Year XIII • special edition, 2019 • free copy www.nacionalnarevija.com
MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND INFORMATION OF SERBIA
P R O L O G U E
Publisher “Princip Pres” Cetinjska 6, 11000 Belgrade Tel.: +381 (11) 322 70 34, 32 30 447 www.nacionalnarevija.com email@example.com Director and Editor-in-Chief Mišo Vujović Editor Branislav Matić Technical Editor Aleksandar Ćosić Photography Editor Dragan Bosnić Header and cover design Jovan Željko Rajačić
SERBIA AT HE 2019 FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR
espite some shallow ideas today, the connections between Serbian and German-speaking cultures are deep and complex. The culture of Serbia resurrected and liberated in the 19th century to a large extent rose and solidified in major Slavic centers in Austria and Germany. Suffice it to recall that in Vienna, together with the first Serbian newspaper Novine srpske (1813–1816), the first editions of the Serbian Dictionary (1818), two milestone books of poetry (1814, 1815), Serbian translation of New Testament (1847), and the Mountain Wreath ( 1847) were also published. Or that it was in Leipzig where Dositej Obradović, Vuk Karadžić, and Sima Milutinović Sarajlija had their important works published, Brana Petronijević, Aleksandar Belić, and Veselin Čajkanović earned their doctoral degrees, while Mokranjac and Hristić studied music. With such heritage and awareness, Serbia arrives at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, one of the most significant events of this kind in the world. Serbia’s appearance at this Fair, like this entire year in Serbian culture, will be marked by a series of significant anniversaries. “It has been 90 years since the birth and 10 years since the death of Milorad Pavić (1929–2009–2019), 90 years since the birth of Aleksandar Popović (1929–1996), 30 years since the death of Danilo Kiš (1935– 1989–2019), 70 years since the death of Rastko Petrović (1898–1949), 120 years since the birth of Rade Drainac (1899–1943)...” Special attention will be given to the 810th anniversary of the famous Studenica Typikon. This famous manuscript of St. Sava, the first Serbian archbishop, is embedded into the foundations of the Serbian Church, but is also a “work equally important for the development of the Serbian language, alphabet and law”. The special edition of National Review “Serbia”, which is now before you, is the main promotional material of our country at this Fair. We have covered the main topics of Serbia’s performances, added many other cultural and literary spices, talked with contemporary Serbian writers and poets. And all this, of course, is not the end of this encounter, but the beginning.
Associates Milovan Vitezović, jerej Jovan Plamenac, Bojan Mandić, Dragan Lakićević, Nebojša Jevrić, Olga Vukadinović, Jovo Bajić, Dejan Bulajić, Petar Milatović, Dejan Đorić, Đorđe Srbulović, Mihail Kulačić, Milena Z. Bogavac, Vojislav Filipović, Saša Šarković, Zoran Plavšić, Hristina Plamenac, Dragana Barjaktarević, Dušica Milanović Translated by Sandra Gagić & “Globe Translations” Marketing Mirko Vujović Secretariat and placement Dragana Dimitrijević, Milenko Vasilić Print “Portal”, Belgrade Office for Srpska “Princip Pres RS” Nikole Pašića 1, 78000 Banjaluka Tel/Fax: +387 (51) 304 360 Office for Australia “Princip Press Australia PTY LTD”, 5 Germain Crt, Keilor Downs, 3038 VIC
Cover page: Famous artists about Serbia (Design by: J. Ž. Rajačić) Magazine registered in the Register of Public Media of the Republic Serbia, no. NV000385
ISSN 1452-8371 = Serbia - National Review COBISS.SR-ID 139201804
R E M I N D E R SERBIA IN THE EYE OF TRAVELOGUE WRITERS
In the Mirror Throughout many centuries, numerous warriors and statesmen, diplomats and merchants, explorers and spies, adventurers and scribes have passed here. Many of them left behind remarkable travelogues or included the pages written here into their later famous works. Great people who wrote, spoke or composed about Serbia included Ludovico Ariosto, Steven Storas, Andersen, Jacob Grimm, Mazzini, Goethe, Merimee, Pushkin, Lamartine, Alphonse Mucha, Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Hugo, Nietzsche, Andreyev, Lessing, Clemenceau, Stanesku… We have dedicated a whole issue to this subject in the “Meet Serbia” edition, and now give you just a short reminder By: Branislav Matić
AND NOTEBOOKS OF GREAT PEOPLE
“The Victor” of Belgrade, a monument at the Fortress in the Serbian capital (Photo: Dragan Bosnić)
R E M I N D E R Leopold Ranke (1795–1886)
Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832) and Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805): a monument in Weimar Jacob Grimm (1785–1863)
any times in its history, whether luckily or unluckily, Serbia was the center of European and international attention. Perhaps too many times, compared to its present size, economical power, population. The greatest ones wrote, sang, spoke about it, appealed for its apology. However, it is understood that around every light shadows swarm. The first chronicles and travel accounts about Serbia in the late Middle Ages were written by writers who went to the socalled crusades with warriors. From their records, we know that not all of them came in peace. That is why for some, this was the last stop of their journey. When messengers announced that the Turkish sultan Murat I was killed in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, the French king Charles VI ordered “the Paris Christian temples to victoriously ring their bells and a ceremonial service to be held in the Notre Dam”. This beautiful story was written by many, from abbot Saint-Denis in the XIV century, to French writer Milena Noković at the end of the XX century. Decades later, while the Turks advanced towards the center of Europe, the highest European instances almost officially declared Belgrade as the “front wall of Christianity” (“ante mura les christianitatis”) and the “the bastion of Christianity”. The famous poet Ludovico Ariosto dedicated one chapter of his renowned poem Furious Orlando to the
heroic defense of Belgrade. (More than two centuries later, the Italian composer Steven Storas relived a similar subject in the opera Seize of Belgrade, first performed at the London Royal Drury Lane Theater, then in New York and Dublin.) After the final fall of Serbia into Turkish slavery, when the Serbian nation stepped into its three and a half century long “frozen time”, different travelers visited these lands. Diplomats, merchants, explorers, spies, adventurers, servants. “They all had very unclear, often completely wrong concepts about the delimitation of ethnic groups in the Balkans and hardly knew the borders and names of geographical and administrative regions”, wrote Zdenko Levental, who collected and processed British travel accounts through “our lands” from mid-XV to early XIX century. John Lock and Edmond Spencer were also among the travelers who passed through enslaved Serbian lands or along their borders! Unfortunately, these two great spirits did not have time or a chance to leave any accounts about Serbia. What did others note? PRIDE OF THE SLAVIC TRIBE Whatever may be, from that period of darkness, a curious reader has at its disposal the travel accounts of William Way, Richard Gilford, Henry Ostel, Henry Cav-
R E M I N D E R
Alphonse de Lamartine (1790–1869) Petar Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
endish and Fox, Fines Morrison, Sir Thomas Glover, William Litge, George Sanders, Peter Mundy, Henry Blunt, John Burberry, Walter Pope, Edward Brown, Paul Rico, George Weiler, Francis Vernon, Sir William Hasey, Simon Clement, Richard Pockock, Richard Bright, George Thomas Cappel… From the slavery, from the “frozen times”, Serbia reenters history and geography at the beginning of the XIX century. Europe of the romanticism époque and Serbia at the beginning of its great liberation efforts meet and reveal each other with great enthusiasm. Publishing Serbian folk poems translated into Western European languages provoked a real shock and
Hospitality The English lady Vivian Herbert, in her book Serbia, Paradise of the Poor, in the late XIX century (1897), affectedly writes: “When you visit anyone in Serbia, first they bring a tray with one or two dishes of fruits in jelly, one dish for spoons divided into two parts (one full and the other empty), and a certain number of glasses of water. The tray is usually brought by a charming daughter from the house, or the lady of the house, which represents a special honor. Everyone in Serbia has a soul full of hospitality. A traveler in any part in the inland is heartily welcomed and richly hosted…”
excitement in European intellectual circles. Jernej Kopitar, Jacob Grimm, Mazzini, Goethe, Walter Scott, Prosper Mérimée, Pushkin, Mickevich, Tomaseo and “so many others” considered Serbian epic poetry – collected, edited and published by Vuk Karadžić – a first class revelation. Lamartine then published his poems about Serbia. Mary E. Daram, member of two royal institutes in London, a woman who wrote and published seven books and a series of articles in leading English newspapers and magazines during a quarter of a century, at that time published her significant book Through Serbian Lands, revealing numerous descriptions and observations about the country, people, surroundings, enemies. Hans Christian Andersen sailed and traveled through several Serbian lands and towns. He published his writings in the book The Poet’s Bazaar, first published much later, in 1842. (More about it in: “Andersen in Serbia”, National Review, no. 3). At the beginning of the same decade, in 1841, finishing his series of lectures about Serbian folk poetry at the French college in Lausanne (Friday, March 19, 1841), the
greatest Polish poet Adam Mickevich said: “It is time to part with the history of Serbian literature… That nation will keep on living closed in its past, determined to be the musician and poet of the whole Slavic tribe, not even anticipating that it will one day become the greatest literary pride of the Slavs.” INVENTING RURITANIA The extraordinary German literature historian, ethnologist and characterologist Gerhard Gesemann, during his journeys and explorations through the Serbian lands, penetrated deeper into the layers of Serbian forma mentis, the Serbian homo heroicus: “Only there, in Old Serbia, the historical traditions could have remained fresh and given birth to the national tendencies pervading life and literature of the Dinara people, fulfilled only in our age. Often along with these features, there is the faithfulness to the idea of righteousness, the idea of national and personal freedom and honor, or socialist and political principles. Thus the dangerous unconditionalness of its great politicians and ingenious demagogues, rebels, hayduks, folk heroes and uskoks…” Traveling through the Slavic Balkans, Alphonse Mucha, the great master of Czech art nouveau and poet of the Slavic Epopee, wrote to his wife: “The music and songs are so deeply Byzantine and Slavic. As if I’m living in the IX century… For the last two thousand years, nothing essential changed!” The famous Romanian poet Nikita Stanesku writes the following: “Air in Serbia is not for breathing, the air here is for singing.” The travel writers in our lands at those times were most often Russians, Brits and Germans. The heritage of travel accounts is enormous. Among the most important authors are Alexander F. Gilferding, Pavel A. Rovinsky, Archibald Payton, Charles Lem, Adelina Polina Irby, Georgina
Mure Mackenzie,Felix Kanitz,Gustav Rash… Unfortunately, along with this abundance, the line of superficial, light and completely ignorant writing from the previous époque continued. If we do not question good intentions, many ugly stereotypes, alive even today, sprouted on the grounds of the superficialness, lightness and ignorance, excellently revealed by Vesna Golsvorti in her study Inventing Ruritania (Yale University Hans Christian Andersen in Press, 1998). However, at the time it was still Serbia (Illustration: benign and ridiculous, because it was not a managing instrument in Predrag Todorović) the hands of spin doctors employed in centers of
R E M I N D E R
political power. Those were different times. For all that time, the turbulent process of Serbian complete liberation continued, a process one hundred fourteen years long (1804–1918). Diplomatic, political, dynastical, intelligence battles, battles on war fronts. “In the history of this country, there is almost not one single regular page: only battles, wars… The history of Serbia is the history of its martyrness”, wrote Pavel Apolonovich Rovinsky in the European Herald in 1876. “Free Serbia from its difficult obligation to always be on guard, on the watchguard to protect its borders, and only then you will see what that country can offer you and what the Serbian people will show.”
