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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
APPROACHING THE BEIJING BOOK FAIR
he International Book Fair in the capital of China is one of the world gatherings of this kind, where Serbian literature, publishing and culture will be presented in 2019. From both Serbia and Srpska. The presentation, like this 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), 90 years since the birth of Aleksandar Popović (1929–1996), 30 years since the death of Danilo Kiš (1935–1989), 70 years since the death of Rastko Petrović (1898–1949), 120 years since the birth of Rade Drainac (1899–1943)... A century since the publishing of the milestone collection of poems Lyrics of Ithaca (1919–2019) by Miloš Crnjanski.” A special importance will be given to the 800th anniversary since the gaining independence of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as well as the 810th anniversary of the birth of the Studenica Typikon. This important manuscript of St. Sava, the first Serbian archbishop, is embedded in the foundations of the Serbian Church, but is also “a work equally important for the development of the Serbian language, alphabet and law”. National Review, once again in its dedicated volume, as well as a series of other representative editions, will be in Beijing. At the stand of its country. We have prepared a thematic edition on the reflections of high Chinese culture and civilization in the works of great Serbian poets and writers, such as Miloš Crnjanski, Miodrag Pavlović, Stevan Raičković, Vasko Popa, Dragoslav Andrić... We explore the lives and works of writers whose anniversaries are celebrated. We also publish interviews with writers Ljubivoje Ršumović and Tatjana Stupar Trifunović... Since friends are always close, Beijing cannot be far away.
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: Anniversaries of Serbian culture in 2019 (Design: 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
B R I D G E S CHINA ON THE HORIZON OF THE SERBIAN 20TH CENTURY LITERATURE
World in a Dew Drop
From the “Anthology of the Chinese Lyrical Poetry” by Miloš Crnjanski from 1923, until the end of the past millennium, the best names of Serbian literature wrote about China. Miodrag Pavlović, Stevan Raičković, Vasko Popa, Dragoslav Andrić... The magnetism and depth of China, its antiquity and wise austerity, the language of archetypes and intimacy of the entire universe, have encountered elevated responses among the Serbs. Everyone will choose according to their measure but, in any case, it is a solid foundation for the Serbian-Chinese cultural bridges “in the future that we have met, in the past that is yet to come” By: Branislav Matić
Great Wall of China
B R I D G E S A Buddhist temple
One of the images of Buddha in China
illions of silences and distances have passed, nameless and difficult to observe. China appeared on the horizon of Serbian culture, first of all literature, in the 20th century. It is not much different in other European cultures. An occasional earlier case is worth mentioning just as a curiosity. (Dragoslav Andrić: “Marco Polo? It is not China’s contact with the West, but the West with China, missed, anyway, because Venice continued to keep its binoculars pointed in that direction only backwards.”) Once it appeared “in the ring of the eyesight” of Serbian literature, the best authors wrote about China. Her magnetism and depth, her antiquity, in other words sacredness, the dedication in every movement and action, wise austerity of words, the language of myth and archetype, the radiation of powerful symbols, intimacy of the entire universe, her all in all, that world in a dew drop, quickly found their reflections in Serbian literature. This is undoubtedly a topic of a major study and academic work. .. For this occasion, preparing for Serbia’s appearance at the Beijing International Book Fair 2019, we will mention some of that. What we consider the most important at first sight. Let’s take this as a cue the discussions that will be continued in the northern capital of China. ON THE TOP OF SILVER REED “The peak of everything translucent, calm, eternal, ethereal, which can be reached by spirit and feelings.” This is how the twenty nine year old Miloš Crnjanski experiences Chinese and Japanese poetry, which he translated in Paris, shortly after the Great War, and creates its first anthology in Serbian. “This anthology of mine is, of course, the first work of this kind in our country. (...)
