Amela Marin
Amela Marin

The Sea

a novella

Quattro Books, Canada, 2010


In The Sea, Amela Marin takes the universal story of Exodus and pares it down to a seemingly simple allegory, in which a mother places her two children in her pockets and attempts to leave the besieged city, walk across war-ravaged mountainsides, and reach the sea. What happens along the way makes The Sea and ode to the humanity inherent in us all, in our darkest moments.

"Nina’s hands were trembling as she unwrapped the package. What could it be? She didn’t dare tear up the wrapping but was unfolding the shiny paper slowly, savouring the moment when she’d find out what was in there. She was already apologizing to the Duke and his secretary in her mind. This must be something that would solve all her problems. Or at least help her get to the sea faster. And there it was, finally...

A jar of caviar! Nina’s heart sank. She wanted to say thank you because it was only polite and there must have been something else in the folds of that paper, something she hadn’t seen yet. But the words would not come out of her mouth. Now shaking, she was fumbling through the gift paper, checking its folds.

And yes, there it was, stuck, a pink post-it note and on it, written in beautiful handwriting: “We are proud of your suffering. I hope you like caviar. Enjoy!”


PRISM International,
Winter 2013

"And nettles. War was good to nettles. They finally had a chance to spread in unplanted gardens, usually on or close to the front lines, by abandoned roadsides, in parks that doubled as cemeteries. No wonder then that they have been used for centuries both as food, as medicine and as fibre to make fabric. "

“You Speak What You Eat,
You Eat What You Speak”

Spring 2012


"The initial dichotomy, the two polar opposites that my family represents both in language and in culinary adventures, or lack thereof, has made me into who I am today: a curious person always open to meeting different people, and sharing the food with them.  And, quite naturally, depending on what’s on my plate, slipping into a matching accent, dialect or a language."

“ The Unbearable Lightness of Wartime Cuisine”

Gastronomica, Spring 2005 
The Gastronomica Reader,
ed. by Darra Goldstein
University of California Press, 2010

"We celebrated New Year’s Eve 1993 with an all-bean dinner: bean pie, bean salad, bean pâté, and bean cake. Beans were the main part of the humanitarian aid brought to the city by the unhcr after they took over the airport a few months into the war. There were months when the airport was closed because of fighting, and the food couldn’t be delivered. In those months old people starved to death and were buried in wooden boxes, functioning as coffins, in the soccer field substituting as a graveyard. These were not recognizable beans— they were war beans, possibly left over from some other war, just like the cookies from the Vietnam War we once got, white and hard and dated 1969. There was only one kind of bean— small, round white ones, often broken and so old that tiny flies would soon emerge and we would have to face a difficult question: to cook them and eat the flies or to throw them out. "

“Layla Bayildi”

PEN International, 2005

"When she came to the market, she walked slowly among the stalls —the gray cans, the brown army lunch packages, the olive green uniforms, these were the stock of black marketeers. Her heart suddenly stopped. Two aubergines, deep purple and shiny lay there, at one of the stalls. She heard a voice, husky and vaguely familiar, call her name. Layla turned around but did not see anyone she knew."

"Translation of Horror"

Meta, 2000

"When I would hear the word “shell” I would think of the sea. But that was in the past, in my life before the war. Now, when I say the word “shell”, I think of those thousands of pieces of metal that penetrate human bodies, each having the capacity to kill. When will a rose cease to be the imprint of an exploded shell in the asphalt and become again a fragrant flower from my grandfather’s garden?
The words haven’t changed. My life has changed their meaning."