a memory of his heroic death, with an alley brought from suburban Moscow, can be seen today in the village of Gornji Adrovac near Aleksinac, not far from the busy Corridor 10). The famous Dutch lady Jeanne Mercus also came to Serbia as a volunteer. She was wonderfully described by the historian Rene Gremmo. It is also known that Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky was also engaged in writing about the allSlavic solidarity and “support for small heroic Serbia”. However, it is not widely known that, at that time, even Friedrich Nietzsche, celebrating the Serbian warriors for freedom, composed the Serbian March! Serbia was later also in the absolute center of attention and on cover pages of the
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) Leo Tolstoy (1828–1881)
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)
NIETZSCHE’S SERBIAN MARCH
Many people know that the famous Pe ter Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed the fascinating Serbian-Russian March in the 1880s, adding it to the weapons of the Slavs in the Serbian-Turkish war that took place then. The Russian officer Raevsky wqs a volunteer in this war and he later served Tolstoy as the prototype for the character of Vronsky in Ana Karenina (the church erected as
At the peace conference in Versailles in 1919, when World War I officially ended, George Clemenceau said: “At the conclusion of our Peace Conference, I must – before I come down from this podium – state my great sorrow because a great historical name: SERBIA is disappearing from the international political scene.” Serbia then became the piedmont of Yugoslavia and remained such, in different forms, until 2006, when it again carried its own name.
R E M I N D E R
Rebecca West (1892–1983) Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863–1983)
Victor Hugo (1802–1885)
press: at the time of the assassination in 1903, at the time of the crisis which broke out after the Austrian-Hungarian annexing of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, at the time of the Balkan Wars, and especially during World War I. The dramatic destiny of Serbia in that war, “the Golgotha and resurrection of Serbia”, affected many, big and small, all over the world. Among the immortal pages dedicated to Serbia then, are certainly the ones written by the great Russian writer Leonid Andreyev. Robert Lessing, the US minister of foreign affairs at the time, wrote: “When the history of this war is written, the most celebrated chapter of it will carry the name ‘Serbia’”.
One Witness: the Whole World Victor Hugo wrote the famous sentences about the sufferings of Serbia: “They are killing a nation. Where? In Europe. Is there anyone to testify about it? There is one witness: The whole world.”
Later, during the XX century, a lot was written about Serbia. Many filmed travel accounts were also made. Many names, titles, references. Let us, however, end this brief review with fragments of the perhaps best travel account of the XX century, written about this country. Rebecca West (Black Lamb and Gray Falcon): “Nothing in my life had such an influence on me as that journey through Yugoslavia. It seemed like following a thread of wool which would take me out of the labyrinth I didn’t know I was built into.” “There are lands which hide their secrets from travelers for days and don’t show him anything except their exterior… Then, suddenly, they throw him the key and tell him to go wherever he wants and see whatever he can see. This country is like that.” The epilogue of this unforgettable book was written in London in the spring of 1941. Watching bombs falling on her burning city, she wrote: “While I was thinking about the possible invasion, or whenever a bomb would fall nearby, I often prayed: Lord, let me be strong the Serbian way!”
F O U N D A T I O N S
EIGHT CENTURIES AND ONE DECADE SINCE THE APPEARANCE OF THE STUDENICA TYPICON OF ST. SAVA
Earthly Angel, Heavenly Man
This extraordinary document is part of the greatest endeavor in the Serbian Christian history, visionary and inspired by God. The Serbian church and state were established in that endeavor, as well as the golden Middle Ages and all the centuries that will follow “until the end of the world”. On the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the Serbian Orthodox Church independence, the Monastery of Studenica published a new representative edition of the Typicon in four languages, cognitively probably the most comprehensive one up to now
t is one of the books built into the foundations. The foundations of the church, state, monastic community, God-bearing personality. The foundations of other and different books that will be appearing in the centuries to come.
There is abundant scientific literature, in paper and electronic libraries, about the appearance and significance of the Studenica Typicon or Rules of St. Sava 810 years ago. It is not our intention to paraphrase or “digest”, in accordance with the spirit of
St. Sava, part of a fresco, Patriarchate of Peć, 1345
F O U N D A T I O N S
F O U N D A T I O N S Studenica hermitage: It was there, in all likelihood, that St. Sava did the last editing of the Studenica Typikon in 1208 Paja Jovanović: “Coronation of Stefan the First-Crowned”, first decade of the 20th century
Coat of arms of the Nemanjić Dynasty
easiness of our times. On the occasion of the important anniversary of this document, together with the 800th anniversary of the Serbian Orthodox Church independence, we merely wish to remind of some significant elements in those ancient and far-reaching endeavors. Observing the stated anniversaries, the Monastery of Studenica published a new representative edition of the Typicon in 2018, in four languages (Serbo-Slavic, contemporary Serbian, Russian, English), cognitively probably the most comprehensive one up to now. EDIFICE “The idea of the unity of Serbian lands and their unification into a powerful state in the Balkans is certainly as old as the first Serbian states origins. The possibility of realizing such a complex idea was first recognized by the Great Prince of Raška Stefan Nemanja, who understood the symphony of spiritual and secular powers in the Byzantine establishment of the state. This should be viewed through the departure of Nemanja’s third son Rastko, begged from God, to Mt. Athos, where he became monk Sava, as well as Nemanja’s ceding of the throne to his middle son Stefan, sonin-law of then Byzantine Emperor Alexios Angelos, followed by Nemanja taking a monastic vow. Nothing in their actions was accidental. There was a clear vision, there was a concrete plan”, writes Milovan Vitezović, writer, editor of the important monograph St. Sava in the Russian Imperial Annals, author of the text about St. Sava in the booklet Great Serbian Visionaries (“Great Vision of the One Begged from God”). “Raising the Serbian monastery of Chilandar in Mt. Athos ‘in the name of the father and sons’ (Simeon/Nemanja, Stefan and Sava/Rastko) and taking Byzantine Emperor Alexios Angelos as co-founder, set the foundation of Serbian spiritual independence, because Sava wrote the Chilandar Typicon, with the approval of the emperor co-founder, looking up to the Monastery of Theotokos Evergetis Typicon, which gave this imperial monastery in Constantinople
complete independence. Thus, with the emperor’s approval, Chilandar became an independent imperial monastery as well, with the right to have a typicon like the one of Evergetis, neither under control of Mt. Athos prior nor the Ecumenical Patriarch, just the Emperor, represented among the founders with a gifted golden imperial scepter.” Written based on the Chilandar Typicon – continues Vitezović – Sava’s Studenica Typicon enabled independent Studenica to gain property throughout the Serbian lands and raise Orthodox churches and monasteries. The clergy and clerics prepared for holding services in Serbo-Slavic language in Chilandar. “Thus the Serbian Orthodox Church was first created and then proclaimed independent. Ecumenical Patriarch Mihailo Saraten ordained Archimandrite of Studenica Sava Nemanjić the first archbishop of the Orthodox Serbian Church on Palm Sunday of 1219, thus granting Serbian archpriests the right to elect their archbishops, which enabled the Serbian archbishop, according to the symphony, to crown Serbian kings with a Serbian crown.” The same source further states: Sava established the archiepiscopal and royal right of Serbs in his Nomocanon (Code), with selections from the most important rules from Prochiron, Vasillicos and Justinian’s Laws, translated, interpreted and adapted for Serbs. After legalizing the Serbian church and state, during his two long journeys, Archbishop Sava provided recognitions of other monarchs as well (two emperors, three kaisars, one king and one kalif) and the highest ecclesiastical officials. Such recognitions were confirmed with a Serbian edifice in heavenly Jerusalem. After purchasing from Muslims the house of John the Evangelist, where the Last Supper took place in the upper room and the New Testament was established, and granting the house to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Sava gained the right to raise a Serbian church celebrating John the Evangelist next to the house in Zion. Only foundations of the Serbian church are preserved today, located exactly above David’s tomb crypt. “Serbian spiritual and state concepts, later traditional norms, postulates of spiritual honor, legal and moral features of the
F O U N D A T I O N S
Studenica Monastery, endowment of Saint Simeon the Myrrhgusher (Stefan Nemanja), 12th century
F O U N D A T I O N S
Serbian nation, were all derived from such activities and theological postulates of Sava Nemanjić.” FIRST FRUITS “With the Studenica Typicon and accompanying Hagiography of St. Simeon, St. Sava established the bases of Serbian canonic-legal and heortological-hymnographic literature”, indicates professor Maja Anđelković, PhD, co-editor of the new edition of the Typicon (together with Archimandrite Tihon Rakićević, PhD, prior of Studenica). “The significance of the Studenica Typicon shouldn’t be perceived only in the context of establishing the monastic structure, but also in the context of concrete procedures that preceded the autocephality of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1219. At the same time, its significance for the Serbian state should not be neglected either. (…) The Studenica Typicon has an important role from the aspect of philology as well, since, besides its significant linguistic and style features, it is the first typicon with the original word ‘obraznik’ in its title (liturgical rules) (Obraznik of St. Sava of Serbia).” Science has no doubts: the basis for both Chilandar and the Studenica typicons was the Evergetis Typicon. St. Sava made the last revisions of the Chilandar Typicon after Simeon’s death in Mt. Athos (1199/1200). The Studenica Typicon was finalized after the transfer of St. Simeon’s relics from Chilandar to Studenica (1207), before “proclaiming Simeon Nemanja the new Myrrhstreamer” (1210). It was apparently in 1208, in Sava’s hermitage in Studenica. “Sava’s revisions while writing the Studenica Typicon were undoubtedly bigger and, we’d say more important than the ones in the Chilandar Typicon. From the canonic-legal aspect, we underline the new essential provision about appointing the archimandrite as prior of Studenica. Furthermore, defining the status of Studenica in relation to other monasteries, the order to the state monarch to be present at and participate in the election of the prior, as well as to protect Studenica – are not only important canonic-legal, but also civillegal elements, testimony about the relations of ecclesiastical and civil authorities”, states professor Anđelković. “The most
extensive novelty is the Hagiography of St. Simeon, written as the first chapter of the Studenica Typicon. Unlike the short hagiography in the Chilandar Typicon, reduced to the most important events from Simeon’s arrival to Mt. Athos to his death (in Letter 2 and Letter 3), whose function was mainly to ‘fixate the day of remembrance of the holy one’, Sava wrote a comprehensive hagiography for the Studenica Typicon, covering the entire life of Simeon Nemanja. This hagiography, as we have already emphasized, is the basis of Serbian heortological-hymnographic literature, ‘the first work of Sava written with expressive literary features’. We’d also add that certain parts of other chapters of the Studenica Typicon also have literary and expressive rhetorical features. Considering the time of creation and characteristics of Sava’s work, the stand of (Dimitrije) Bogdanović that St. Sava is the ‘founder of independent XIII century Serbian literature’ is entirely justified.”