The hardest part of my work was, therefore, the selection of the text. Thus, in Paris, having established the text, I spent long and bright nights in museums, which never touched the ground from the sight, but only touched the tip of the silver reed, on old silk. They would lead me to a peaceful smile, with which one can only understood the text of Lao Tzu. Afternoons in the halflit museum Guimet, before the spring arrived, with the stone heads around whose lips hovers a soft, hazy smile, helped me more than all the dictionaries and lexicons of the London sinologists.” Crnjanski’s anthology embeds all the most important threads of Chinese poetry. Book of Changes, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Li Tai Po, Du Fu, Wang Wei. “Cherries in China” led to Sumatraism to the unsurpassed “substance of pure lyricism” that we recognize at the core of the verses of Crnjanski himself, especially where he reaches his own peaks. Crnjanski writes to his Belgrade publisher Svetislav B. Cvijanović from Paris on January 30, 1921: “...I have two things and one I would very much gladly give to you, because of that debt. One is Chinese and Japanese songs, about 60 of them, from English and French collections. People swallow them here. I have met two Chinamen at the university, they help me and review and advise. I would also write a longer article on Chinese and Japanese lyrical poetry and philosophy. That would go well. Do you want it?” Cvijanović, for his own reasons, did not want this. But the Publishing Bookstore “Progress” did. The Anthology of Chinese Lyrical Poetry was published in Belgrade in 1923, and since then, just like the Poems of Old Japan from 1928, it had numerous editions. Both of these titles left an important mark in Serbian literature and were an impetus for later anthologies of Chinese poetry in Serbian, significantly influencing the experience of the Far East in Serbian culture. TOWARD THE VAST INNER SPACES In the last quarter of the 20th century, during the socialist Yugoslavia and after the Cultural Revolution in China, a number of great Serbian poets and writers were allowed to go on study tours in the most populous country in the world. These were well thought-through visits, with transla-
B R I D G E S
the tomb of Ming dynasty emperor
tors and selected interviewees, as well as visits to important places of Chinese social life, culture and sacral geography. Without much dilemma, one might say that Miodrag Pavlović, the great poet, essayist, and anthologist, went farthest on one of such trips. In September 1979, he arrived there after a long night flight over Anatolia, the Black Sea, Tehran. He will testify about this in a travelogue published three years later in the Gradina magazine from Niš (“China – The Eye on the Road”, 1982), and later in the book China from 1995. “Even the rumbling of the engine, or stomping of the airplane through the night, or the movement of Chinese flight attendants cannot influence the fact that I felt deep inside: the time has stopped, and my understanding of its lockout is perfect.” At the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, the great poet talks about Chinese poetry, symbolism, folklore. Visits the Imperial Forbidden City. During long meals, almost ceremonial, he becomes familiar with the philosophy of Chinese cuisine from within. Through archaeological findings, he pries into the interior spaces of the Chinese myth. He takes a night train to Yungang, one of the three large groups of Buddhist caves, 380 kilometers northwest of Beijing. In Datong, a city of almost a million, which he had never heard before, he
absorbs images of everyday life, filled with curiosity and astonishment. He learns important things about Chinese understanding of death and burial. He is delighted with the smoke-filled Chinese Opera, that encounter with “a true, unspoiled people and elevated noble art, which is at the same time his and new, elegant and so deeply human”. Before the graves of the Ming Dynasty emperors, he writes: “This is what Confucianism is, in the name of which this art was re-created. Solid, firm, somewhere distorted, without much imagination and sense of surprise, literal and not completely adjusted to the created spaces of nature. As if I were looking at processions of courtiers during a picnic.” Unlike Ezra Pound, the great admirer of Confucianism, Pavlović is much closer to Buddhist sacredness. ABOUT THE MOUND AND MOUNTAIN “... Even the Chinese wall is the creation of such a spirit that wants to keep the center and knows that it has something to keep”, writes the Serbian poet during a visit to this magnificent building. “The military efficiency of the wall, I realized when I saw it, could never have been particularly great. The effectiveness was in the soul and in the consciousness, in the knowledge
