ERSTE Stiftung Editions

The Balkans – From Noun to Verb (and back)

“I must admit that I don’t like the name the Balkans.” With this statement in her speech, the Croatian author Slavenka Drakulić opened the two-day symposium Return to Europe – Talking Balkans, held at ORF RadioKulturhaus in Vienna from 3 to 4 April 2008. The event organised by ERSTE Foundation kicked off the ten-part TV series Balkan Express, which was broadcast on ORF.


In her analytical speech, she follows the history of a word and a region in Europe. Her conclusion: “If there is no economic and political EU, there probably can’t be a cultural one either. However, the opposite is also true. If there is no culture, the economy and politics alone will not work, not in the long run. The EU needs a glue and it can come only from another sphere, from the sphere to which every country, however small and politically controversial it may be, can contribute as well.”

Slavenka Drakulić was born in Rijeka, Croatia, in 1949. She graduated in comparative literature and sociology from the University in Zagreb. The author of several works of non-fiction and novels, she has written for The New York Times, The Nation, The New Republic, and numerous publications around the world; and published three books of journalism (How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, Balkan Express, Café Europa), four novels (Holograms Of Fear, Marble Skin, The Taste of a Man, As If I Am Not Here) and most recently They would never hurt a fly: War criminals on trial in The Hague. Her books have been translated into more than fifteen languages, her reports and essays published in major European and American newspapers and magazines. As a freelance journalist and writer she currently lives in Stockholm, Sweden.