The seal (with signature) of Saint Sava
WRITING DOWN The new edition of the Studenica Typicon was made based on Abercius’ copy from 1619, made in St. Sava’s hermitage in Studenica, where the original text was created 410 years ago, exactly in the middle between Sava’s and our time. (The original manuscripts of the Chilandar and Studenica Typicon were not preserved, or at least haven’t been discovered.) Abercius’ copy is kept in the Studenica Monastery Rulers’ Biographies manuscript, in Šafarik’s collection in the National Museum Library in Prague. Finalizing his hierosophic effort exactly 400 years ago, writer Abercius states: “This typicon, ‘obraznik’ of St. Sava of Serbia, was copied in the year of 7127 Monument  in the cave of St. Sava, hermitage, to Saint Sava in and was before us written by the hand of Vračar, Belgrade, St. Sava in the year of 6708 , when work of Vyacheslav Mr. Simeon passed away. And so that no Klikov, 2003
F O U N D A T I O N S one would make things difficult or turn them round, because many words in this nomocanon are ordinary, but very useful. Due to that, St. [Sava] gave orders to read it at the beginning of each month, clearly, as if appointing servants. We all should not forget the love of the Holy one, knowing that he will be our judge, just like the apostles will be to the twelfth generation of Israel, while other nations will not be judged. Witness to that is St. Nikon, because this Holy one is our apostle. Lord, pour prayers on us, because he prays for us as well! St. Sava’s cane, Wrote during the time of prior Teophil.” Holy Trinity While rereading the Obraznik of St. Sava, Monastery, Plјevlјa in a wonderful new edition, enchanted by the beauty and depth of the voice and the language, we wrote down many sentences from it. We will share a few with our reader, pouring as much as it can hold.
Team The edition “St. Sava: Studenica Typicon” is a result of the scientific project managed by professor Maja Anđelković, PhD and Archimandrite Tihon Rakićević, PhD. The project was financed by the Serbian Ministry of Justice (Department for Cooperation with Churches and Religious Communities) and Ministry of Culture and Information. Its printing was supported by the “Mihailo Pupin” Institute in Belgrade. The National Museum in Prague ceded the scans of Abercius’ copy of the manuscript from 1619. The book was edited by the managers of the scientific project, while the editorial board, besides them, included Nada Milošević Đorđević, academician, professor Vladimir Vukašinović, PhD, and professor Svetlana Tomin, PhD. The text was translated by professor Maja Anđelković, PhD (from Serbo-Slavic), associate professor Jasmina Teodorović, PhD (into English), Svetlana Luganska (into Russian). Professor Vladimir Ranković dealt with the visual artistic part, and it was printed in “Digital Pres” in Kragujevac.
“Since who doesn’t love his brother doesn’t love God. God is love. Thus, who loves God should love his brother. Since the apostles learnt all the rules about it, martyrs were married and prophets were hanging.” “Respect the Lord in your righteous efforts and give the first of your righteous fruits to him, so that your barns would be full with wheat and your wines pouring from your taps.” “Sons, do not become weak from God’s punishment and do not become weak from his scolding. Since God scolds the ones he loves, he beats every son he accepts. Blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the mortal who sees it. Since it is better to purchase it than to find hiding places for silver and gold, whereas it is more expensive than valuable stones.” “Think good before God and the people. Trust God with all your heart and do not praise with your wisdom.” “My sweet child… watch out for my words… keep them in your heart… And watch your heart with each word you keep, because they are the origins of life. Detach yourself from sharp mouths and shrug off insulting lips. Your eyes should watch straight and your eyebrows should express what is righteous. Do not turn either right or left, because God knows the paths to the right, while those going to the left are corrupted. You, however, learn what is right and walk in peace.” “Do not mix with the mindless ones. Ask for wisdom in order to have a long life. (…) Since the one who reproves the evil will receive boredom and the one who reproves the devil will deny himself. Do not criticize the evil, because they will hate you. Criticize a wise man, and he will love you. Tell a wise man his faults and he will become wiser, tell a lesson to a righteous one and he will continue accepting them. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, advice of the holy ones is reason, and understanding rules is a thought of good. Since this good custom will make you live long and extend the years of your life.” “Have love among you! May the anger of God swallow those who draw away from my orders and their entire seed!” “May our mind be in God, in the heavenly scenes, in the beauties of paradise, in the eternal dwellings, in angel choruses, in the life on the other side. (...)”
Paja Jovanović: “Saint Sava Reconciles Brothers”, oil on canvas, first decade of the 20th century
A N N I V E R S A R I E S
To Stop and Remember SOME IMPORTANT DATES IN SERBIAN LITERATURE 2019
It will be exactly a century since the publishing of the “Lyrics of Ithaca”, a milestone collection of poems by Miloš Crnjanski. It is the 70th anniversary since the death of Rastko Petrović, 30th since the departure of Danilo Kiš. One hundred and twenty years ago, Rade Drainac was born, ninety years ago Aleksandar Popović. Through their literature and fate the depths of the centuries open up before us, especially the 20th, filled with noise and cries. And we understand again why it is the feat, beauty and shame that will save the world By: Vesna Kapor
fter World War One, in Serbian literature, like throughout Europe, new tendencies and poetics are being strengthened. A new generation of writers is being published,
opposing everything that had ever been deemed acceptable. They sought to change everything, they mixed and adapted the genres, experimented with language and the themes, introduced
the poetics of coarse and ugly, they thundered, sang, drank. Serbian writers, almost all, had a terrible experience of war. Many of them crossed Albania, were in Greece, then they all over Europe, for military or private business. Changes in literature that were already announced before will continue after the war. (Unfortunately, many of the authors of the new spirit and modernity were killed: Bojić, Dis, Uskoković...). Postwar energy and bellicosity, the feeling that the experience cannot be expressed in the language and forms of the past, grows into something more than a literary work. They become the strongholds of the new age. Miloš Crnjanski, Rastko Petrović, Ivo Andrić, Stanislav Krakov, Stanislav Vinaver, Dragiša Vasić, Rade Drainac... Belgrade is at the center of all events. War veterans, students from Paris, and those from the regions that belonged to Austria-Hungary come there. “Moscow” Restaurant, at Terazije Square, is becoming the center of the tumultuous artistic life. It was not a uniform movement. In addition to the multitude of already disclosed European “-isms”, Serbian and Yu-
goslav writers add their own: Sumatraism, Hypnism, Zenithism... The critics of that time used the name between-the-wars modernism, although this period, in the opinion of many theoreticians, can creatively be classified as expressionism or surrealism. It was a great and splendid time in Serbian culture. In this climate, Miloš Crnjanski, Rastko Petrović and Rade Drainac come of age and are being published. “We sing in free verse, which is a consequence of our content”, says Crnjanski. Unfortunately, many of them will later be targeted by the Communist regime. In 1954, Marko Ristić publishes the essay “Three Dead Poets”, in which he declares Miloš Crnjanski and Rastko Petrović dead. Many of them will die in emigration, and their works will be marginalized for a long time (R. Petrović, S. Krakov, D. Vasić...). Only Crnjanski will live to return to Yugoslavia, and an army of readers in full auditoriums across Serbia will applaud him. “The world was hungry for Crnjanski”, writes the poet Rajko Petrov Nogo, as the editor of one of these round tables.
