Sitting in his shop in Sarajevo, Mustafa Basheski met hundreds of people seeking his services as a scribe. He also kept a fascinating chronicle (ca. 1747-1800), recording each year the dead & their lives, the plagues, the dreams, the stories around this Ottoman city. <Thread>
I'll sketch some examples here, but note: 1) This draws on scholarship of Mehmed Mujezinović & Kerima Filan; 2) My Eng-lang snippets are thus third-hand translations from Bosnian, from original Ottoman (so yeah, čorbine čorbe čorba, but good enough for twitterary purposes)
Basheski’s chronicle emphasized various events. His notes on the outbreaks of the plague are esp. interesting. Throughout the 18th c., the plague came went through the Mediterranean and the Balkans, appearing in Sarajevo especially severely in 1762-63 & again in 1780-81.
We know that outbreaks of the plague usually entailed rumors & hostilities toward "outsiders" as "the diseased." But what makes Basheski’s passages so intriguing is the lack of such usually pervasive blame-game talk—instead here the plague appears as both terrifying and mundane.
But Basheski's notes on the dead—often v brief, but sometimes augmented by vivid comments—really set the chronicle apart (as a scribe/shop-owner, he saw or knew many). For me that's where you can sort of glimpse his Ottoman world as reflected in the obituaries of local characters
You get these incredible brief glimpses, like a baker nicknamed Fatty Pie… A coffee-seller named Scoundrel… And a learned cleric nicknamed Shitty Slippers… I mean… *gestures, sobs historically*
Like every source, the chronicle reflects particular views & particular prejudices, here the views of an educated Ottoman man whose register of the dead is mostly men, mostly Muslims, etc. But the chronicle is also full of local stories & characters high & low
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