Country:   Serbia

Aleksandar Tisma

Image: Tisma Foundation

Aleksandar Tisma was a prominent Serbian author and journalist, whose works focused on the human experience in the tumultuous and often tragic history of the Balkans. Through his writing, Tisma explored themes such as identity, displacement, trauma, and memory, illuminating the complexities of life in a region marked by war, political upheaval, and social change.

Tisma was born in the northern Serbian city of Vojvodina in 1924, and he grew up in a multiethnic and multilingual community. This early exposure to diversity and difference would inform his later writing, which often explored the themes of cultural hybridity and the struggle for identity in a region marked by political and cultural conflict.

Tisma’s most famous work is his novel “The Use of Man,” which was published in 1976 and is widely regarded as a masterpiece of modern Serbian literature. The novel follows the story of a young Hungarian Jewish boy named Miroslav who survives the Holocaust and is subsequently forced to navigate life in communist Yugoslavia.

Through Miroslav’s story, Tisma explores the themes of displacement, trauma, and the struggle for identity in the aftermath of war. The novel is marked by a profound sense of loss and disorientation, as Miroslav tries to come to terms with his past and find his place in a world that is often hostile and indifferent to his experiences.

Tisma’s other works similarly explore the human experience in the context of political and social upheaval. In his novel “Kapo,” for example, Tisma tells the story of a Hungarian Jewish man who becomes a concentration camp kapo, or prisoner overseer, during the Holocaust. The novel is a searing exploration of the moral complexities of survival in a world marked by violence and oppression.

In addition to his novels, Tisma was also a prolific journalist and essayist, writing extensively on a range of social and political issues in Yugoslavia and beyond. His writing was marked by a commitment to truth-telling and a deep empathy for the experiences of those who were marginalized or silenced by the dominant political and cultural forces of his time.

Overall, Aleksandar Tisma was a writer of exceptional talent and vision, whose works continue to resonate with readers today. Through his exploration of the human experience in the context of political and social upheaval, Tisma provided a powerful testament to the resilience and complexity of the human spirit, even in the face of the most unimaginable horrors and challenges.


Some of the major awards won by Tisma:

  1. NIN Award for Best Novel of the Year (1978) – “The Use of Man”
  2. Prix du Livre Inter (1980) – “The Use of Man”
  3. Prix Alberto-Benveniste (1985) – “The Book of Blam”
  4. Herder Prize (1994)
  5. Vilenica International Literary Prize (1995)
  6. Vojvodina Charter (1997)
  7. Austrian State Prize for European Literature (1999)
  8. Golden Badge of the City of Novi Sad (2002)

Tisma was also a nominee for several other literary awards, including the International Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

Aleksandar Tisma's books OVID recommends:
Kapo, The Use of Man
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