Belgrade photojournalists, circa 1932 (Photo: Aleksandar Simić. From the book “Urban Nomad” by Darko Ćirić, Museum of the City of Belgrade, 2011) Terazije Square and the Moscow Hotel in Belgrade, 1920s
A N N I V E R S A R I E S
MILOŠ CRNJANSKI (1893–1977) “I have fulfilled my destiny”, Crnjanski used to say. One of the most intriguing and greatest personalities of Serbian literature. From his very appearance in the literary life, through exile days during communism, until the return to the country, then Yugoslavia, his charisma does not fade. With his books, he reached the status of a modern classic, but his life is no less important for the study of his poetics. This year is exactly one century since the publishing of the Lyrics of Ithaca (1919), his first milestone collection of poems. This collection, courageous, bold, challenging, bitter, in its deep thematic layer facing the war experiences, on the other hand expressed in a soft, elegiac language, leads the reader to a unique journey from horror to longing. Still, the famous Belgrade publisher, Cvijanović, three times decided not to print this collection of war-patriotic lyrics, as the author himself called it. The poet writes that Odyssey is the greatest poem of humanity and that the return from war is the saddest human feeling. The youth war experience, expressed in the Lyrics of Ithaca and The Explanation of Sumatra (1920), marked the literary opus of Crnjanski; this belief is at the same time one of the most important manifestos of the new generation and a new artistic orientation. In this poetry, defeatism and tenderness touch each other. It was only in 1959 that the writer himself would prepare, and “Prosveta” will publish, the book Ithaca and Comments. In addition to the selected poems, it also contains prose texts, as comments. This prose is also an extraordinary poetic whole. Through all of his works, Crnjanski will mix features of genres, bringing the strength, character and immenseness of his talent into everything. His novel Diary about Čarnojević (1921) is an overthrow in Serbian literature. The novel in which the classic form is completely broken. In his later novels (Migrations, The Second Book of Migrations and Novel on London) he uses traditional elements in a unique manner. That is the essence of his poetics: to make tradition unusual, to make it eternally contemporary. Miloš Crnjanski is a metaphor of Serbian culture in the 20th century. His opus
and life are testimony to the most significant literary, poetic and historical changes in the past century. In novels, he writes the history of the modern era, from the time of Enlightenment to the outlines of the postmodern, from the migrations of the Serbs to the wandering of an individual in contemporary megalopolis. In poetry, he returns to the lyrical experience of Romanticism, transforming it into the avant-garde poetics of Sumatraism. Through his opus, world is measured and understood. In Hyperborea one can live, through Embahade study history and philosophy. With Prince Repnin and Nadia (A Novel about London), understand despair, respect, sacrifice and love. With the Isakovičs (The Migrations) share the deepest suffering, illusions and hopes of the nation. The Lyrics of Ithaca and Diary about Čarnojević are pure human heart. He understood, right after the end of the Great War, that a new and equally bloody Europe was appearing. He is referred to as an anarchist, nihilist, rightist... An unwilling soldier of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a journalist, a polemic, a football fan, an irresistible charmer, a traveler, an exile, a man about whom many anecdotes have been recorded. Crnjanski has been an eternally live and intricate Serbian story. For centuries. At the level of excess, subversive for all political systems. The orientation toward Crnjanski, as Milo Lompar says, has the meaning of orientation toward freedom in a pre-set system of values.
Miloš Crnjanski, pastel, by Mihail Kulačić, 2013
Photo: Archive of NR and private collections
Diary about Crnjanski Miloš Crnjanski (1893–1997). Born in Csongrád, he died in Belgrade. He published his first poem in magazine Golub, in 1908. Between the two world wars he worked as a professor, as a journalist, a diplomat. He spoke several languages, often travelled and moved around. He wrote for “Vreme”, “Politika”, “Naša krila”, “Jadranska straža”... He started the magazine “Ideje” (1934). When World War II broke out, he found himself at a diplomatic mission in Italy. During the war he lived in London, where he remained afterwards. He had difficult life, barely surviving; for some time he works in a shoemaker’s shop and as a book carrier, and his wife Vida makes dolls. Although the opponent of communism, he returned to Yugoslavia in 1965. His most important works are: “Mask” (1918), “Lyrics of Ithaca” (1919), “Stories about the Male” (1920), “Diary about Čarnojević” (1921), “Migrations” (1929), “Love in Tuscany” (1930), “The Book of Germany” (1931), “Residence” (1958), “Lament over Belgrade” (1962), “The Second Book of the Migrations” (1962), “The Hyperborean” (1966), “Nikola Tesla” (1967), “A Novel about London” (1971), “Stražilovo” (1973). “The Book of Michelangelo” (1981) and “Embahade” (1983) were published posthumously.
A N N I V E R S A R I E S
RASTKO PETROVIĆ (1898–1949) “He escaped through Albania, where he ate molded bread and warmed himself next to other people’s furnaces... You could have killed a man without being held liable, you could have died without anybody even looking at you... He saw people who, due to hunger, torture, despair, ceased to belong to the human race, those who had been thrown into the river and those who
had already rotted. He saw thousands of his peers propagating wandering aimlessly through the fog, every once in a while leaving behind their exhausted comrades to die on the road...” (Rastko Petrović, 1942) That is how they grew up together, he and his Motherland; he and his talent. This could not be separated from each other, wrote Zoran Mišić about Rastko Petrović. Seventeen-year-old Rastko Petrović was one of those who retreated through
People Remember Rastko Petrović (1898–1949). Poet, storyteller, novelist, essayist, travel writer, painter, art and literary critic. Books published in his lifetime: “The Kosovo Sonnets” (Corfu, 1917), “A Burlesque of Lord Perun: God of Thunder” (1921), “Revelation” (1922), “With Forces Immeasurable” (1927), “Africa” (1930) “People Speak” (1931), “The Sixth Days” (1961). He also published art criticisms in magazines. He influenced the development of Serbian modern art.
Albania during the Great War in. Like others, despite the suffering and horror, he was driven and fueled by the heart of togetherness, the heart of the Motherland. On that road he made friends with young Milutin Bojić. They say that the two of them, during breaks, cheerfully hung out together and spoke the verses aloud. Along with those thousands of sufferers, Rastko would feel deep attachment to human being, for their suffering and fate. Those signs of seen and experienced will never disappear in him. His words are tempest, cosmic chaos and at the same time the most valuable star dust; everything is constantly in a whirlpool, in motion, exploration, unrest. Love for his country, people, motherland, deep passion for history, as well as a desire for new knowledge, for other cultures, travels, Rastko brought from his parents’ house. The older sister, famous painter Nadežda Petrović, was his role model. After the war, Rastko continued his education in Paris, and socialized with wellknown French modern artists (moving in the same circle with Picasso, Breton, Éluard...). He, says Svetlana Velmar Janković, brought that fire of the new from Paris, the rest collected his fervor. ,. He is interested in everything: the art and literature of the Middle Ages (fascinated by frescoes from Serbian monasteries), Renaissance, ethnography, the history of old Slavs, painting, the film as a challenge of the modern age. Unrestrained, curious, intuitive, abundant in talents, ecstatic, with a deep sense of pagan and atavistic, filled with visions, eager to feel everything, to experience, Rastko writes the most marvelous pages of Serbian literature. He does not express the
difficult personal experiences in anger and contempt for the traditional expression, like most modernists, but in a magnificent dimension of Slavic mythology, as well as biblical and apocryphal motifs. “In the generation of young people he was the most extravagant”, says Professor Jovan Deretić. His novel A Burlesque of Lord Perun: God of Thunder (1920) and the collection of poems Revelations (1921), provoke great controversy. Isidora Sekulić and Miloš Crnjanski support him and praise him. “Rastko’s novel is not only a prominent example of avant-garde mixing of genres, but is actually a parody of all existing genres”, notes Professor Predrag Petrović. “Rastko saw himself mostly as a passenger. This symbol was his favorite”, writes Stanislav Vinaver. “The passenger always discovers something. The passenger has never arrived, nor has fixed anything: after the journey comes another journey.” In the travelogue Africa (1930) and the short novel People Speak (1931), a more subdued sensibility is revealed. Africa is not only a poetic-lyrical picture of exotic lands and nations, but a documentary article. Rastko also shoots several short films there. The book People Speak, described both as a short lyrical prose and as a novel, is a profound metaphysical search for meaning. By recording the simple sentences and actions of people on an island, the writer uses as a leitmotiv the thought that life is “a truly unique thing”. The Sixth Day, written for a long time and published posthumously, monumental in its vision, told in the third person, with a distance, is one of the most tragic and suggestive images of the Serbian suffering in World War One. World War Two finds Rastko Petrović in the diplomatic service, in America. After the war and regime change in Yugoslavia, he remained to live in Washington. He also died there, in 1949, exactly seventy years ago. His remains were transferred to Belgrade, to a family tomb, in 1986.
Nadežda Petrović, sister and role model of Rastko Petrović
A N N I V E R S A R I E S
Rade Drainac with friends, late 1920s At a reporter’s task, 1935
RADE DRAINAC (1899–1943) “My hunger is endless and my hands are eternally empty.” Contrary to the poet’s rebellious, subversive, ecstatic quest and the feeling of the new, it is precisely this verse, with its austerity and simplicity, that depicts his life. In this seemingly simple pic-
Poet or bandit Rade Drainac / Radojko Jovanović (1899–1943). He was born in Trbunje, in Toplice, and died in Belgrade in the war year of 1943. Fascinated by Paris, he was there again in 1926. He lives a bohemian life, but returns to Belgrade due to illness. In addition to poetry, he also wrote feuilletons, travel books, art and literary criticism, polemics and pamphlets. Journalism was his main source of income and the opportunity to travel. The most important books: “The Blue Laugh” (1920), “Aphrodite’s Garden” (1921), “The Train Departs” (1923), “The Heart on the Market” (1929), “Bandit or Poet” (1928), “Banquet” (1930), “The Spirit of the Earth” (1940).
ture of eternal and futile longing for infinity, everything that the poet was in between can be placed. All bursting verses filled with noise, spook, creaks, dissonant and wild. Rade Drainac (Radojko Jovanović), like most Serbian poets of his generation, as a high school student retreated across Albania with the Serbian army, and then continued his education in France. With restless spirit, in 1918 he interrupted his education and returned to Belgrade. Like most artists returnees from the war, he spent most of the time in “Moscow” restaurant. Influenced by the spirit of the new era, in 1922, he published the magazine the Hypnos in which he proclaims a new style: Hypnism. Give us some fear – some outer space – horror – a little bit of your blood, to see at least one thread of a naked soul... Give us ethereality: in which the Universe is.
He had the need to feverishly explore outside the boundaries of self, homeland or identity. Born in the village, exactly one hundred and twenty years ago, on the one hand he has an inseparable attachment to the primal, restlessness, the sense of archetypal freedom, and yet he becomes a poet of the city, noise, the chaos of the coming world. Ironic, daring, anarchic. In his verses everything is constantly on the move, in action. Raw life, naked reality, smells of taverns, docks, railway cars, noise of big cities. He, a child of the village, deeply understands the rhythm of the cosmos, and from this perspective all earthly matters, history, politics are irrelevant. The city about which he writes poems is not even a single toponym specifically, it is a poetic vision, and the main character of all these profound and passionate sayings, even when
he comes out of the shadow: Raka Drainac. A restless person, about whose life there are many anecdotes. Known not only for literary discussions, but also for physical fights with a group of surrealists, for whom he says, among others: “They all look alike, they only don’t look like themselves.” “All these different elements, modernity and primitivism, cosmism and exoticism, boasting and sentimentality, merge into a unique and rich lyrical fabric of this poet...” writes Prof. Jovan Deretić. When Rade Drainac died, they say, in the field “place of residence” it was written: without the street name and apartment number. This relative of Yesenin and Apollinaire, as he saw himself, who wrote the verse Ah, I was very sick, and starved even more, now finally has a secure address in Serbian literature and our memory.
