und prägte eine Generation von Kindern, die mit ihren Bildern aufwuchsen.

Fast vergessen ist, dass Lilo Fromm auch eine hervorragende Zeichnerin ist, die den Charakter einer Figur mit wenigen Strichen witzig und treffend ins Bild setzt. Ebenso gekonnt beherrscht sie die detailliert ausgearbeitete Federzeichnung. Weiterlesen