This copy of The Brothers Karamazov in Serbo-Croatian (Cyrillic alphabet) belonged to my wife’s grandfather, Jovan, who I was grateful to spend 10 days with during last spring’s trip to Bosnia. He probably picked it up in the late-1950s, when he was the director of his city’s center for World War II orphans, an institution that no longer exists. (Jovan lost his own parents as a teenager during the war.) The center was part home, part school, and it’s possible Jovan bought the volume — which was part of an eight-book set of classic novels — for its library. It was his mission to create an atmosphere there for the children and staff that in some ways resembled a home — library included.
One thing I saw for myself about Jovan — we call him Deda — is that he loves books, and he seemed to be magnetically drawn to the small library in his apartment. (Here he is, pulling something off the shelf to show me last spring.) Decades ago he had quite a collection, but over the years, its size has greatly diminished, as he’s found the desire to share what he had with people like his granddaughter, and in time his granddaughter’s husband.