Rade Drainac, 1927
A N N I V E R S A R I E S
ALEKSANDAR POPOVIĆ (1929–1996) “Popović’s plays, apparently, do not tolerate any normativization...” writes Radomir Putnik. “His aesthetics is life itself, rich, cruel and kind at the same time, wise, cunning, silly and sharp, wonderfully beautiful and tragic, filled with multitude of contradictory endeavors, unity of opposites and interests... Life so vast and comprehensive that its limits cannot be determined.” Life of Aleksandar Popović is marked by dramas of the era. Born exactly ninety years ago (1929) in a wealthy merchant family in Ub, after World War II, intoxicated with the idea of equality he became a communist. Then he was detained as political prisoner on the Naked Island. When he returned from prison, he worked for all kinds of manual and physical jobs to feed his family (he married very young). He appeared in Serbian literature at the end of 1950s. They say it is almost impossible to accurately determine the number of his works for children and adults (theater and radio plays, TV scripts, books, newspaper articles). The Naked Island period, and the period after, which he spent among ordinary people, will mark him as a man and as a playwright. Theater is for him the center and the meaning of life. He believes that culture is the only defense against the monster of history. He touched the top and bottom. His plays were performed around the world, he received many awards, but at the same time he was under the constant surveillance of the regime. He entered the theater life with his play Ljubinko and Desanka (1965). Since then, comedies and farces came one after the other. His appearance is considered to be the key point of the “subversion and re-
vival” on the Serbian and Yugoslav theater scene. The structure of his plays is incoherent, dynamic, the heroes are authentic people of socialism, in no way ideal. The milieu of suburbs, unrestrained characters, vivid language, unexpected shifts, freshness and astonishing sharpness of expression. He showed the courage to speak outside the norms through art, in a politically controlled system. The heroes he created, the lines they say, are timeless and prophetic. The previous theatrical expression, in which the critical spirit draws from antiquity and medieval myths, is now imbued with the spirit of the local and the recognizable. Hey plays were banned and removed from the repertoire (The Spawning of Carp 1984 caused particularly turbulent reactions), but this did not stop him from continuing to write passionately. “A man is big only when he remembers how small and miserable he is”, he used to say. And: “Do not awaken the beast in a man.” He used to say that he was trying to explain, understand and show all the faults of his people through plays, finding a better way. Until the end, however, loyal to the idea of communism, but with a deep attachment to spirituality, he will say in one conversation: “I am both for St. Sava and for Marx.” He died in 1996 in Belgrade, where he spent most of his life.
Poster of the Theatre of Kruševac for the production of “The Pig Father” Aleksandar Popović, portrait from 1970’s With an aunt Belgrade
The Spawning of Plays Aleksandar Popović (1929–1996). Born in Ub, he spent most of his life in Belgrade. He wrote a large number of theater plays, TV and radio dramas, wrote poetry, one novel. His most famous plays: “One Hundred Loop Sock” (1965), “The Path of Development of Bora Šnajder” (1967), “The Spawning of Carps” (1984), “Cafe Latte” (1990), “Dark is the Night” (1993) “Čarlama, Goodbye” (1995), “Old Well” (1996), “Night Lady” (1999)...
A N N I V E R S A R I E S Danilo Kiš, Belgrade, Palmotićeva 21, 1965
Danilo Kiš in Kalemegdan, Belgrade, 1957 (Photographs from the book: Danilo Kiš, “Warehouse”, edited by Mirjana Miočinović, BIGZ, Belgrade, 1995)
DANILO KIŠ (1935–1989) “Tell me, did I make up all this?” This simple question, from Early Sorrows, truly haunts both the writer and the reader. Where is the boundary between memory and reality and does it exist for a writer at all? Doesn’t the writer live irreversibly enchanted, trapped between the real and imagined? “If it hasn’t been for my war experience, in my early childhood, I would never become a writer.” This sentence determines the depth of Kiš’ creative attachment to suffering. Subdued and inexpressible awareness of death, its constant presence in the air, in smells, in colors, in forms, once experienced, always returns. Or, better, it never leaves the man. The words that must be said, which must find the way of being outed, appear as images-visions. The initial thought hovers over them: did I make up all this? This suggestive sentence certainly does not mean completely bringing into question the things about which one writes; it just varies them. The experience of war is deep and forever present in everyone who lived through it, and the sensitive artistic soul is searching for a way to master this burden. Family trilogy (Early Sorrows, Garden, Ashes and Hourglass), which the writer himself calls the Family Circus, carries dense reminiscence of deep and suppressed memories. About searching for ways to write out the traumatic years of war childhood and hard family fates without being pathetic, Kiš says: “In short, in that mixture I had to measure salt, pepper and sugar. I tried to destroy the lyrical spell by placing in the garden big pieces of metal scrap, such as that sewing machine. Or that long list of nouns from the lexicon, which is to destroy the smell of herbs in one part of the book.” Throughout this search for himself in this trilogy, the boy Andreas Sam is obsessed with the father figure who disappears in a Nazi camp (the parallels between Andreas Sam and the poet’s biography is unavoidable). Lyrical and documentary intertwine and crisscross through Kiš’ entire opus.
To Late Sorrows Danilo Kiš (1935–1989). Born in Subotica, died in Paris, buried in Belgrade. A novelist, storyteller, essayist, playwright, translator from French, Russian and Hungarian. The most important works: “Mansard” (1962), “Psalm 44” (1962), “Garden, Ashes” (1965), “Night and Fog” (1968), “Early Sorrows” (1969), “Hourglass” (1972), “A Tomb for Boris Davidovich” (1976), “Anatomy Lesson” (1978), “Encyclopedia of the Dead” (1983). Posthumously: “Bitter Deposit of Experience” (1990), “Lute and Scars” (1994), “Warehouse” (1995).
The family trilogy, as the author says, is one story told from different angles. Kiš’ prose is deeply metaphysical, deeply intuitive. The obsession with transience and disappearance brings constant anguish. In the story of the Encyclopedia of the Dead, through the main character, as the author would later say, the writer forebodes (actually invokes) illness and death. These things should not be taken lightly, he would say later, in illness. Danilo Kiš is another Serbian writer whose life and work were marked by controversy. The book The Tomb of Boris Davidovich (1976) provoked turbulent controversies, after which Kish leaves for Paris, in a kind of voluntary exile. At the “Andrić Award” ceremony, not by chance, he quoted Andrić’s words: “Still, nowhere is like in your own country, and I, there, cannot live either with her or without her.” As a proofreader and translator, he lived in France, with interruptions. He spoke several languages, but: “One can only know one language truly, the one in which he writes... I can say that I truly know only one language: Serbian. And that is the language in which I write in Paris too.” Danilo Kiš, a writer of great momentum and magic, an excellent stylist, is one of the key Serbian and European writers of the second half of the 20th century. Demystifying the world through metaphysical quest, this unusual disheveled master, left-oriented, expresses doubts in God already as a boy, after his mother’s disease and death. Ali But, before the awareness of imminent end, he explicitly asks in his will to be buried in Belgrade, according to the Orthodox ritual, without speeches.
L I F E ,
N O V E L S
DRAGAN HAMOVIĆ, A POET WHO PUSHES BACK DARKNESS, FIERY AND GENTLY
The Age of Processing People into Mass The turmoil we are living is fully controlled. There are two crucial targets of the global attack: self-conscious personality and cultural memory. A human and a society without heritage are deprived of their stronghold, they move at others’ discretion, like chess pieces. In a time of cynics and trick-masters, we have a vengeance of the untalented and pretentious. Identity engineering and occupation of consciousness. Persistent attacks on supporting pillars of internal survival. However, the organic resistance of the “huge minority” is gradually growing, although it has the status of a guerilla in their own country
By: Branislav Matić
ince he discovered the mother book and soft kernel, he became an expert in repairing memories. In his ancestors’ Herzegovina, he has his Hamovina, which he never forgets. In his hometown of Kraljevo, tucked in among dear seekers for direction and measure, he almost became an actor and radio reporter. Since he had studied the science of literature in Belgrade, he has been helping poets understand their poetry. He saw off one Lazar and greeted another. He loves Serbia, both visible and invisible. To those who mock it, he peacefully gives a chance to do their job. Dragan Hamović (Kraljevo, 1970) in National Review. Interplay of homelands. Do we ever think about how many people are built into our individual human structure? Not only those written in the unreadable DNA code, but also a myriad of people whose traces we carried on us during our lifetime. What kind of mixture is active inside of us and through us. We all have the task to survive as one Whole. A targeted and settled Whole. My father’s name and surname come from Herzegovina, on the brink of the unreached sea, from Dol on the edge of Popovo Polje. Father Lazar took us there every summer, to his aged mother and stonemason brother, to his father’s home, under the pretense that
we’re going to Dubrovnik. We did reach the sea, at least for one day, and then hurried back to Herzegovina. Lazar was fed up with salty water and Ragusa in his youth. He was student of the Dubrovnik Gymnasium, just like my oldest uncle Mladen, student of the generation in the postwar years. My grandfather Svetozar passed the road from an ordinary worker to foreman in “Dubrovnik Steamboat Navigation”, which
Note about the Road Passed Dragan Hamović (Kraljevo, 1970) graduated from the Serbian Language and Literature Group of the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade in 1995, defended a magister thesis in 2008 (“Poetry and Poetics of Jovan Hristić”) and doctoral thesis in 2010 (“Poetry of Stevan Raičković and Poetic Environment in the Second Half of the XX Century”). He worked as editor in chief of the “Povelja” magazine and publishing of the National Library in Kraljevo (1997–2002), and as library director from 2001. He was editor in the Belgrade Institute for Textbook Publishing (2003–2011) and is presently senior research associate in the Institute of Literature. Books of poetry: “Darknesses, Mocks” (1992), “Appointee” (1994), “The Mother Book” (2007), “Album of Early Verses” (2007), “Fiery and Gently” (2012), “Dragon in an Egg” (2013), “Shouldering” (2015), “Soft Kernel” (2016), “Fixing Memories” / „Ремонт воспоминаний“ (2017). He won the “Milan Bogdanović” award for literary criticism (2006), and the SANU Award from the Endowment of Branko Ćopić fund for his poetry collection “The Mother Book” (2008), and for the “Soft core” collection the “Zmaj Award” by Matica Srpska (2016)... He has been living and working in Belgrade since 2003.
