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Biblioasis International Translation Series

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Summary

AN OPENCANADA SUMMER READ 2019

In the south of Bosnia and Herzegovina lies Mostar, a medieval town on the banks of the emerald Neretva, which flows from the “valley of sugared trees” through sunny hills to reach the Adriatic Sea. This idyllic locale is where Maya Ombasic’s life begins, but when civil war breaks out in Yugoslavia and the bombs begin to fall. Her family is exiled to Switzerland, and after a failed attempt to return, they leave again for Canada. While Maya adapts to their uprootings, her father never recovers from the trauma, refusing even to learn the language of his new country.

Mostarghia, a portmanteau of “Mostar” and “nostalgia”, centers around Ombasic’s often explosive relationship with her father, who was both influence and psychological burden: he inspired her interest, and eventual career, in philosophy, and she was his translator, his support, his obsession. Along with this portrait of a larger-than-life man described by turns as passionate, endearing, maddening, and suffocating, Ombasic deftly constructs a moving personal account of what it means to be a refugee and how a generation learns to thrive despite its parents’ struggles.

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