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Writers and Artists Toil to Nurture Sarajevo’s Souls With AM-Yugoslavia, Bjt

July 6, 1992

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ For the price of loaf of bread, there is now food for the soul.

At a small printing press battered by artillery, Sarajevo’s writers and artists produce the magazine ″Zemlja,″ which means country or earth. Publisher Fuad Muslic said the proceeds will be given to the widows and families of slain Bosnian soldiers.

″This is our way of resistance. I can’t carry a gun,″ said Predrag Finci, a writer and philosophy professor at Sarajevo University. ″I’m not in the army. I don’t know how to use a gun.

″But sometimes your pencil is mightier than weapons,″ he said. ″Shells do not leave traces for long, but literature does.″

The first issue of ″Zemlja″ came out last week. The price of a single copy is pegged to the price of bread that day.

Some of Sarajevo’s most prominent writers contribute essays on the search for meaning in war, the state of art in Sarajevo and their impressions of a capital under siege.

The magazine also offers tips on siege cooking - such as how to make nettle soup, prepare a cake from oil, water, flour and sugar or make noodles without eggs.

″It is helpful, but it’s also sort of a joke,″ said Finci. ″This kind of poverty cooking was always associated with starving artists. Now we can share the recipes.″

″Even though we are in the middle of the war, amid the mortar and the shell fire, we have managed to prove to ourselves and to others that there are still people who care, intellectuals who will do something,″ he said.

In a shrapnel-scarred studio, 10 artists struggle to convey the futility and emotions of war in surrealistic or strangely erotic paintings.

Sead Cizmic paints nudes a deathly gray inside rooms with broad strokes of vivid reds and glossy blacks.

″Maybe in five or 10 years I can paint the war,″ said Cizmic. ″To get something you have to chew on it awhile. Now it’s too confusing.″

″It’s very difficult to paint the war,″ added artist Mustafa Ibrulj. ″Picasso could not paint Guernica until 10 years after the civil war in Spain.″

Painters suffer from the confusion, but writers become better ″become sharper, clearer and perhaps tougher,″ Finci said.

″I think the closeness of death brings some maturity. That is what is happening to our writers. The aging process is very quick for all of us.″

When they are not working on the magazine, many of the writers and artists congregate in a small, crowded, smoky and bullet-pocked cafe in the city center.

Jazz blares from a stereo as intellectuals mingle with off-duty soldiers, talking over glasses of beer, whisky or brandy.

″We have only two topics. First, how to stay alive. Second, how to stay who we are, how to keep the war from changing us too much,″ said Finci.

″This war has made us suffer. It has changed us all.″

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