L I F E ,
As a boy, with parents and sister In a garden, 1970s With a hat, mid-1970s
Portrait from 2001
N O V E L S
was a seed of his becoming a gentleman. He built a new house in the village in the thirties, very humble, and saved money. When the war came, everything except the house was destroyed. I don’t remember him, he survived Endehazi (Independent State of Croatia) in Dubrovnik, but didn’t live long after that. My great-grandfather Staniša cultivated his moustache. I know it from a picture. I’m not sure if he wore them as a young rebel in the bloody Vučji Do. In his old age, he lived to be woken up in the middle of the night to flee from the Ustashas, who began throwing Serbs from nearby villages into a pit in Ržani Do. Most of them were from Veličani, where Stana, my father’s mother, Velička, came from. From my father’s homeland I remember the abundance of whitish stone and, opposite to the roughness of the landscape, gentle faces of cousins, glowing because of Lazar’s arrival from Serbia. Grandma Stana, very weak, blessed us with a sad smile. The essence of the social life of Hamovina, our summer Agora, flowing with laughter, was on a high terrace of my grandfather’s house. I wrote about it in my lyrical prose “Home Upbringing”, used as an introduction to my book Soft Kernel.
Born at the Age of Fourteen – Nataša Kovačević, a great expert in literature, Freud, Jung and theater, gymnasium professor, an essayist with a wide swing and imaginative prose writer, but most of all a master of oral seduction by the mind, brought us together in the drama studio in Kraljevo. We began with the theater of absurd, grotesque Ionesco, who suited us well. “I was fourteen when I was born” – are the first words I sent from the scene, under a Napoleon cap. The audience laughed, and I myself didn’t know what to think about it.
Upon the wish of his father, my father enrolled in medical school in Belgrade, but soon ran away from dissecting rooms to study bloody history, with Otrogorski and Vasa Čubrilović. He didn’t care to wait for the promised position in the Military Historical Institute – he wanted to teach, so he reached Kraljevo, my mother’s old school. Not far from it was a new white house by the river, where Ljubinka Marković, young doctor-microbiologist, ceremonially brought him in, to spend the rest of his life there. My mother, the only daughter of Dragomir and Radmila, is still keeping my parents’ house and yard in Ribnica nice, keeping herself up at the same time, and, whenever I can, I return to it as to my port of origin. The female line relates me to the area of Kraljevo, while all male characters are from somewhere: my father from Herzegovina, mother’s father from Podrinje, and my mother’s grandfather from Studenica. Thus I gained an expanded feeling of homeland. My children, however, thanks to their mother’s homeland, can add the Kumanovo area to their ancestors’ topography, near Staro Nagoričane and heroic Zebrnjak, plucked from Serbia in 1945, without consideration of the Serbian population around Milutin’s wonderful, now desolated endowment. Kraljevo in the personal myth. My hometown of Kraljevo, as I have seen it in the times of early intimate forming, wasn’t difficult to fall in love with. The irrefutable feeling of protection, from my Ribnica backyard below the Ibar confluence, spread further to the area of the city, which was given a freshly painted, urban face in the seventies. An ex-
L I F E ,
At Zemun Quay, with his son
N O V E L S
cerpt of old Kraljevo was preserved on the left side of the main street: “Zadužbina” kafana, a row of single-storey craftsmen workshops and other stores, the massive building of the “Pariz” restaurant on the circular square designed already in Miloš’s time, and finally the Church of Holy Trinity (duke’s endowment) and the park around the quarters of Vasa Popović, duke of the Požega nahi. In the early eighties, a monument to warriors from liberation wars, pushed aside to the edge of the city cemetery for two decades, was returned to the circular square. The top of the lance of the folded war flag, which the bronze soldier with a šajkača is hugging, again became the central point of the city circle. Mrs. Žiča prayed in silence, outside of the main traffic routes, because the sanctity was represented by bones of executed fellow citizens, united under the grassy plane behind the railway station. The stories my grandma always told about fears and troubles during the occupation wove an invisible net around me. A new era of growth began at the beginning of high school, when I found myself in a small box of the renewed “Kraljevo October” Theater, together with other young seekers for their direction and their measure. I was shy and introvert – as my bright sister would say – like a savage. As if I was on my way to execution. I’m no different nowadays, but
then it was too obvious. I often pretended to be funny, and it sometimes hit the target. Then, at the same time, I discovered journalism in high school. The local radio and weekly, from the highest floors of the so-called Home of Social Organizations, were my realistic roof of silent longings. I wore a bulky “Uher” and microphone, playing reporter, with a certain effect. I wasn’t only shy, but a bit dumb as well; I got stuck while searching for the real word – just like today. I was longing for journalism printed on paper, not thrown into the air, but Ibar News was a serious newspaper after all. In the school year on the edge of maturity, before the army, my life was marked by the figure of Professor Ružica Lazarević. She had a grumpy mask, as well as various whims and childish outbursts. She used to forgive us, with an accomplice’s smile, what no one would, and was too strict in unexpected moments. She spread a series of names before us, which were only waiting for literature students. She wasn’t a local, persistently addressed us formally, and lived alone. When the flames of democracy and wars for Tito’s heritage broke out, I lost all my enthusiasm for journalism. Poetry kept me going. In the background of the initial public tests, I wrote verses, reduced, free and starry. I wasn’t convinced they have some specific strength, although I knew I wasn’t lying.
Thus I met my friend by vocation, Milivoje Pajović, whose poems, strange and beyond the mind, increased my distrust in mine. He also painted dreamy paintings, relying on himself from early days and capable of many things. We designed and created two auteur plays from our still unprinted poems. We performed them ourselves. On the piano and cello, we were supported by real future actors, Dugalić and Kubura. Pajović then joined the army and went a long way. We all went a pretty long way. I never thought I’d ever leave Kraljevo. After my literature studies, I rushed to return home, because the doors of paradise of the city library opened up for me. Today, young people, even the best ones, most often find doors closed. Nevertheless, the moment came seven years later, when two visible hands (and one invisible) invited me to set off from there. So I did, humbly, still keeping my eyes on my place of birth. What I couldn’t turn into a personal myth there, I managed to at a decent, irrevocable distance. The hyperbola called Belgrade. I like to watch Belgrade from a high periphery, above the Tošin Bunar train station, from where, a century ago, Austro-Hungarians fired cannons at Serbia. I see through the imagined limes, the borderline fate of the scattered
crazy settlement. In the metropolis’ stream With family and rush, the belvedere crushes into fragments, a whirlwind of pictures. The lookout point on the edge of Bežanijska Kosa – during the day or in the evening light of electric galaxies – becomes my “thinking hill” and my bow for unlimited internal journeys. Belgrade is tawdry with its effective, wasteful and empty signs of a megalopolis, but still carries remains of the local intimacy of a recent polis. Belgrade is constant movement, flowing and disappearing. Belgrade is a collage of incompatible microworlds, which will never meet, or, even if they do run into one another – they won’t even take a look at each other. Belgrade is the true reflection of our
Comics – I practiced my hand, ink and pen, studied general and local history of comics, followed all selected comics editions. I devoured authors of the French-Belgian school, realistic and caricature types, became mature for Hugo Pratt and Corto Maltese. The Italian roto series were in the past, except for crazy characters of Magnus & Bunker in the irresistible translation from Zagreb. I read our comic writers, mostly Bane Kerc, sometimes more from patriotism. I envied the Croatians for having Maurović, Radilović and Nojgebauer brothers, a bit surprised for finding names such as Solovyev, Lobachev, Kuznetsov or Navoev in the Belgrade editions between the wars, with excellent transfer of Serbian folk fairytales and epics into comics.