that it is possible to draw one clear line toward the chaotic, unknown and surprising. (...) The parts of the wall I saw were made of finely carved stone, with elegant curves, aesthetically calculated inclinations, and carefully fitted into the hilly syntax of the surroundings.” Miodrag Pavlović also reached Sichuan Province, in the south of the central part of China, east of the Tibetan plateau, in the upper Yangtze River. On the way from the city of Chengdu to the Arvan-Mio Dam, he writes a poem that begins like this: “All of you that I met going to the Sunday pastime on your bikes...” Again he has inspiring encounters and conversations, for example about mythology and mysticism of Yi tribes, passes through new secret chambers of the delicate Chinese cuisine. Marches toward Li Bai and Du Fu, perhaps the greatest Chinese poets from the 8th century AD; they both lived in Sichuan. He talks with painters who create with traditional Chinese techniques. Everything they created before him, in ink or watercolor, they give to him. Would not take money for it. “At night, the bird carries the Moon over the sky. The Great Mother sits on the throne leaning against a tiger and a dragon. She is guarded by a nine-tailed dog. A man from the times of the Eastern Han Dynasty presented himself bowing to his ancestors. (...)”
Seven hours of traveling to Nanking. Then Shanghai. New worlds, new “huge chapters of the Chinese secret”. Museums, parks, antique shops, crisscrossed bridges over waters filled with rose petals, calligraphic poetry workshops, painting in the rolls of papyrus or on silk, deities made of jade. “Incredible, there are still three days left in Shanghai and one and a half in Beijing. The time began by stopping, and continued to run faster. I would like to slow it down somehow. (...)After one journey, a man is left with many debts he cannot repay, memories that come back in unforeseen moments, the need to leaf through pages of diaries and talk in his thoughts with people to whom he has not written letters of gratitude... Dear things also remain which we did not tell until the end in the stories. And the very end of the journey remains vague and ungrasped. (...) One trace remains behind me, made of these dreams, looking like a mixture of smoke and curdled blood. Occasionally shines and I look forward to it.”
B R I D G E S
Terracotta warriors in the Museum of the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty
You can read some excerpts from this travelogue by Miodrag Pavlović on the following pages. Along with these extraordinary travelogues (signed in 1995 by the same editorial hand as this edition before you), Pavlović added his selection from ancient Chinese myths, a selection from the famous Chinese anthology the Source of Old Poems (Gu Shi Yuan), from the Book of Poems (Shijing), from Chu Ci. His selection of Taoist poetry is based on four great poets (Li Po, Wan Wei, Li Shangyin, Huan Tan). From Confucius’s Analects he selected one poem, as well as from Baocin o Pu Min. Three chapters from the book Science and Civilizations in China by Sir Joseph Needham are translated: “On Alchemy and Chemistry”, “On Souls Hun and Fo”, “Wandering the Cosmos”.
As the final touch and icing on top, comes a short selection from Chinese literature of the 20th century, featuring Hu She, Zhangke Jia, Dai Wangshu, Lao She... All this was translated by Zorana Jeremić, Ljilјana Đurović, Nada Saratlić and Miodrag Pavlović himself. With full self-awareness: “I tremble and fear, / Day is heavier than the day. / People do not stumble upon the mountain, / They stumble upon the tomb.” STRANGE COLLUSION Stevan Raičković certainly has a special place among the Serbian poets who wrote about China in the last quarter of the 20th century. And he dedicated an entire book of poetry to these echoes of on China in
The Flowers of Battle Vasko Popa, another key poet of Serbian modernity after World War Two, also had his important trip to China. He is there in 1980, exactly between Miodrag Pavlović (1979) and Stevan Raičković (1982). Popa’s poems “Bowl of Nutritious Snow” and “Fruits of Battle”, published a year later in his book The cut (1981), were created in China and are directly connected to this country. The book “Night Contest”, written in Beijing in 1980, is included in subsequent editions Houses in the Middle of the Road (a selection of poems entitled “Weather Vane”).
