Velibor Čolić, writer

Refugiee from Yougoslavia since 1992

Velibor Čolić was born on 13 June 1964 in Odžak in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, but grew up in Modriča, a town populated in half by Muslims before the war. His family is Croatian and has settled in Bosnia for centuries. He studied Yugoslav literature in Sarajevo and Zagreb and wrote a thesis on the expressionist poets of the early 20th century. He rose to prominence as the voice of the generation of writers associated with the Croatian literary magazine Quorum

When the Yugoslav army launched its offensive on 6 April 1992, Velibor became a soldier in the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was formed on 15 April 1992 to defend the country. Following the 21 July military cooperation agreement between the Croats and Bosniaks, Velibor Čolić, considered a deserter, was locked up with almost three thousand Bosniaks in the Slavonski Brod camp. He escaped on 11 July 1992. His house and manuscripts were reduced to ashes.

In August of the same year, he went to France and was recognised as a refugee in September. Hosted in Strasbourg by the International Parliament of Writers for a three-month residency, he worked in a library and contributed to the Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace (Alsace current news). In 1993, he published Les Bosniaques (Bosniaks), a collection that has been published several times and adapted for the theatre.

He then went on to reclaim the humour and poetry of his earlier works with books written directly in French, such as Jésus et Tito (Jesus and Tito), a book in which he recounts memories of his native country as if he were leafing through a photo album. Sarajevo Omnibus (2012) paints a portrait of the city of Sarajevo through the prism of a variety of historical figures and iconic locations, all of which are connected to the inaugural tragedy of the twentieth century—the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914. His latest novel, Ederlezi (published by Gallimard), subtitled "Pessimistic Comedy", tells the story of a gypsy orchestra through the successive reincarnations of its leader over three eras.

He was awarded the French Language and Literature Outreach Prize by the Académie Française for his life's work in 2014.