Dževad Karahasan

The Solace of the Night Sky - Novel

Orginal Bosnian title: Što pepeo priča, published in 2015 by Simurg Media, Sarajevo
(German title: Der Trost des Nachthimmels)
ca. 724 pages
Dževad Karahasan
Foto: Dževad Karahasan
© Jürgen Bauer

Dževad Karahasan, born in Duvno/Yugoslavia in 1953, is an author, playwright and essayist. The Siege of Sarajevo is the subject of the Diary of an Exodus (1993), translated into ten languages, of the essay collection entitled The Book of Gardens (2004) and of his novels The Rink of Shahrijar (1997) and Sara and Serafina (2000). His works also include the novel The Nocturnal Council (2006), Reports from a Dark World (2007), a collection of stories, as well as The Shadows of Cities (2010), a collection of essays. Karahasan has received numerous awards, including most recently the Goethe Prize 2020. He lives in Graz and Sarajevo.

Awards (selection):

2020: Goethe Prize of the City of Frankfurt am Main
2019: Jeanette Schocken Prize (Bremerhaven)
2017: Franz Nabl Prize (Graz, Austria)
2014: Honorary doctorate, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Basel
2012: Goethe Medal of the Goethe-Institut (Weimar)
2012: Ehrengabe of the Heinrich Heine Society (Düsseldorf)
2010: Vilenica International Literary Prize of the Slovene Writers’ Association (Vilenica, Slovenia)
2004: Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding
1999: Herder Prize (Vienna, Austria)
1995: Bruno Kreisky Prize for Political Books for Diary of an Exodus
1994: Prix européen de l’essai Charles Veillon Lausanne
1991: Literary Prize of the Franciscan Province of Bosna Srebrena
1990: Yugoslavian Novel Prize (Sisak)
1981: Veselin Masleša Prize (Sarajevo)

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Chinese simplex rights (Shanghai Translation Publishing House), Bulgaria (Paradox), Slovenia (Beletrina), Turkey (Iletisim), Greece (Hestia), Iran (Donya-e-Eqtesad), Part 1: Macedonia (Templum)

A narrative masterpiece on the golden age and the collapse of an Islamic empire


In Isfahan, capital of the Seljuq Empire, a highly respected man dies unexpectedly. The son of the deceased demands an investigation into the circumstances of his father’s death. Court astronomer Omar Khayyam is part of this investigation. He comes to the conclusion that the man was poisoned. Still, he had tried to convince the mourning son that it would be better to remember the father as he had been, rather than calling his image into question by investigations. Now what are they supposed to do with the truth?

Shortly after that, calamity begins to loom in the distance. Intrigues at the court and social tensions threaten the Empire from within, while crusaders and Mongols become a danger from the outside. But the sultan refuses to establish a secret service in order to fight these dangers. A fatal mistake, as it turns out…

When the famous mathematician and poet gives an account of his life years later, the Empire has collapsed. A terrorist organisation, led by one of Omar Khayyam’s former companions, fills the whole region with fear. With an epic power, keeping the astuteness and helplessness of his protagonists in mind, the great Bosnian writer Dževad Karahasan depicts the destruction of a prosperous era shaped by intellectual diversity and tolerance by looming religious fundamentalism.

Extensive English review material available upon request


»The way Karahasan manages to control the extensive subject matter proves superior mastery. The novel combines the developments and complexities into a pulsating narrative body that connects the political with the personal, the monumental with the intimate and the epic with the dialogical. […] If one looks for works of similar dimension and power, Ivo Andrić’s, Leo Tolstoy’s and Fjodor Dostoyevsky’s great novels will come to mind, but so will The Magic Mountain and The Man Without Qualities.« Andreas Breitenstein, NZZ

»A novel that reaches far back into history, yet remains contemporary, that combines an opulent joy of narration and the delight in meticulously researched historic details with timeless, dense reflection and intelligently thought-out formal precision.« Sigrid Löffler, Salzburger Nachrichten

»[…] through his intimate knowledge of the Orient and his distinctive fondness for the narrating detail, this writer creates a world that is worth immersing oneself in.« Tobias Schwartz, Der Tagesspiegel

»[Karahasan’s] books are utterly contemporary, but timeless in a very sophisticated way at the same time. […] in his typical mixture of skepticism and humour, in his passion for narrating and the masterfully embedded ovation to narrating, Karahasan also delivers a subtext: As long as you can still tell stories, meaning can be found in the act of narration itself.« Helmut Böttinger, Deutschlandradio Kultur

»Dževad Karahasan masterfully plays with the possibilities of remembering and of narrating« Ivona Jelcic, Tiroler Tageszeitung

»Karahasan delivers nothing less than an epochal masterpiece on the power of suspicion, the origin of secret services and of political terrorism.« Mirko Schwanitz, BR Bayern 2

»The Solace of the Night Sky is one of those rare books that, after 700 pages, you put aside with regret.« whl, OÖN

»a literary event […] It is immediately perceptible that this is not a ›historical novel‹ in the usual sense. The prose is too visionary, too transgressive; it never drifts off into historical banter which is why its style is especially convincing. It’s a way of narrating that forgoes any sort of effect and in that way becomes all the more powerful. […] Certainly one of the most important and unforgettable novels that have been published in recent years« Roland Freisitzer, sandammeer.at

Other publications

Tagebuch der Übersiedlung/Diary of an Exodus (2021)

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Previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: USA & Canada (Kodansha America), Spanish world rights (Circulo de Lectores / Galaxia Gutenberg), France (Calmann-Lévy), Italy (Il Saggiatore), Netherlands (Van Gennep), Czech Republic (Mlada Fronta), Slovenia (Wieser)

Sara und Serafina/Sara and Serafina (2014)

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Turkey (Ketebe); previously published in the respective language / territory; rights available again: Spanish world rights (Galaxia Gutenberg), France (Laffont), Italy (Il Saggiatore), Sweden (Bosnisk-Hercegovinska Riksförbundet i Sverige), Slovenia (Cankarjeva Založba)

Berichte aus der dunklen Welt/Reports from a Dark World (2007)

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Poland (Borderland), Bulgaria (Paradox)

Der nächtliche Rat/Night Council (2005)

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English world rights (Anubih), Bulgaria (Paradox), Slovenia (Cankarjeva Založba), Turkey (Apollon)