My career

Ivonne Bertoni
Pamela Smith
Jann Huizenga
Esther Levy
David Johnson Rowe
Raquel Ramati
Jann Huizenga
Teresa Kowalska
Drazan Gunjaca
Olga Sam
Katarina Babamova
Srđan Karanović
Jeanne Smoot

Letter from Ivonne Bertoni
May 07, 2016

Ciao Gordana
Ho letto il tuo libro "Il profumo della pioggia nei Balcani". Davvero bellissimo. Mi piacerebbe conoscere il resto della storia. Scrivi molto bene e la storia della tua famiglia e della Iugoslavia sono molto interessanti.

Ti prego scrivi ancora.

Ivonne Bertoni

Letter from Pamela Smith
August 28, 2015

Dear Gordana,
I just finished Luna Levi and am enthralled — what a wonderful book!
First, many apologies for taking so long to read it. There has been a great deal happening in my life lately and the time has fled.

Your story, your insights into character, your descriptions of these dramatic events, and your extraordinary knowledge all captivated me. You have spun an absorbing tale intertwined with a comprehensive history of the Jewish people, their beliefs and their practices, set against the backdrop of finely described Spain and Istanbul and laced with key understandings of Christianity and Islam. What a tour de force! Gordana, you amaze me. How do you know all this??!!

What else I liked: the slow pace, like a 19th c. novel. The profound sentiments that brought the characters to life. The balladic tone. For awhile, I thought Blanca, Solomon, Luna and Marko all too perfect, too idealized, but you eventually revealed their flaws and weaknesses, making them human. It's fascinating that your theme of deep love between people of radically different backgrounds echoes the Scent of Rain.


Pamela Smith

Letter from Jann Huizenga
February 10, 2015

Hi again Gordana,
I’m a bit more than halfway done with your novel and just wanted to tell you how much I’m loving it! It’s amazing--and the translation is fantastic, too. I am completely immersed in the plot and the characters while at the same time learning SO MUCH about Sephardic Jewish history. I cannot believe the amount of historical research you must have done and you weave it in so well. (And since I lived in Istanbul for a year and always heard the Turks talk with pride about how welcoming they were to various religions, I’m finding that aspect really interesting too.) I’ve already recommended it to many friends. Thank you thank you for sending it, and again, congratulations.

Much love,
Jann Huizenga

Letter from Esther Levy
December 16, 2014

Thanks for the paper book you sent. It was such a relief to finish reading it from the paper version rather than the digital version.

I must tell you that I enjoyed your book immensely. I was amazed not only the beautiful story and the unique way of bringing it before your readers but also with the broad knowledge of the historic facts, of jewish and islamic customs and wisdom. You taught me many facts that I was not aware of.

And the twist of the story at the end!!! - I was not expecting it and it caught me by surprise but I applaud the courage of your characters.

Reading this book was a sheer enjoyment.

Bravo, Inda.

I'm proud this is the work of MY cousin.
Love you very much

Letter from David Johnson Rowe
May 06, 2013

good afternoon...our daughter is studying for a semester in belgrade, and we just returned from visiting there...i asked her to lead me to some bookstores that sold books by authors from the balkans in english,and i bought one of yours, "the scent of rain in the balkans"...while sad in so many ways, it is a wonderful book,and just today i was teaching from it in group that i lead on "literature and faith"...several of the people wanted all the information on the book...

one of the highlights of my visit was to the little ivo andric would not be an exaggeration to say that books are my life, writing and reading... reading a book like yours is a good way to learn about a people or a place or a time, and you accomplished all three...

god be with you
Rev. David Johnson Rowe
Greenfield Hill Congregational Church
1045 Old Academy Road
Fairfield CT 06824

Letter from Raquel Ramati
April 01, 2013

Dear Gordana,
I just finished reading your book, The Smell of Rain in the Balkans, in Hebrew.

I have no words to tell you how much I enjoyed the book. It is so well-written, well-translated, and gives such a moving picture about the Jews during the war in Sarajevo and Belograd.

I brought a copy of the book to my best friend here in New York, and have recommended it to all my friends in Tel Aviv.

I also watched the material you sent Svetlana from the television program, which I think is extraordinary. I wish it were here in New York so we could watch it.

Thank you for creating this magnificent piece of work.

Congratulations and a very happy holiday.

Best regards,
Raquel Ramati

Letter from Jann Huizenga
August 19, 2012

Dear Gordana,

Mysteriously, I received a copy of THE SCENT OF RAIN IN THE BALKANS from your Colorado publisher. I did not even know one of your books had been translated!!!

