SACI instructor Dejan Atanackovic has won the 2018 NIN Award (Award for Best Novel of the Year) for his first novel Luzitanija.
The NIN Award is a prestigious Serbian (and previously Yugoslavian) literary award established in 1954 by the NIN weekly. The award is given annually for the best newly published novel in Serbian literature, presented every year in January by a panel of writers and critics. The literary website complete review called it the "leading Serbian literary prize" in 2012. In addition to being a highly acclaimed award capable of transforming writers' literary careers, the award is also sought after because it virtually assures bestseller status for the winning novel.
Dejan's novel Luzitanija brings together two apparently unrelated subjects of the First World War: the famous British passenger ship and Belgrade’s psychiatric hospital. In May 1915, under strange circumstances, Lusitania is sunk by a torpedo of a German submarine. In October the same year, Belgrade is conquered by the Austrian and German troops. The psychiatric hospital acquires an extraterritorial status, while on its soil an unusual parliamentary republic is formed by hospital’s staff and patients. This is the starting point, around which the novel develops into numerous stories, of searching and disappearing, of madness and progress, of the senselessness of war.
By means of skillful storytelling, similar to the narrative methods of magic realism, through an ironic merging of historically accurate and fictitious characters and events, the reader of the novel is guided through miles of diverse settings: hospital corridors, absurd tunnels of the Western Front, Balkan forests, streets of Belgrade, New York, Vienna, all the way to the dreamlike hallways of the Florentine Museum of Natural History. Luzitanija offers a rich repertoire of images of bodies, of humans and animals alike, and the structure of the novel is reminiscent of a kind of wunderkammer. The leading thread of the novel is a perpetual dialogue about the relation between reason and madness, the doubt over their presumed contradiction, and the simultaneous defining of human stupidity that appears evident in numerous causes and consequences of the modern era.
Luzitanija is currently available in Serbian. Read the introduction and first chapter in English.
Dejan Atanackovic teaches Digital Multimedia, Body Archives, and Art, Mind, & Diversity at SACI. He has presented personal mutlimedia exhibitions and curatorial projects since 1994 in Italy, Serbia, USA, Canada, Bosnia, Albania, Slovenia, and has taken part in collective exhibitions in Germany, Switzerland, and Mexico. Dejan Atanackovic has curated exhibitions of work by artists, students, and mental patients, and works directly with historical museums in Florence such as the Anthropology Museum and the Museum of Natural History, La Specola, to develop contemporary art exhibitions through an ongoing dialogue with the past, in particular, the representation of the body and mind throughout history. Luzitanija is his first novel.
Learn more about Dejan’s work on his website.