Life and death, part one

Bassim

VIP Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2008
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Bosnian
Home Country
Bosnia Herzegovina
Current Location
Sweden
Would you please correct the first part of my text?

I see my existence in bipolar terms. There is a life between the time I was born and my death in 1993, and there is languishing in exile. Everything that happens in this second part is an afterlife, a gift from fate, which I do not appreciate any longer. A gift is something you should enjoy and get pleasure from and not the punishment you will be reminded of every day.

People here find me weird. Some call me an idiot, a moron and a madman. They are angry because I do not talk to them. I do not even look at them. I am not interested in them. They are displeased because they have opened the door to their paradise, and I, instead of showing gratitude, ignore them. They can’t comprehend such behaviour. They have been told since childhood that their country is the best in the world in almost everything. Other nations are envious because they will never reach such levels of scientific, economic, cultural and social development. They have such a high opinion of themselves that they think you really must be mad when you do not appreciate the country which offered you shelter and gave you everything for free.

The problem is the dead do not care what those alive are doing. Just as there are many ways to die, there are many ways to be dead. When a woman loses her child in illness, you can hear her saying, “I’ve died myself.” When a man or a woman dies after decades of marriage, the surviving person often says, “They can bury me with him” or “they can bury me with her”, depending on the sex of the deceased. “My life has no meaning anymore.” A mother of a killed soldier in a war, after receiving sad news, exclaims, “They killed me with him.” Parents of children who had committed suicide can be seen walking like automatons, devoid of emotion, as if they had already joined them in that final peace.

I died the day I boarded the bus which would take me out of hell to freedom. I did not want to leave my father, knowing how close he and I had become, but he urged me to go. “They’ll not kill me, I’m too old, but you’re their target. Go, and don’t come back because there will never be life here again,” he advised me as we as sat in the summer night, with a stub of a candle in a saucer casting its light upon us. The night was quiet, but the calm was treacherous. We knew that any moment we could hear a knock on the door, and that would mean our inevitable death. Local Serb forces were merciless. If the soldiers barged into the house, they would come out carrying all the valuables and leaving the inhabitants in the pool of blood. They did not want any witnesses to their crimes, and by murdering them, they were ensured they would never be prosecuted.

On the day of my departure, I saw my father crying for the first time since in my life. I knew I was never going to see him again, and he probably felt the same. Any war is cruel. It does not only kill people on the frontlines and in bombings, but also kills those who have survived. My father was dying slowly. My aunt told me he was crying every day and calling my name. His already weak heart fought with the death but then gave out after a three-year struggle. I was alone in Sweden at that time and kept my pain to myself. My comfort was that Father died in his own home, and not as a refugee in some faraway country. They buried him according Muslim customs. All the mosques had been already destroyed, but my aunt managed to find an old imam and some people who washed my father’s body in our garage. They wrapped him in a white sheet and carried him to the cemetery. Except for a few old Muslims in the funeral cortege, there were about a hundred Serbs. Many knew my father well, and they came to pay their respect to him. No matter how hard the nationalists tried to divide nations and made them hate each other, they could not prevent people to unite at least at a funeral of a man they all liked.

I was focused on learning Swedish and did not feel the full force of the pain. I was preparing myself for a successful career and a life in the land of milk and honey. I was devouring novels, poetry, history, psychology, newspapers and magazines. I was meeting people of all walks of life and listening to their pronunciation, memorising the words I never heard before. I was writing short stories and poetry in Swedish, making just a few mistakes and leaving Swedes in disbelief. People promised me a bright future and life in a leafy suburb with a beautiful wife and numerous children. However, neither they nor I knew I was already dead and buried; just like my father. Only I carried my grave with me whenever I went. I was like a zombie, unable to escape the cruel fate.

If I were still alive, I would have cried my heart out upon hearing the news of my father’s death. I would have at least visited his grave, crouched before it and read a few suras from the Quran. I would have replaced the broken grave markers by a tombstone and paid lavishly a stonemason to carve it from marble. Instead, I sat in my beautiful grave of 60 m2, feeling nothing. I talked to my aunt on the phone and heard her sobs and cries, but I was unable to share her pain. A month later, a Serb family, refugees flying from the territory under the control of the Bosnian army, came to our house and confiscated it, forcing my aunt to flee with just two plastic bags with her belongings. She was talking to me about this second blow after her brother’s death, beside herself with grief. She was searching for compassion and support, but I was unable to offer them. I was imprisoned in my strange state, from which I would never escape. I was shackled with invisible chains and gagged with the invisible tape. They prevented me to move and scream, making me feel as if I were buried alive.
TO BE CONTINUED
 

Tarheel

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2014
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
I have only one suggestion for the first paragraph. It concerns the last sentence. Try:

A gift is something you should get pleasure from and not a punishment that you cannot escape.

The phrase "reminded of" doesn't work for me. That's because it's not something you are reminded of but something you experience.
 

Tarheel

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2014
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Third paragraph. Say:

The problem is the dead do not care what the living are doing.

And:

When a man or a woman dies after decades of marriage the surviving spouse might say: "I wish I had died too."

Okay, maybe that's just me, but prefer surviving spouse there.
 

Tarheel

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2014
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Fourth paragraph. Perhaps:

Local Serb forces were merciless. If the soldiers barged into a house, they would take out all the valuables and leave the residents in a pool of blood. They did not want any witnesses to their crimes, and by murdering their victims they ensured that they would never be prosecuted.
 

Tarheel

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2014
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Fifth paragraph. Say:

On the day of my departure I saw my father crying for the first time in my life.

And:

I knew I was never going to see him again, and he probably had the same feeling about me.

And:

Any war is cruel. It not only kills those on the frontlines and in bombings but also "kills" the survivors.
 

Tarheel

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2014
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Next sentence(s). Perhaps:

His already weak heart gave out after a three year struggle.

And:

They buried him according to Muslim customs. All the mosques had been destroyed, but my aunt managed to find an old imam, and some people washed my father's body in our garage.
 

Tarheel

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2014
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Next sentence(s). Perhaps:

Many knew my father well, and they came to pay their respects. No matter how hard the nationalists tried to divide people and make them hate each other they couldn't prevent people from uniting for the funeral of a man they all liked.
 

Tarheel

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2014
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
I am used to people from all walks of life, but of all walks of life seems okay. However, say:

I was meeting people from/of all walks of life and listening to their pronunciation and memorizing the words I had never heard before.

And:

Only I carried my grave with me wherever I went.
 

Tarheel

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 16, 2014
Member Type
Interested in Language
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
The last paragraph. Say:

I would have replaced the broken grave markers with a tombstone and paid a stonemason lavishly to carve it from marble.

And:

I talked to my aunt on the phone and listened to her sobbing, but I was unable to share her pain.

And:

A month later, a Serb family, refugees fleeing from from the territory under control of the Bosnian army, came to our house and confiscated it, forcing my aunt flee with just two plastic bags with her belongings inside.

And:

She talked to me about this second blow after her brother's death, beside herself with grief. She was searching for compassion and support, but I was unable to offer any solace.

And:

I was shackled with invisible chains and gagged with invisible tape. They prevented me from moving or shouting out, making me feel as if I was buried alive.

I don't know what "60 m2" means.
 

Bassim

VIP Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2008
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Bosnian
Home Country
Bosnia Herzegovina
Current Location
Sweden
Tarheel,

60m2 means 60 square meters, which is usually the size of a two-room flat in Sweden.
 
Top