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.

James Krüss Award for International Children’s and Youth Literature

„Those who write for children, write for the most open-minded, most curious and least doctrinaire audience of the world.” James Krüss

The James Krüss Award for International Children’s and Youth Literature is awarded in memory of James Krüss, language artist and citizen of the world. Its aim is to honour and promote cosmopolitanism and the art of narration. The award is granted for the oeuvre of a living children’s and youth author as well as – in the case of a foreign awardee – the translation of his or her work into German. The works’ presence on the German book market is compulsory. The awarded work needs to stand out for its linguistic brilliance, originality, imaginative storytelling, and humanity. Furthermore, an affinity with the works of James Krüss should be evident. Weiterlesen

Anastasia Arkhipova: My second time in the HCA Award Jury!

Despite arduous work I feel privileged„. Anastasia Arkhipova enjoys her work in the jury of the Hans Christian Andersen Award!

It is for the second term that I am on the HCA Award jury. And I was on the juries for other contests before.  Every time it is such an arduous task – to choose the right author, the right illustrator, the one who is better than all the others.  It seems to be really impossible, the final decision can’t be indisputable! We have so many candidates from different countries, and there are no weak artists or writers among them. Each one was nominated by his or her country as the best of the best, they are already top-ranked, their status is undeniable. Weiterlesen

Ayfer Ünal: My work as a HCAA Jury Member

„Artists make this world a better place“ – one of the statements of Ayfer Ünal, jury member of the Hans Christian Andersen Award 2014. Thank you, Dear Ayfer, for this personal insight into the work as a jury member!

I served for the Hans Christian Andersen Jury for two terms, both in 2012 and in 2014. It is immense work as well as immense pleasure! Weiterlesen

Susan M. Stan: Jury Member of the Hans Christian Andersen Award 2014

On March 15 and 16, 2014 the Jury meeting for the Hans Christian Andersen Award will take place at the International Youth Library in Munich. We feel honoured to host this important event and look forward to welcoming the jury members.

Susan a professor of English at Central Michigan University, where among the courses she teaches are those in international and multicultural literature for children and young adults. Her experience in the field of children’s books includes a decade working for the Lerner Publishing Group in both the marketing and editorial departments and eleven years as editor of The Five Owls, a now-defunct journal about children’s books. Susan’s interest in international children’s literature began with trips to the Frankfurt and Bologna Book Fairs while she was at Lerner and led her to write a dissertation on international picture books.

Since 1986, when she attended her first IBBY World Congress in Japan, Susan has been an active member the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY). She has served as USBBY’s president and is the author of The World through Children’s Books (Scarecrow, 2002), one of the books in the Bridges to Understanding series sponsored by USBBY. A long time member of the American Library Association, Susan has served on several committees, including selection committees for the Caldecott and Batchelder awards.

The other Jury Members are: Fanuel Hanan Diaz, Ayfer Gürdal Ünal, Anastasia Arkhipova, Maria Jesus Gil, Sabine Fuchs, Erik Titusson, Enrique Pérez Diaz, Sang-Wook Kim, Elda Nogueira, Sahar Tarhandeh, Deborah Soria

Sangwook Kim: Jury Member of the Hans Christian Andersen Award 2014

On March 15 and 16, 2014 the Jury meeting for the Hans Christian Andersen Award will take place at the International Youth Library in Munich. We feel honoured to host this important event and look forward to welcoming the jury members.

Sangwook studied Literature Education at Seoul National University and in 1995 gained his Ed.D. Since 1997 he has worked as a professor at the Chuncheon National University of Education, where he teaches courses on children’s literature, picture books and the history of Korean children’s literature. In 2002/3 he was a visiting scholar at the Teachers’ College of Colombia University, NY.

His publications have included many books about children’s literature, theory and the practice of teaching, and in particular about picture books.  He has also published monographs for various journals.  Between 2004 and 2011 Sangwook was a representative for the group Citizen Acts for the Genuine Reading Culture.  From 2007 until 2012 he was the president of the Korean Association of Literature form Children and Young Adults and is currently the chairman of the coordination committee for the monthly magazine Eolini-wa-Munhak (Children and Literature).

The other Jury Members are: Fanuel Hanan Diaz, Ayfer Gürdal Ünal, Susan Stan, Maria Jesus Gil, Sabine Fuchs, Erik Titusson, Enrique Pérez Diaz, Anastasia Arkhipova, Elda Nogueira, Sahar Tarhandeh, Deborah Soria

Sahar Tarhandeh :Jury Member of the Hans Christian Andersen Award 2014

On March 15 and 16, 2014 the Jury meeting for the Hans Christian Andersen Award will take place at the International Youth Library in Munich. We feel honoured to host this important event and look forward to welcoming the jury members.

Sahar earned her B.A. in Visual Communication and Graphic Design from the Azad University in Tehran. She joined the Children’s Book Council of Iran (CBC – National section of IBBY) in 1997, and since then has worked and undertaken research the field of children’s literature.  In 2000 she began working as a graphic designer and research assistant at the Institute for Research on the History of Children’s Literature in Iran and worked on the project Pictures in Children’s Books until 2003.

From 2003 until 2007 she worked as an art and crafts tutor in the Education Department and Family Learning of the Durham County Council in the UK. In 2007 she graduated from the University of Sunderland with an MA degree in Design: Multimedia and Graphics. Since her return to Iran she has been working as an independent researcher, a freelance graphic designer and a critic of children’s book literature and illustration. She has written and translated several reviews and essays both in national and international journals. She was selected for the Hans Christian Andersen Award Jury in 2012. Sahar is currently a member of the CBC’s executive committee and acts as the international liaison with IBBY. 

The other Jury Members are: Fanuel Hanan Diaz, Ayfer Gürdal Ünal, Susan Stan, Maria Jesus Gil, Sabine Fuchs, Erik Titusson, Enrique Pérez Diaz, Sang-Wook Kim, Elda Nogueira, Anastasia Arkhipova, Deborah Soria