Sarajlić was born in Doboj. His mother, who was not yet eighteen, had married a railway worker because she was "impressed by the uniform," which at that time was a "status symbol," as Sarajlić himself would later admit. Sarajlić's childhood was spent in Trebinje and Dubrovnik; he moved to Sarajevo in 1945, where he would remain for the rest of his life.
In Sarajevo, Sarajlić attended the boys’ gymnasium, and would enter the world of Yugoslav poetry at age nineteen with the collection, "U susretu" ("In meeting"). He graduated from the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Sarajevo, department of philosophy and comparative literature, with a doctorate in philosophical sciences. During his studies at university, Sarajlić worked as a journalist.
After graduating, Sarajlić became a full-time professor at the Philosophy Faculty in Sarajevo, a position he would hold for the rest of his life. He was a member of both the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Writers' Society of Bosnia and Hercegovina, as well as the association of intellectuals, "Krug 99" ("Circle 99"). Together with Husein Tahmiščić, Ahmet Hromadžić, Velimir Milošević i Vladimir Čerkez, he founded "Sarajevo Poetry Days" as an international book festival in 1962.
During his lengthy career, Sarajlić published over 30 books of poetry, some of which have been translated into fifteen languages, as well as numerous memoirs, political writings and translations.
Sarajlić's manuscript "Sarajevo War Journal," written during the first weeks of the siege of Sarajevo, was published in 1993 in Slovenia. Of it, Sarajlić would say, "This is the only collection of which I can say that I would love never to have written it."
Sarajlić is reported to have believed that he "belonged to the 20th century." When the 21st century arrived, he would date letters to friends as "1999+1," "1999+2," etc.
He died in Sarajevo in 2002, at the age of 72.
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