Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

January 29, 2007

Bosnian Writer Is U of G Writer in Exile

Award-winning Bosnian writer Goran Simic is at the University of Guelph for the 2006/2007 academic year as part of the PEN Canada writers-in exile program. Simic will give a free public reading Feb. 5 at 4 p.m. in George Luscombe Theatre, Room 101 of the MacKinnon Building.

Founded in 1926, PEN Canada is an independent non-profit organization committed to defending freedom of opinion and expression. It campaigns on behalf of writers around the world persecuted for their thoughts. Simic’s year-long PEN Canada placement at U of G is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts’ author residencies program.

Former U of G administrator and English professor Connie Rooke, president of PEN Canada, began the writers-in exile program and helped bring Simic to Guelph. Rooke is a celebrated short-story writer, literary critic and co-founder and co-director of the Eden Mills Writers' Festival.

“Connie began a great program that gives writers the opportunity to come from other countries to establish themselves and to be part of a new community,” said Simic.

One of the most prominent writers in the former Yugoslavia, he was trapped in the siege of Sarajevo, which destroyed his home and killed his brother and many friends. In 1996, he and his family were able to settle in Canada thanks to a Freedom to Write Award from PEN.

“The war in Bosnia was a three-year-long siege of Sarajevo, and I found myself with my children in terrible circumstances,” said Simic. “Ten thousand people were killed during that siege. There was no electricity, no running water and no food supply.”

After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Serb-Croatian – the language he had spent his whole life writing in – didn’t exist any more. “In one moment, I lost my country and lost my language. The only solution was to start learning English so I could express myself because I didn’t want to lose myself as a writer.”

Before the war, Simic was the editor of several literary magazines in Bosnia and founder of PEN Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“PEN has helped a lot of artists establish themselves in Canada in new circumstances,” he said. “One of the best things PEN does is press governments to release writers or intellectuals who are jailed for promoting freedom of speech in undemocratic countries.”

His 2003 book of poems, Immigrant Blues, deals with the immigrant experience. He published two books in 2005 – a poetry collection called From Sarajevo, With Sorrow and Yesterday’s People, a collection of short fiction that was short-listed for the Relit Award and the Danuta Gleed Award for best first collection of fiction. Selected Poems is scheduled to be published in fall 2007, and Simic is currently working on a new short-story collection.

His plays have been produced several times in Bosnia, as well as in San Francisco and Toronto. He’s currently writing his third opera, which will be performed in London, England, this May.

“I’m lucky because I’ve found a great community of writers in Canada,” said Simic, who has lived and worked in Toronto for the last nine years as a professional writer. He’s also managed to keep his international connections and has recently done readings in Scotland, England and Germany.

Simic is on campus Mondays and Tuesdays until September to consult with U of G students, staff and faculty, as well as members of the local community. To book an appointment, send e-mail to

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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