Brkic, Courtney Angela 1972-

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BRKIC, Courtney Angela 1972-


Born 1972. Education: New York University, M.F.A.


Home—Arlington, VA; New York, NY. Agent—Sandra Dijkstra Agency; 1155 Camino del Mar, Suite 515, Del Mar, CA 92014.


Writer. Worked as a freelance translator for the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, a sociological researcher and contract translator in Croatia, a forensic archeologist in Bosnia-Herzegovina after the Balkan wars, and a volunteer for Physicians for Human Rights, all 1990s.


Whiting Foundation Award, 2003.


Stillness and Other Stories, Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2003.

The Stone Fields: An Epitaph for the Living (memoir), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to literary journals, including Indiana Review and Zoetrope.


Courtney Angela Brkic, who is of Croatian heritage, worked as a translator for the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal and as a volunteer for Physicians for Human Rights, as well as performing forensic archeology in Bosnia-Herzegovina after the Balkan wars of the 1990s. She traveled there in 1996 with a United Nations team to exhume mass graves after spending a year collecting data on refugees. Francine Prose wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "Brkic interviewed survivors and—to borrow the affecting locution often employed by pathologists and forensic specialists—she listened to the dead: 'In the morgue and on-site, I found letters and prayers in shirt pockets or rolled up with amulets inside tiny leather pouches.…The faded words were written in a language that I could understand, and I carried them in my head long after providing translations for the rest of the forensic team.'"

Brkic's first book, Stillness and Other Stories, is a collection of sixteen writings about the conflict and about those who did and did not survive. Her characters are Bosnians, Americans, Christians, Muslims, and Jews; soldiers and refugees; the old and the young. They include a woman who helps her husband accept the loss of his leg, a husband and wife who try to reconnect after they are separated and sent to different detention camps, and a father who follows every lead to find his missing son. Library Journal's Heather Wright, who called the stories "poignant and powerful," wrote that Brkic's "strong, lean writing vividly details the wasteland through which her characters struggle." Donna Seaman said in Booklist that Brkic's "refined, surprising, and resonant stories encapsulate the truth about humankind's capacity for violence, selfishness, and altruism."

In other stories in the collection, a woman tries to hide her pregnancy from her husband in "In the Jasmine Shade," and paintings left behind when families evacuate offer points of view of war in "Will We Sleep in One Nest." The title story, "Stillness," is about a writer's lost past as he hides in a cellar while the city above him is being destroyed. In "Where None Is the Number," a boy from Boston, Massachusetts, who has come to join his fellow Irish-Catholics, does not really understand the war he is fighting. The diplomat of "The Peacebroker" is equally clueless as he tries to arrange a cease-fire while knowing nothing of the culture. "The Daughter," noted Prose, "which tracks the plight of a university student who must pay a cruel price for the war crimes her father committed, provides a welcome reminder that there were also innocent Serbs whose lives were ruined by the policies of their leaders."

John Freeman wrote for Enjoyment, a Web site of the London Independent, that Stillness and Other Stories "beautifully dramatizes how conflict warps inner life.… Except for a few instances, Brkic's prose never wavers. It is exact, brutal and grittily poetic. It does not allow us a place to hide from its ugly truth."

Prose concluded by saying that "the impression we're left with after reading Stillness is one of respect for Brkic's seriousness, her sympathy and her spirit. Having witnessed something important and terrible, she is to be commended for telling us what she saw." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Stillness a "strong debut."

In The Stone Fields: An Epitaph for the Living, Brkic describes the work of recovering remains in mass grave sites, and also studies her family history—particularly the life of her grandmother, who was imprisoned during World War II for hiding her Jewish lover. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book a "haunting, hopeless memoir [and] an agonizing treatise on the awful cost of war and its long, pain-stoked aftermath."



Brkic, Courtney Angela, The Stone Fields: An Epitaph for the Living (memoir), Farrar, Straus & Giroux (New York, NY), 2004.


Booklist, May 1, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of Stillness and Other Stories, p. 1577.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2003, review of Stillness and Other Stories, p. 490.

Library Journal, July, 2003, Heather Wright, review of Stillness and Other Stories, p. 127.

New York Times Book Review, June 8, 2003, Francine Prose, review of Stillness and Other Stories, p. 14.

Publishers Weekly, July 5, 2004, review of The Stone Fields, p. 48.


Enjoyment Web site, (October 6, 2003), John Freeman, review of Stillness and Other Stories.*