I read it cover to cover practically without putting it down over the course of a couple of days. Wow, I still feel lost in that world that you created. Afterwards I found your website and saw the photo of the Levi sisters, your mother and aunts. What an incredible story!!!! And how unbelievably moving.

Gordana, I am so immensely proud of you and all that you have accomplished and so happy that you have written this particular story.... (and all the others which I hope will be translated too).

Congratulations on a fine fine fine work. I will never ever forget Blanki and Riki--absolutely amazing women. What a tribute to them...

Did you ask the publisher to send me the book????? I cannot figure out how it landed in my hands, but I'm immensely grateful it did.

I am sending you a huge hug and much love.
With many fond memories,

Letter from Teresa Kowalska
April 05, 2010

Dear Madam,
I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the two novels - "Miris kise na Balkanu" and "Cvat lipe na Balkanu" - which I just read in the Serbian language. Now I prepare for the reading of the next one, "Bajka o Benjaminu Baruhu" and on your web site, I found an announcement of one more freshly published book of your authorship, which I hope to get through my close personal friend from Belgrade.

There are few reasons why I feel extremely close to Serbia and Belgrade, and also to your books, but I wouldn't like to list them all now. Just a few words of explanation, nothing more than that. I'm by four years younger than you are, which means that we are both the same generation people. I visited Belgrade first when I was 11 years of age, stayed there for four months, and instantaneously fell in love with the city. And I'm one quarter Jewish, Askenazi though. Your books explain to me Balkan emotionality, which certainly is different from our northern one and at the same time, you explain to me Serbia in a historical perspective of the second half of the twentieth century. In fact, we have gone through the same bad communist experience, even if we belonged to the so-called Soviet satellite circle, and you pretended to be "unengaged", "democratic the Tito fashion" etc.

Once again, I would like to very thankfully acknowledge your brilliant literary contribution and I would like to thank you for my personal benefit from reading them.

With best regards,
Prof. Teresa Kowalska
Institute of Chemistry University of Silesia
Katowice, POLAND

From letters by Drazan Gunjaca
writer and playwright from Pula, Croatia
August, 2004.
Twilight in the Balkans

... Not even after three-hundred years of writing I would not have been able to describe the coming out of the hospital as you did... Superb description of what it means to meet death... This novel, unlike the first two which I read and enjoyed, triggered so much thinking. I recognize myself in it... The ease with which you write is present in the "Twilight" as well, but there is a depth to it that changes the whole aspect of understanding it... Perfect description of facing death in the hospital, the division of "the hospital world" and "the outside world" that scare the healthy so much... You’ve written an excellent book... In many years I haven’t read such a novel, a novel the characters of which I identified with completely – I know them, I’ve seen them. I’ve started living with your characters. Bearing in mind what they went through, I didn’t like my life... Your novel is so realistic, so close to life with the terrible war as a background to the unfortunate love triangle: poor Ivan who would like to change everything without changing anything, Vera who tried to create a fairy tale out of reality no matter how long the dram would last... The need of your heroes to sail from a quiet port to the open sea some give up earlier some later...

These confused thoughts which mean something or nothing only indicate what a deep impression your novel has left on me. It made me think of all my Veras and Slavkas... All my Veras unfortunately lacked in something your Vera had, and all my Slavkas fortunately also lacked in something your Slavka had.

Exceptional dialogues and thoughts. Picture after picture just follow one another – it is fresh, topical, universal. I am sure that this novel would find its readers everywhere in the world... All your novels are so interesting, so readable, but this one is so good that it irritates, brings the reader on the verge and it does not let go... Simply, one must know how to write such a novel and I am well aware how difficult it is.

All in all, an excellent novel! So good that for some time I do not wish to write anything.

Ghosts over the Balkans

While in the "Twilight" you dissected yourself, in "Ghosts" you dissected the others. The well-meaning Vera does not have to be as full of consideration as when she was alive, right? But as considerate as you are, you offer the role of the leading player to Huan (Jovan) so that even from the world beyond which you call the World of Presences, you do not hurt those who stayed in this one, the World of Moveable Bodies.

This is a novel abundant in deep thoughts as if you wanted to say now everything you haven’t said and wanted to have said in the previous three novels, but you didn’t because it wouldn’t have fitted in.

I think that you wrote this novel with much more ease than the "Twilight". While the "Twilight" is the result of torturing the soul,

this one should be the result of easing the soul.

It is a very good novel in a very specific way. Your balancing between Good and Evil is perfect – always on the edge, fighting all odds to stay above. You are definitely good to your characters, so much so that you gave Ira to Ivan! A question: how come he deserved her except because of your persistent need that goodness prevails?

