A novel by Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, the top U.N. war crimes fugitive, was a best seller at Belgrade’s international book fair, a publisher and former associate said Tuesday.
“Miraculous Chronicles of the Night” was completed by Karadzic in August and has “reached the publisher through secret channels,” said former Bosnian Serb Information Minister Miroslav Toholj.
All 1,000 copies of the Karadzic novel — a somewhat autobiographical tale set in Sarajevo in the 1980s — were sold out during the fair, which ends Tuesday, Toholj said. The price per copy was $17.20 — a hefty sum in Serbia where average monthly salaries amount to no more than $255.
‘Trash’ sells at brisk pace
Toholj said he printed only 1,000 copies of Karadzic’s latest effort because he believed critics who had dismissed it as “trash.” Another 200 copies were added for sale Tuesday because of the interest.
“If we had 50,000 copies at the fair, we would have sold them all,” Toholj said.
The story tells of events in a Sarajevo prison on the eve of the 1992-95 Bosnian war — about the time when Karadzic spent time in jail on charges that he embezzled funds from a company he worked for.
Karadzic led the Bosnian Serbs during the war, and was indicted in 1995 by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for genocide and crimes against humanity.
The Serbia office of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights has criticized the republic’s conservative authorities for allowing the promotion of Karadzic’s book instead of making moves to arrest war crimes suspects and hand them over to the U.N. tribunal.
“Does this mean that there were no war crimes and that the country ... can ignore international institutions, including the United Nations?” the committee asked in a statement.
‘He is away and safe’
Karadzic, believed to be hiding somewhere in the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia, has dodged several attempts by NATO-led peacekeepers to capture him despite a U.S.-sponsored $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
Refusing to elaborate on Karadzic’s current whereabouts, Toholj said those chasing Karadzic — who was a psychiatrist and self-styled poet before the war — “will never succeed in their goal.”
“He is away and safe,” Toholj said.
Toholj said British, German, Greek and Russian publishers have expressed interest in translating the new novel, which he called “Karadzic’s best literary work so far.”
‘I will purchase six copies’
While in hiding, Karadzic has written at least two other books, including a volume of poetry for children called “There Are Miracles, There Are No Miracles.” Both failed to impress literary critics.
“I will purchase six copies,” said a middle-age Bosnian Serb who identified himself only as Branko, as he fought his way through a crowd lining a bookstand featuring Karadzic’s book with his portrait on the cover.
“He is our hero. This book is a proof that he is safe and sound and in good spirits, thank God,” Branko said, adding that he would give his additional copies to friends in the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia.
The Belgrade book fair is one of the largest in Europe. Some 220,000 people have visited the exhibition since it opened on Oct. 19.
Toholj said the book’s royalties belong to Karadzic’s wife, Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzic, who lives in the former Bosnian Serb stronghold of Pale, near Sarajevo. Earlier this month, the European Union ordered the freezing of Karadzic’s assets and property.