1. Skip to Menu
  2. Skip to Content
  3. Skip to Footer

"Variations for Ibn Pajko" - novel, 2001

The plot of the novel:

The novel about Ibn Pajko, named by the authoress a “triple novel”, consists of three compact sections combining documents and fictional assumptions about the prominent Skopje citizen, Ibn Pajko., who was forced to convert to Islam while Skopje was under Ottoman yoke, some time in the 15th or 16th century. However, in spite of that, historical documents report that, following a fierce intervention of his fellow citizens, he was given a Christian burial. The novel encompasses three such interventions, which represent mere variants of the historical truth, as well as three separate funerals for each of the three main protagonists in the first, second and third part of the novel – the funerals of Ibn Pajko, Ibn Bajko and Ibn Tajko.

This is the trinity around which evolve the possibilities of understanding the times in which Ibn Pajko lived, as well as the conditions of survival of Christians under Ottoman yoke. The novel consists of four variations that weave Ibn Pajko’s history: “Appearance, ancestry”, “Kalija, Todora, Hatiçe”, “Conversion” and “Funeral”. Each of these variations contains three richly detailed variants – first about the heroes’ traits, then about their wives, next about the act of their conversion to Islam and, finally, about the funerals of Ibn Pajko, Ibn Bajko and Ibn Tajko.

Ibn Pajko is a craftsman in Skopje bazaar, a famous artisan who makes copperware and silverware, and an aza – a juror representing the Christians’ interests before the Ottoman authorities. He is married to a beauty named Kalija, who enters a monastery as soon as Ibn Pajko is forced to become a Muslim as a token of his loyalty to the government. Yearning to see his beloved and prove to her that his conversion is only temporary, Ibn Pajko visits the monastery. He is denied a meeting with her. Upon his return through the woods, saddened, he is murdered by the monastery houseboy. At his funeral, a crowd of Christians resists the Turkish procession towards the cemetery and seizes the deceased in order to bury him according to Christian customs.

Ibn Bajko is a cunning fellow come from a nearby monastery, who marries stubborn Todora with an intention to become a prominent citizen, but then ends up spending his life in constant contest of wits with her. He views his conversion as a another step towards his longed-for success, but, scorned by Todora and his family and friends, eventually, he takes his life. Yet, Todora will not leave him lie in a Turkish grave, so she digs him up at night and re-buries him as a Christian.

Ibn Tajko is a fisherman and a healer with burns ointments. He moves to the city in search for the love of his dreams and he finds her in Turkish Hatiçe. But since, to him, she is inaccessible, he agrees to change his faith and become a Muslim, and even marries another Turkish woman so that he might be closer to Hatiçe and able to visit her in the Sanjak-Bey’s home. In the name of this love he endures all humiliations and dies of pine, but prior to his funeral, his family, that is, his mother, and his friend from Dubrovnik decide to bury him according to Christian customs.

Then, the stories of each of them – Ibn Pajko, Ibn Bajko and Ibn Tajko – begin their circulation, first around the city neighbourhoods and throughout the nahiye, and soon throughout the whole of Rumelia.

Thus, although “Variations for Ibn Pajko” is a novel with a historical matrix and impressive imagery of Skopje between the 15th and 16th century, it is nevertheless a novel of human fate, fortunes and misfortunes, yearnings and loves, in both the Muslim and Christian environments. It is a novel of the influence that alien cultures exert on human relations, while being an entirely modern novel, regardless of its own time frame.

Ibn Pajko