The Ninth International Conference on Sarajevo and the World
As part of International Forum Bosnia's Ninth International Conference on Sarajevo and the World (ICSW9), held from May 16 to 19, 2023, there was a public discussion on 250 years of the ballad of Hasan Aga's Wife in Global Culture: On Rusmir Mahmutćehajić's Hasanaginica(Sarajevo: Mladinska knjiga, 2022) .
The speakers were Almir Bašović, Nerin Dizdar, Nirha Efendić, Desmond Maurer, Lejla Nakaš and Fatima Veispahić.
Almir Bašović, Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Sarajevo, spoke about the cosmological framework of Mahmutćehajić's interpretation of the Sorrowful Lament of the Noble Wife of Hasanaga and the teleological narrative that structures Mahmutćehajić's strikingly dramatic retelling and interpretation of the poem, according to which Hasanaga, the beautiful aspect of the self, seeks to realise his full humanity in relation to the absolutely Beautiful, and his wife, Hasanaginica, who represents the receptive aspect of that quest.
Nerin Dizdar, author of ThePolitics of Cultural Racism, spoke of the ballad's reception in European culture, through translations and interpretations, and in art, specifically painting. It is precisely in this aspect that Dizdar sees the current relevance of the search for humanity through history and in different countries and cultures. In his view, Mahmutćehajić's interpretation of the Sorrowful Lament of the Noble Wife of Hasanaga is just as relevant for the present hour and situation as to any other time in Bosnia, insofar as it treats of humanity's quest to realise the self in line with our highest and most beautiful capacities.
Nirha Efendić, a researcher into Bosnian oral heritage, discussed the ballad as an important native literary genre in Bosnian culture and the Sorrowful Lament of the Noble Wife of Hasanaga in that context. In particular, she views Munib Maglajlić's work on Bosnian oral ballads as providing important context for understanding the aspects of the tradition presented in Rusmir Mahmutćehajić's book convincingly for the first time in the long tradition of work on Bosnian oral tradition.
Desmond Maurer, philologist and philosopher, president of the IFB Centre for the Study of History, gave us a penetrating analysis of the interpretations Mahmutćehajić offers in his book, pointing out what precisely it is that makes Hasanaginica and its interpretation so ontologically, cosmologically, and psychologically significant both for the world and for its homeland. In the person of Hasanaga and his love we see the inextricability of the lower and the higher levels of the self and of masculinity and femininity as universal aspects of existence, as well as the interpenetration of the external world as observed and the internal world of the human observer.
Lejla Nakaš, professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of Sarajevo, philologist, and expert in historical linguistics, pointed out that Mahmutćehajić's interpretations of the Sorrowful Lamment, first published in 1774 but probably created earlier, are an example of the kind of approach to the text that confirms that the observer can never have complete or final knowledge about the object of observation. He takes the text as sacred, inviolable, and consequently as open to interpretation from different perspectives. Professor Nakaš stressed how exciting the journey is that results from the approach taken by the writer of Hasanaginicain discussing a poem that now belongs irrevocably to everyone.
Fatima Veispahić, philologist and linguistic historian, was involved in preparing the second edition of "Hasanaginica" and, in her presentation, stressed the indelible mark that the Sorrowful Lament of the Noble Wife of Hasanaga has had on the ethical formation of Bosnia and its image of the world as one which offers different paths to God. According to her, after it was first published, the ballad found its way long most of the paths that traverse the global archipelago of language, meaning, and symbol, to be translated and interpreted in too many ways to count. Rusmir Mahmutćehajić's "Hasanaginica" has helped the ballad find its way back home and it has brought with it all that experience of being in the world and of its own significance for the key question of humanity and our relationship with God.
Dr. Asim Zubčević