Without further ado, let me quote you: "Where have I disappeared? I to whom joy gave the reason of living, I to whom pleasantries equaled sense, I whose playful spirit enlightened the surrounding world, I who considered healthy laughter an enjoyable virtue? I, led by the clumsy hand of the almighty writer, was made to see the inside of human nature and I fell ill of human evil."

It is a pity that I already submitted the manuscript of my novel "The Rape of Reason", otherwise the above citation would have made a perfect motto.

Letter from Olga Sam
English Language Advisor
Subotica, 1995.

Twilight in the Balkans is the kind of novel that once taken into hands cannot be put down. Your skillful composition and character development indicates your literary maturity. Still, I cannot overcome the impression that Twilight in the Balkans is not written by the same person as The Scent of Rain in the Balkans and The Blossom of Linden in the Balkans. In the center of the two previous novels is love that successfully fights all evil, all tragic blows of destiny. In Twilight in the Balkans it is clear that inferno is within us and that we ourselves are those who play with life just as life plays with us. Only those who know what it really means to live can achieve such a philosophical understanding of life. Your novel is many layered as well as your characters. Every woman can find herself both in Vera Korac and in Slavka Domazet. They create one whole...

Letter from Dr. Katarina Babamova
Professor, Philosophical Faculty
Skopje, Macedonia, May 29, 1995.

Twilight in the Balkans is one of those unique novels that a reader re-visits from time to time in order to thread the already known paths of happy and sad experiences. In the end one recognizes that each new reading equals the previous because of old but new details that reappear in the new light... Your novel contains as many layers as one is ready to discover. While reading your novel I’ve become aware (intuitively at heart and reasonably in mind) that the energy of goodness is more powerful than all evil because it is the energy that creates future harmony. You are a ray of this energy, your novel a step closer to this harmony or, at least, the delicate balance of all things.

Srđan Karanović
film director and Professor at the Film Academy in Middletown, Conn., USA.
December 21, 1992.

Dear Gordana,

I read your novel The Blossom of Linden in the Balkans in one breath, I swallowed it! I haven’t read such a novel in a long time. It is unpretentious in the best sense of the term, it is filled with colorful characters, dense plot and sweetest of all in all narratives – destinies! I enjoyed reading it because Serbian literature as far as I know lacks in such simple, pure, noble ambitions which are devoid of the need for "anthological values" and "world fame".

The obvious fact that your novel is not completely fictional does not lessen its value. On the contrary. Fiction created from reality in this manner sounds extremely authentic and persuasive... Your text contains something I always liked and seldom found in literature: it possesses the feeling of time and space. Your novel is the always necessary saga that helps us to review our destiny in all its totality. Certainly, this is achieved by skillful and systematical knit of various human paths – endeavors, encounters, illnesses, joys, births, deaths, falls and ascents. Thus the reader identifies with the development of characters in an enjoyable and absolute manner.

Your novel is more than attractive for a TV series. However, I am afraid that due to the current tragic events in Yugoslavia such a series would not be possible to make, which is the only reason why I am not offering you immediate cooperation. Still I am convinced that one day, probably in the far future, your literary work will be the foundation for a great TV series the popularity of which will empty the streets of "our" former and current cities. Parts of the novel or individual stories would make great material for movies.

Thank you again.

Srdjan Karanović

Letter from Jeanne Smoot
Professor of Comparative Literature,
North Carolina State University September 1990.
The Scent of Rain in the Balkans

The novel chronicles the life of a highly talented and indeed fascinating Sephardic Jewish family. Since most of the major characters are women... stressing the boldness of independent-minded women who refused to be put down by prejudice or by the pressures and perils of war. Still, the novel is never strident, but human, in the best sense of the word. Indeed it is an uplifting novel without being mawkish. Man’s inhumanity to man continues. In fact, that, I think, is the central message of the novel: that there will always be oppression, there will always be unkindness, but there will always be the human spirit to rise up against such indignities. I am surprised that the Yugoslav critics of your book did not focus on that central point.

What I admire about your book, and what I think any decent, sensitive reader will respond to, is that it is not about Jews per se, it is not only Yugoslav, but rather about all people, and it is about importance of family, told in a tough-minded way by a woman whose ancestors were survivors. The Scent of Rain the Balkans is universal.

My hope and judgment are that once anyone reads your novel, that person will, in fact, want to publish it... You have written a fine book. It deserves to have a wider English speaking audience... I would like to discuss the many delightful passages and many excellences of your novel...