him, and reflections of himself in the Chinese mirror. The Chinese Story was published by BIGZ in 1995, more than twelve years after the poet’s journey to China. An encouragement for this “harvest of echoes”, for the “diary in the retrospect”, were two manuscripts that landed on his desk. A collection of old Chinese short stories, later a large collection of Chinese poetry, both translated by Ada Zečević and Mirjana Đurđević. It is hard to say which image flared up in the poet’s mind, what exactly led his hand toward the old folder. On the following pages you can read his introduction and excerpt for the Chinese Story, as packed by the editor Miroslav Maksimović. Self-burdened from the inside by the language barriers, Raičković traveled through
China from himself, not through eyes and words of others, no matter how knowledgeable. We see him (and he sees himself) in Beijing one night as he is listening to the huge swarm of football fans spreading out from a stadium after the game. With Crnjanski, on an imaginary dinner in Yang Zhou, he searches through cherries in China and memories of his dead friends. He explores rice plaster on an old stone palace in Nanking. On a pond called Black Dragon, in a park of the southern Chinese capital, he finds black and white panda cubs and a little house irresistibly attached to with his own life. In Su Zhou he reads through the language of the fingers of female workers in the silk embroidery factory. In a conversation with a Buddhist monk, with the shortest possible name, he suddenly becomes aware of the size of the veil through which he has been looking at the world. In Shanghai, getting lost in a remote neighborhood, he discovers the Jade Buddha Temple and thinks that all his past life was only a dream. Near the town of Yi Zhi he attends a funeral: an old peasants is handed over into the fields he had been farming. In the Palace of Listening to the Wind in the Pines he meets a poet who had been a scarecrow for birds in the fields for four years, at the time of the Cultural Revolution. In a Beijing store, buying silk for
B R I D G E S
Golden Dust By the depth of his understanding David Albahari stands out among the Serbian writers and poets who took upon themselves to translate difficult texts from ancient Chinese treasuries, mostly from European language. See, for example, his translation of Ji Jing (Book of Changes), the eighth edition of which was published in Gornji Milanovac in 1990, or The Secret of the Golden Flower (Chinese Book of Life) published by “Gradina” from Niš. Some of the golden dust from this golden flower can be recognized, sometimes, in Albahari’s prose.
Inside a Chinese many women, he chooses as if he is doing that for only one. The only one. And from Buddhist temple all that, Stevan’s Chinese Story was built, so close to us, born in the last millennium. AN IMAGE BEHIND THE CLOSED EYES Along with the aforementioned Anthology of the Chinese Lyrical Poetry by Miloš Crnjanski (1923), the Anthology of the Old Chinese Poetry by Mirjana Đurđević and Ada Zečević (1995), Anthology of Contemporary Chinese poetry by Chang Xianghu (translated by Radosav Pušić, 1994), the Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry by Dragoslav Andrić stands out among the selections from Chinese literature. It’s most complete and most beautiful edition is the one from Novi Sad, from 2004. Andrić made a selection, comparative translations from French, English, German and Russian, wrote accompanying texts. “Of all Chinese dimensions, it seems that the time dimension is the most difficult to adapt to the European vision”, he writes. “It is also most responsible for such differences in the psychological perspective.” He distributed the enormous material and a large time span into eleven interesting units, the titles of which already speak volumes: Time Conceived by Word (Book of Poems, 11th – 6th century BC). Eye in Eye with Antiq-
uity (The Era of Warring Kingdoms, 4th – 3rd century BC). Following the Trace of Scattered Messages (Han Dynasty Era, 206 BC – 219 AD). Echoes from the End of the World (Bei Dynasty era, 220–265. Qin Dynasty, 265– 419). Vision behind the Closed Eyes (Era of Southern and Northern Dynasties, 420–581. From Sui Dynasty, 581–617). World in a Dew Drop (Tang Dynasty Era, 618–907). Yellow Heron Pavilion (Five Dynasties Era, 907–959). Behind the Pearl Curtain (Song Dynasty Era, 960–1279). Reaped Smiles (Jin
Dynasty Era, 1115–1234, and Juan Dynasty, 1260–1367). Circles on Still Water (Ming Dynasty Era, 1368–1643). Entrenched Memory (the first century and a half of Qing Dynasty, 1644. until the end of the 18th century). Along with the usual apparatus, anthology is equipped with important accessories: “Legends, Dynasties, Dates” and “Poets, Lives, Poems”. There are also collections of selected reproductions. Therefore, before us now is a lot “that has been proven by a poem, somewhere
far away and long ago, in its centuries-long search for man”. The ocean to which it must sail out in order to understand, at least in the contours, its infinity. We said, we could only mention a part, what seemed to be the most important in our field of vision. Someone else could have put it differently. In any case, it is a broad and solid foundation for the Serbian-Chinese cultural bridges “in the future we have met, in the past that is yet to come”.