L I F E ,
N O V E L S
incompleteness, for which we could acquire some stronger justifications. Belgrade is an expression of longing for stepping out into the worlds we do belong to, but never will. For me, Belgrade is a polygon where I’m forced to overcome my inertias and limitations and continuously reminds me of them. A world traveler and runaway to Belgrade once said that the beloved city of his youth “swelled up beyond all bounds and turned its back on Serbia.” However, it generously offers itself to all those who continuously show that they don’t deserve such an attitude. Belgrade is a huge exaggeration. That is why poets love it, from Crnjanski and Popa to tender pop-authors. And everyone adds his part to the hyperbola called Belgrade. In the core of experiencing Serbia. If I said, partially as a joke, that Belgrade seems to me like a huge exaggeration, I can rightfully say that I experience Serbia as a kind of my extended, higher individuality, unfathomable in space and time, opposite to my personal narrowness and weakness of any kind. And such Serbia is based on figures I first adopted while adopting life. They were not just transmitters of a common legend – uninvented and worthy of respect – but before all carriers of unconditional love and constant donators of sacrificial gifts to their offspring and their vocations. If Serbia is a female word, its first impersonation is my mother’s mother, from Studenica by her father’s line – as she liked to underline. Thus the word Studenica didn’t come into my mind as the first royal lavra, but as a sign of a living force and decisiveness, fighting and openhandedness of my grandma. Grandma Radmila was the only constant in the house and the living connection with the entire living and passed away people we
are directed to. She was liveliness itself, first With writer for her family and then further on. Liveli- Miodrag Pavlović ness in working, liveliness in words. A mother melody, cast into quick sound and mind With composer sparks. A shirt is nearer than a coat. “A ray Svetislav Božić peeks through the twigs and greets the sun- and poet Miroslav light”, a trembling pillar of her voice would Maksimović shed sunlight on the kitchen. Grandma is the Serbia that fights and suffers, doesn’t give in, in its own small, family history. As a grown up, in the core of experiencing Serbia, I realized the above described picture. Serbia is the ardently wanted, only occasionally reachable, projection of an extended family, the one that greeted me at my entrance into this world and raised me. The home, where I’m among my people, both present and justifiably absent. That is why I intimately noted the moment when the lyrical picture of “Genuine Serbia” clears up, a land of sparkling shadows guarding and caring about their close ones on this side of life: “Immense is the resistance of our caring shadows, / They’re armed with reasonless, exceptional love. / With them we’re defended from everything in advance. / A gathering of victorious souls. Heavenly Serbian army.” In other words, my closest ones are to blame for such an irrealistic experience of Serbia. Yes, it’s a sin indeed. However, we are living in a time of derogation of everything that was glowing and glistening inside In Matica of our dark ranges, so many will mock this Srpska in Novi confession of mine. I’m giving them the opSad, below the portunity. Let them do their job. portraits of poets Culture in the epoch of the mass. The Jovan Jovanović Zmaj and Laza turmoil we live is fully controlled. We can single out two crucial targets of the global Kostić, after attack. One target is His Majesty The Selfreceiving the Conscious Individual, on whose behalf – “Zmaj Award” that is, on behalf of the department called for 2016
L I F E ,
In Prizren of Our Lady of Left in 2016
N O V E L S
Reason – the authority of legends are disputed since European Enlightenment. And now even that notorious Reason is disintegrating. The second target is the remaining cultural memory, verified by experience, collected from available sources for the purpose of orientation in life. A man and a society without heritage are deprived of a stronghold, they move at others’ discretion, like chess pieces. There is too much abuse and, as Lotman wrote, “metacultural wrangling” inside the “concept” and “practices” praised today. The role of rebellious destructors of the petrified culture from a hundred years ago is something completely different from the contemporary annulling of any meaning, a grain of salt of human creation, leveling the high and the low, the deep and the shallow. Both in science and in art. Freedom has allegedly been conquered, but only the conscientious know how to use it. The mightiest wave it and manipulate widely and refinedly. Those who create beyond the logics of the system publicly don’t exist, regardless of resources they are gifted with. In the time of cynics and soulless trick masters, we have a vengeance of the untalent-
ed, yet pretentious ones. Processing of the personality and cultural community into a mass for mashing. Impersonality against personality. We are losing the solid soil of our ancestors beneath our feet, every day a bit more. However, the organic resistance of the “huge minority” is gradually growing, becoming more directed and more necessary. Nothing is resolved. Anyone who resists carries “a part of the solution”. From the Serbian aspect. Serbian cultural self-consciousness, nonsystematic and headstrong, has been under someone’s accusation since a long time ago. However, the serious accusations today, rewritten and translated, come from the inside, even from those with a strong ambition to lead, change it and make new foundations for it. The strike of harsh power is replaced by persistent strikes on supporting pillars of internal survival. For example, our public consciousness has never recorded the heaviness of the fact that, since the disintegration of the previous state illusion, Cyrillic alphabet and Serbian books were removed and turned into ashes in new neighboring states. And that, before the
eyes of the peace troops, our books from the Priština library, just like churches and houses, were burned without disruption. Serbia is, in a conciliatory way, accepting forgeries and ruthless twisting, for the sake of an unequal, forced cooperation with others. Its friends are convincing her that all the horrible stigmas are deserved. The identity engineers of new nations are plucking, when needed, from our language and cultural property. A strategic cultural response is lacking, apart from persistent indications and resistance of individuals and institutions, which have the status of a guerilla in their own country. And a response is a necessity, in the name of survival, and not only because of justice, which, as our elders said, holds the country and cities. Public commentators on duty do not even hide the lack of elementary national self-respect or surplus of their ideological resentment towards Serbian heritage. In the magma of such heads, any involvement in favor of the suppressed Cyrillic alphabet is followed by lowest political etiquettes. In cases of long-term anticultural activities and brutal testimonies pointed against
all visible Serbian signs, our selfless yugo With Professor spherical spirits do not react or just relativ- Jovan Delić in front ize them, seeking higher justifications and of the Temple making strained or unsustainable parallelof Christ’s isms. Occupied consciousnesses are aspirResurrection ing towards completing the occupation. in Podgorica We are continuing to fix our cultural character according to what others want to reduce or lower us to, not according to what we really are. Along with the threatening announcements of open lustrations, new commissaries among us, powerfully supported, are already greatly cleaning up the present cultural terrain from nationalists, implied butchers. Just like Slobodan Jovanović and Dučić, Crnjanski and Rastko, Milan Kašanin and Grigorije Božović,
Cross in a Stone – My good uncle Stanko, master of stonemasonry, which Popovo Polje has always been famous for, small in stature and able to break hard hills, was a great man in my eyes. He additionally grew after his death, when I discovered that, together with his father-in-law Đorđe Vulić, he created the tombstone in the form of a cross for the miraculously announced grave of the mother of St. Basil of Ostrog in Mrkonjići. In the sixties, it was an almost illegal action of the Bishop and the oppressed faithful people.
L I F E ,
N O V E L S
The Dragon within Us – ... Did the dragon (who is not a monster in Serbian legends, but impersonation of secret protective forces) lie sadly imprisoned on the bottom of my hard shell up to then? Then, through the first crack, he broke through the wall of his dungeon and sang in a clear voice: “What force the egg haves, / What kind of miracle lies in eggs!” A child in us is a much stronger factor that we dare to admit, as a soft and indestructible core of existence and pledge of survival. That is how I understood it then and I level myself now according to it.
At the revelation of a monument to the poet Stevan Raičković at Kalemegdan in Belgrade
Photo: Archive of the interviewee
a series of spiritually selected and unique people were classified as degenerates and villains in 1945 and on. Our direction is still not determined by our strategic ideas, but by the pressure of circumstances, the reality of external actions towards us. We are denying ourselves the right to our own direction. Others are directing us and we are thankful because they’re still not beating us – they even praise us from time to time. We haven’t been such even at times we consider the most inglorious. Gates of poetry and sentences-sparks. Nothing recommended me in advance for the literary vocation. Neither much reading nor writing excellent school assignments. I was more into reading and drawing comics – ever since I concluded that someone draws the comics based on someone else’s story. Poets that didn’t belong to the school program – and those that did repel me without exception – attracted me with their strange names. I heard about them from my strange logics professor, lyrical satiric Dimitrije Jovanović, who rather introduced us to the alogics of poetry. From this unusual beardy Marxist, I heard about Vinaver, Drainac, Libero, as well as common names that immediately sounded unusual: Branko V. Radičević (where did the V. come from?) or Brana Petrović (how come a man named Brana?). All of a sudden, words, words, words started flowing. More a sorcery than understanding. Out of nowhere, on the shelves on the ground floor of “Beograd” Department Store in Kraljevo, I noticed a copy of the bluish Albatross Anthology by Gojko Tešić, with Vinaver and other strange and estranged names and texts. On the shelves – yes, in the department store! – were also discrete poetry collections of Česlav Miloš and Borges: Hymn of a Pearl and Code. Even stranger words, without
bright colors and loud cries. They invoked me, with their inarticulate language, which I understood just necessary enough for the beginning. New titles and names kept coming – new discovering and discoveries. Crnjanski, for example, was a strange name whose vastness I traveled across. I summed the discoveries in the “Ballad of Crnjanski”, awarded, due to absence of real competition, by Our Factory magazine. My first published poem with a so-called interview (made of my distraught sentences made decent by the reporter) appeared in the newspaper of the big Wagon Factory, which initiated the creation of workers and home environment. (One of the workers was my aunt Javorka, mechanical engineer and magister from Birmingham, with poems that floated half way between Desanka and Eliot.) At my philology studies, I couldn’t read what I wanted to, realizing that history of literature is paved with pieces necessary only for my exams. In the eve of the wartime nineties, Belgrade bookstores, in ambushes behind every corner from Kalemegdan to Slavija, were packed with cheap editions. I brought bundles of books literally every day to my student room in Konjarnik. Many are still waiting for me today. And will never live to see me. At the beginning, I narrowed and thickened in my poems, according to theoretical justifications of the modern era that one mustn’t write in a human way anymore. I didn’t have what to write about, I wasn’t sure how to write, but the matrix of fixed verse began challenging me. I started believing such a frame of mine, because it tamed the huge force and amorphousness of words. Most people around me wrote and thought differently. Old Lazar departed crying in pain and the young one arrived crying, both in a short time range. After an immeasurably long silence, I let my voice free again. First The Mother Book, then Fiery and Gentle. Afterwards, a sentence-spark of my son Lazar one ice-cold night fired me up to self-combustion. He said, along the way, or at least I heard – Dragon Drinks Tea. The suppressed mythical source boiled out and I tasted the pure fascination of playing, as never before or after, writing poems from a naive, somewhat children’s manuscript Dragon in an Egg. Everything came by as long prepared, waited for.
H O R I Z O N S POET PREDRAG BJELOŠEVIĆ, PRESIDENT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF WRITERS OF THE REPUBLIC OF SRPSKA
In Brotherhood of Poetic Grace
There are many poets today and very little poetry. One must not succumb to the spirit of consumerism, dilettantism and scribomania. The face of Serbian literature is guarded by excellent individuals who survive in the struggle against windmills like Don Quichotte. High culture and art have always been the minority, but they have found ways to save themselves, society, humankind. Today, perhaps more than ever, we need self-awareness, a cultural strategy and a prudent guardian state By: Sandra Klјajić
fter more than four decades of literary work, the opus of this poet, storyteller, translator, director and playwright includes eleven books of poetry for adults, two short story books, four books of poetry for children, numerous plays, screenplays and dramatizations for puppet theater for children and adults. The poetry of Predrag Bjelošević has been translated into Russian, German, English, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Polish, Czech, Slovenian, and his books of selected poems for adult have been published in Italian in Naples, in French in Paris and in Macedonian in Skopje. He is also the laureate of a number of distinguished awards. He is the president of the Association of Writers of the Republic of Srpska.
Biography Predrag Bjelošević (Banjaluka, 1953), poet, storyteller, translator, director and playwright. He studied economics, literature and directing. He earned his master’s degree in directing from the National Academy of Film and Theater Arts in Sofia. He was the Director and Artistic Director of the Children’s Theater of the Republic of Srpska from 1993 to 2018, full member of the Academy of Slavic Art and Literature in Varna, President of the Association of Writers of the Republic of Srpska from 2016. He has received many literary, theater and social awards and recognitions, both in Srpska and abroad. He has been included in several selections of contemporary Serbian, Bosnian-Herzegovinian and South Slavic poetry.
