Robertson building Serbian cultural connections
First North American author to serve as writer-in-residence at House of Writers
Chatham-born author Ray Robertson will be celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary by enhancing the cultural connection between Canada and Serbia.
The 51-year-old author of 10 books, who has been nominated for several national awards, is the first North American author to serve as writer-in-residence at the House of Writers, located in Trsic, Serbian, which is the birthplace of Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic, who authored the first Serbian language dictionary.
Robertson will be visiting Serbia from June 10 to July 1.
Since the House of Writers was opened in 2010 in co-operation with the Serbian Ministry of Culture, it has hosted writers from Spain, England, Egypt, Greece, Bulgaria, Japan, Italy, Australia, Ukraine and Israel.
“I’m usually not given to these sort of heirs, but I feel kind of privileged,” Robertson told The Chatham Daily News on Monday.
With this being the Canada’s 150th, he added, “it kind of feels like good timing.”
This opportunity stems from a visit Robertson made to Serbia last year to promote his non-fiction work ‘Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live,’ which has been translated into Serbian and distributed by Karpos Publishing.
The publisher recommended Robertson to Dajana Dedovic, literary programme organizer of the House of Writers.
“The Karpos brand is a certain stamp of quality and just the fact that Mr. Robertson has garnered their attention peaked our interests,” Dedovic said in an e-mail.
“Upon reading his novel, I found it to be a smart, introspective, clever, stoic and heartfelt look at life,” she added. “An engaging and impressive piece of work. An author of such skill is more than welcome in our little community.”
Dedovic said all of the programs geared to students and Robertson’s stay “will certainly be a valuable addition to our workshops.”
She added the budding authors will know how to value and use Robertson’s experience and advice.
While Robertson acknowledges language could be an issue at times, he said when it comes to talking about writing, it doesn’t matter what your experience is.
What matters he added is whether the writing is vivid and fresh, and if you are trying to avoid cliches.
Having earned a degree in philosophy, Robertson said, “I was always just reading books for pleasure, and I think that’s something I’ve tried to continue with my books.
“Literature shouldn’t be an obligation, it should be joyful and fun and full of vibrancy,” he added.
As an added bonus, when Robertson returns to Serbia it will also be in time for Karpos Publishing to release the Serbian translation of his recent work ‘Lives of the Poets (with Guitars).’
Robertson said when he visited the publisher last year, he brought a copy of ‘Lives of the Poets’ as more of a courtesy. The collection of essays tells compelling stories of his personal musical heroes.
Citing the war-torn history of the country, he said rock and roll is a big deal for many people culturally and is seen as a symbol of western freedom.
Robertson is pleased his Serbian publisher, who is a big music fan, is making it a “personal mission” to let the Serbian people know about the great western, country, blues and gospel artists featured in his book.
Meanwhile, Robertson will also be into the home stretch of his latest novel 1979 during his time at the House of Writers, which is slated to be released next spring in Canada by Biblioasis.
“My head will be in the book that I’m working on now,” Robertson said, adding it will be an adjustment to return his focus to ‘Lives of the Poets’ while promoting it during the latter part of his last week in Serbia.