Inside this book bursts a kaleidoscope of characters in historical settings from the Balkans to Scandinavia, which they seek to escape, fit in, or change. Following a few female leads after they leave war-torn Bosnia, this book compresses simmering emotions ranging from loss, fear, love, hate, revenge, displacement, regret, humor, and hope. Almasa, the main character in most stories, is feisty and funny, and she suffers no fools. She will go to any length to take charge of her broken life and avoid being labeled a victim. Fatima is like her subtler sister, but no less determined to turn the tables on her horrible fate. In between them are pieces of the author’s life, as fictionalized as the lives of the two women are real.
Each story, although compact and unique on its own, is tied to all other stories, chronologically, emotionally, or thematically. Together they probe the margins of our contemporary history and give voice to people pushed to the edge of life.
‘I enjoyed this collection very much. It is inventive and adventurous in its texture, and very moving. The snapshots of refugees in Sweden have such a lonely quality, which is probably expressed most beautifully by the fact that the past keeps coming after them. For me the best passages are those simple observations, such as Almasa recognising another Bosnian refugee and the slight sense of horror which that evokes, that inability to escape from the past. The truth in these moments is quite powerful. At times, I felt the inventiveness of the writing overshadowed these true moments a little, but then I explained it to myself as another feature of that restless imagination in the migrant, the attempted belonging in words, in a stranger’s language. I go back to the picture of the father and the deliberate request for him not to smile, a wonderful image, which made me understand completely in one shot what the lives of refugees, and migrants in general, must feel like, full of denial and pretense and hope and putting the past away and never really letting go.’ —Hugo Hamilton
‘How to Fare Well and Stay Fair is a beautiful book: moving, funny and deeply intelligent. In Adnan Mahmutović's stories, longing and survival move forward side-by-side, from Bosnia to Sweden and still further, toward an ever-elusive idea of home and homeland. Months after I finished reading these stories, Almasa, Fatima and Adam remained with me, etched into my memory.’ —Madeleine Thien, author of Dogs at the Perimeter and Certainty