What is the current state, and what is the future of the literary scene in Srpska? It is not much different from the literary scene in Serbia. We face similar and identical problems, except that our književna literary works printed in Latin alphabet in B&H and Croatia are often appropriated and treated as works written in “Bosnian” or Croatian. It is another reason why we need to define ourselves even more toward our Cyrillic alphabet, as we have defined ourselves within two equal Serbian dialects, Ekavian and Jekavian, and we use them as a free choice of each of our citizens. The Association currently has more than 170 members, and is increasingly active, thanks to the maturing of awareness that only together we can change the conditions in which writers in the Republic of Srpska create and live. We expect already this year to become an association of public interest for the Republic of Srpska. The Association is successfully developing its own publishing activity. In September, it will be the fourth year of the International Literary Encounters in Banjaluka, where an international literary award is awarded each year, and its previous winners are: Russian poet Vyacheslav Kupriyanov for 2017, American poet John Taylor for 2018, and this year in September the award will be presented to the Italian poet Giorgio Linguaglossa. The distinguished writers of
H O R I Z O N S
At a book promotion in Banjaluka
the Association of Writers of the Republic (such as Ranko Risojević, Zoran Kostić, Ranko Pavlović...) have received the highest literary awards in Serbia and worldwide. Last year, the first book of selected poems by poets of the Republic Srpska in a foreign language was published by the Polish publisher “Kampe” in London. Today, there is a number of younger talented writers in the literary scene of Srpska, whose works are already being published by renowned publishers in Serbia and the world, so the future of the written literary word is more than certain. IMPORTANCE OF NATIONAL CULTURAL STRATEGY You have emphasized that the role of writers in preserving the Serbian language and Cyrillic alphabet in this region is crucial. How can they best fulfill this duty? It’s always been that way. For writers, language is the basic instrument, so it is logical that they are most interested in its preservation, improvement and legal standardization. Serbian language and the Cyrillic alphabet are of particular national interest, and the attitude of society to the writers, language and alphabet
is crucial. Therefore, I support all those who appeal to the authorities to urgently improve the status of the writers in the society, as well as the associations of writers themselves at the national level. The disrespectful attitude towards the writers causes far-reaching consequences and reflects on the generations of those who learn Serbian language and write in Cyrillic. Take a look around and see advertisements in public places, script on office doors, sports courts and you will understand! A sad feeling. It is as if we are ashamed of our alphabet, which we should be proud of. Is it possible to preserve small languages and cultures in the temptations brought by globalization today, or is “modernization without Westernization” possible? Of course it is possible, but to the extent of the linguistic self-awareness of the nation and well thought-through cultural policy. We can conclude this by relations in the European Union. Can the Hungarians in this regard, or the Poles, Romanians, be endangered by someone in this respect? If a nation is not self-aware of itself and its particular cultural and spiritual heritage, then it has condemned itself to disappear.
One thing is clear: one must have and respect one’s own national cultural strategy. If it has been adopted by consensus of all relevant Serbian parties, based on the proposals of institutions and reputable creators in the fields of culture and art, then it has a strong support for its survival and strong footholds in cultural heritage in all areas where our people live. How much and what impact does true literature have on society today? The literary scene today is dominated by the general galimatias in which everything is possible and everything is supposed to have value. The media, in which literary beginners and dilettante writers are increasingly present can be blamed for this to a large extent. We can hardly find negative reviews in literary magazines for even the lowest quality works and kitsch literature. The illusion was created that we are living a literary renaissance, because of the flood of new titles and authors, and the truth is that everything and anything is being published and that it is even seen as a positive phenomenon. I cannot escape the impression that the word of the writer has never been more meaningless in the society. In all likelihood, we have entered the
unprepared the embrace of the new political system and market economy, where profit is the primary goal and the slogan is that “the goal justifies the means”. The readers re being served, primarily, “light literature” promoted by instant publishing kitchen, offering us nicely packed “works” by amateurs, dilettantes and scribomans of every kind. In such an environment, one cannot expect a significant role of literature or any literary influence on society. The face of Serbian literature is guarded by excellent individuals who survive in the fight against windmills as Don Quichottes. On the one hand is an unregulated society, on the other an army of literary adventurers who have considerable influence today and to a great extent create a social opinion about culture and literature itself, which is devastating.
With Kolja Mićević, at poetry meeting in Lodève, France
FOR THE TRUE READER, EVEN THE ONLY ONE Can high culture and art then survive? Higher culture and art have always been the minority, but they have found a way to impose themselves and survive in society as something special and important, something to be looked up to
H O R I Z O N S
because it establishes the visions of the beautiful, and something that defines in the right way the time in which we live, the nation, even civilization itself. Every high level art, by its content, its manner of conveying the message and its style, eludes the average consumer, but with its peculiarity intrigues him, entices him and makes him think about it. The social community plays the most important role in preserving and developing a highly professional culture and art – also because of its, most often, being non-profit. The state must be the guardian and guarantor for its cultural and literary heritage, but also a caring promoter and instigator of contemporary literary, cultural and other artistic values. Today we live increasingly fast but with more uncertainty. In such life circumstances, the book is also linked to quick use and pure relaxation, and every valuable literary work requires the time and knowledge of its more educated readers, those literary connoisseurs who are increasingly fewer in number. The reason for this in our country is also the evident decrease in the educational standard of the population who grew up, was educated and acquired reading habits in inhuman, war and post-war conditions. To improve this situation, serious systemic measures are needed.
You have said once that every poet cares In Venice to be properly read. How can you achieve this? At a literary The writer cannot, in principle, influevening with ence the opinion of his readers. Every- Ljubivoje Ršumović thing depends on who reads and what kind of foreknowledge they have for what they are reading. I do not think that the writer should try to appease the reader and think about what someone will say after reading, but should write what is essential and in their own way, what they have to say. I am not a fan of light-winged writing that puts words into a sound mold, most often “rhyming nonsense”, unless it is really perfect and necessary because of the solemnity of the message. The times of big words and pompous elations that brought the masses to their knees are behind us. For me, poetry is the perfection of the harmony of thought and form, the
Workshop Predrag Bjelošević does not stop. he announces a new book of poetry. He is also preparing a book of translations “My Random Russian Poet Companions”, which has been created for the last thirty years. It will feature artists such as Valery Bryusov, Nikolay Gumilyov, Arseny Tarkovsky, Bella Akhmadulina, Vyacheslav Kupriyanov... For the past two years he has been writing the play for youth entitled “Nikola Tesla”, trying to adapt it to the magical puppet theatre. (...)
H O R I Z O N S
Playing chess with writer Ranko Risojević
Photo: Archive of the interviewee
music of words and the silence that overwhelms us after encountering its poignantly profound meaning. The time has come that Branko Milјković denied, the time when everyone will write poems. Yes, everyone can write in the form of a poem, and many do, but not poetry. Back in 1998, I received a letter from Wieslaw Rustecki, a Polish poet and translator for Serbian. Although we hadn’t known each other, he wrote to me that the poetry from my book, Speech, Silence, which he accidentally bought at an antique shop in Belgrade, helped him more easily withstand the depressing Warsaw autumns rain, new times and diabetes, and that he would therefore translate and publish the poems in Polish, which is what he did not long afterwards. And I received a confirmation that he honestly thought this five years later. As the director of the Children’s Theater of the Republic of Srpska, I toured to the famous Gulliver Theatre in Warsaw. After the performance of Little Elf (award of the Duchy of Podlaskie in Lomza), at the ceremony organized to hour honor by our Polish friends, Wieslaw Rustecki also showed up. Reminding me of the words from the letter, he now gave me a very unusual gift as a sign of gratitude: the icon of the Mother of God which he painted himself. Therefore,
I write for such people, strangers, with whom I share the spiritual poetic grace, even if it is only one man, who will feel my poetic messages as if they were part of his life. OUR UNIQUE COMPULSION You write poems for adults and children, stories and dramas. How do you decide to write a specific literary genre? The literary genre is choosing me at the right moment, and not vice versa, and I don’t want to hold it back. It all just comes by itself, probably depending on your current preoccupation in life. I think this is the best because what we write about and feel deeply is not just a product of our mere desire to describe or present something. I never write to be “in” or because a particular topic may be profitable. My story books are close to what is called poetic prose. I am prone to poetic prose because I think it is closer to my poetic vocation, and prose itself sometimes has more poetry than many poetry collections. The first written word, with its sound and meaning, suggests and triggers in us all subsequent words and sentences, from which the good pages of poetry in prose works, and good prose in contemporary poetry are created.
Poetry, as Aristotle said, is the highest form of drama, so I experience all of my “poetic” genres that I write as a unity of my own compulsion. You have devoted a good part of your life to the Children’s Theater of the Republic of Srpska, where you have served as director and artistic director for over twenty-five years. What do you consider to be your biggest success there? Children’s Theater is one of the most beautiful and best equipped in the region today. When I came there in 1993, I had at my disposal three talented actors without formal education, a space that was leaking, with almost no spotlights or good quality equipment. When I left it, there remained an ensemble of artists who have won all the greatest awards wherever we were performing, and we performed in eighteen countries. I think these facts speak volumes for themselves and make me proud. I cannot but mention the Museum of Theatrical Dancing Puppets, within the theater, which I have been creating with my closest associates for decades. Today it is the only museum of its kind in Southeast Europe, a brand in the culture of Banjaluka, Srpska and B&H. The puppets from the Museum have been exhibited in Bucharest, Budapest, Ljubljana, Subotica, Belgrade, as well as in Dongguan, China. The
Children’s Theater of the Republic of Srpska has been almost my first home for twentyfive years, and I will always remain loyal to it and help it, it if anyone thinks it needed help. I will do so also from my present unpretentious status of a pensioner.
At the Museum of Theater Puppets in Banjaluka
You say one must believe in dreams and then dreams come true. Did yours come true? Our reality is the dreams of the past came true, our dreams project the future of humanity, I wrote in The Dreamers, From No-Dream and I truly think so. I think we all go after our dreams. Dreams can come true and do come true. Some dreams come true during or lifetime, and the realization of some of other dreams of ours will be seen by the generations that come after us. Many of my dreams have come true, and if they all had, I would have been, as a man, a thinking being, superfluous or, more precisely, dead.
The Sad Prince Among the productions of the Children’s Theater of the Republic of Srpska authored by Predrag Bjelošević, “The Sad Prince” has a special place. This performance of the contemporary shadow theater was performed within the competition program of the thirty-second BITEF, as well as in Moscow, London, Varna, Sofia, Perugia, Omsk, Izmir, Pecs, Thessaloniki... From everywhere it returned with the highest awards and recognitions.
ViĹĄegrad, Bridge on the Drina: the most famous destination in Serbian literature