Jovan Nikolić – Jof was born in Čačak, a central Serbian town in what was then the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1955. He grew up in the Romani mahalla of Čačak and, while still a child, accompanied his parents on their tours performing in a band. In the 1980s Jovan moved to Belgrade, where he lived until he emigrated to Germany in 1999 amid the growing political tensions under the Milošević regime and the NATO bombings.
Nikolić is one of the most important figures of contemporary Romani literature, although the label ‘Romani’ might be too narrow to apply to him and his work. At the same time, other labels used to refer to him – for example, ‘Yugoslav’, ‘Serbian Romani’, ‘German’, ‘migrant’ – may be too confined as well, albeit correct. Jovan´s contributions to the written world are as humanist and outstanding as only that of the author of a literary masterpiece can be, going well beyond ethnic or national labels.
In the late 1970s Nikolić had already started publishing his literary works and journalistic articles in periodicals. In the 1980s he published his first bilingual poetry collection, Dosti khatinendar/Gost Niotkuda [A guest from nowhere], which was highly praised both by mainstream literary critics and within Romani circles. During the same period Jovan was awarded first prize at a Yugoslav-wide poetry competition in Vrbas. Since then Nikolić has published numerous books of poetry and prose (mainly short stories) in Serbo-Croatian, Romani, Serbian, German and Russian. His poems have been included in various collections and translated into more than 10 languages. In 2011 Weißer Rabe, schwarzes Lamm [White Raven, Black Lamb] (2006) was chosen as Ein Buch für die Stadt [A book for the city] in Cologne.
Like most Romani writers, Jovan Nikolić has also been involved in Romani activism and literary activities at the international level. He was the initiator, founding member and vice-president of the International Romani Writers’ Association (IRWA, established in 2002), which existed for several years. In 2010 Nikolić initiated the Roma Kulturkarawane [Romani Cultural Caravan] for the association ‘Rom e.V.’, Cologne, which offers seminars and lectures on Romani culture and history to educational institutions.
Nikolić is a fascinating narrator of the times, cultures and spaces to which he feels he belongs. Particularly inspiring is his ability to narrate the intimacy of Belgrade culture and the Yugoslav era, when ‘the deceased Mrs. Jugoslavia’ (upokojena gospodjica Jugoslavija), to quote Nikolić, was still alive.
Nikolić, Jovan. 1982. Dosti khatinendar = Gost Niotkuda. Pesme. Vršac/Vîrset: Bibloteka Kov.
Nikolić, Jovan. 1987. Đurđevdan. Beograd: BIGZ.
Nikolić, Jovan. 1991. Neću da se rodim. Beograd: KST.
Nikolić, Jovan. 1993. Oči pokojnog jagnjeta. Niš: SKC.
Nikolić, Jovan. 1998. Male Nočne Pesme. Cikne rjatune Ðilja. Novi Sad: Društvo Vojvodine za jezik i kultura i knjiñevnost Roma.
Nikolić, Jovan. 2004. Soba s točkom. Klagenfurt: Drava.
Nikolić, Jovan. 2004. Zimmer mit Rad, Gedichte und Prosa, aus dem Serbischen übersetzt von Bärbel Schulte. Klagenfurt: Drava.
Nikolić, Jovan, et Ruždija Russo Sejdović. 2004. [Kosovo mon amour: Tragi-comédie ou drame tsigane traduit du rromani par [et préface de] Marcel Courthiades. Paris: L’espace d’un instant.
Nikolić, Jovan. 2006. Weißer Rabe, schwarzes Lamm. Klagenfurt: Drava.
Nikolić, Jovan. 2011. Seelenfänger, lautlos lärmend, Kurzprosa, aus dem Serbischen übersetzt von Dagmar Vohburger und Dragoslav Dedović. Klagenfurt: Drava.
Nikolić, Jovan. 2011. Soba s točkom. Beograd: Čigoja.
Nikolić, Jovan. 2014. Priče iz rasejanja. Beograd: Samizdat B92.
Nikolić, Jovan, i Ruždija Russo Sejdović. 2015. Kosovo Karusel. Ratna tradikomedija. Centar za očuvanje i razvoj kulture manjina Crne Gore, Pogorica (Montenegro).
Nikolić, Jovan. 2016. Das Orchester der Frauen, die mich verlassen haben. Prosa, aus dem Serbischen übersetzt von Dr Elvira Veselinovic. Klagenfurt: Drava.
Nikolić, Jovan. 2017. Hotel Nikaragva, Novi Sad, Kulturni centar Novog Sada.