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MIODRAG PAVLOVIĆ: NOTES FROM CHINA
Jade Memory A refined observer, excellent expert in both holy and profane rituals, visible and invisible, the great Serbian poet traveled to China in 1979 to a great adventure. He explored life in the Chinese inner circle, their attitude towards death and the beyond earthly, peeked into Buddhist caves and royal tombs, into workshops of artisans and artists. Besides other gifts he brought from there, we have his poems, anthology of Chinese poetry, as well as this travelogue, whose fragments we are sharing with you September 6, 1979, afternoon. (...) Airport runways are extremely wide, extremely long. Corn is growing next to them. The airport building is small, reminding of Belgrade houses built between the two wars. Upstairs, from the balcony, towards the afternoon sun, many heads are leaning. Welcoming relatives is popular here as well. The murmur sounds joyful, as well as the buzzing you hear when you enter the hallways, where passengers are passing, being checked, watched, followed. I have an impression that I am welcomed
in stages, by several groups. One can immediately recognize that politeness is one of their main cares and occupations – they pay attention to every gesture, head movement, constantly arranging who will walk on my left side, who on my right side, who in front, who in the back. It is not attention paid only to me, they also take care of one another and seek on others’ faces whether everything is all right or if anyone is unsatisfied. I sit on a bench, squeezing in, while someone is looking for my suitcase. Conversations begin immediately. I feel as if it’s my first day in elementary school.
Cover page of the book “China” by Miodrag Pavlović from 1995
E Y E September 7 After a meeting in the Academy of Social Sciences, including folklore, literature and poets, and after a lonely lunch in the hotel, I leave to the so-called Forbidden City, the well preserved royal palaces in the very heart of the city. I have already seen its roofs from my hotel room window, and asked myself last night, in disbelief, whether it is possible that entire Beijing is in traditional Chinese architecture. No, the city has the architecture of this century, its different epochs and trends. The main boulevards are so wide, as if a million bicyclers could ride at the same time. One must speak in millions here, like Marco Polo. Almost every house-pavilion in the Forbidden City has one imperial throne. And each throne, under the seat, one imperial knife. The emperor himself was the last defense from potential or expected assassins. With all the illumination of imperial dignity – a knife. I wish I knew whether any of the emperors defended himself with that knife, with a genuine “caesarian section”, but I wasn’t sure if such questions were appropriate here. I’m accompanied by the Academy’s chief of protocol, two translators – one of them speaks very good English and behaves politely and leisurely, and the female guide of the Forbidden City. The permanent exhibition shows valuables made of gigantic and carefully carved pieces of jade, gold and ebony, but I am most excited by an elephant, about half a meter tall, entirely made of lapis lazuli. The “philosophical stone” is really enchanting, both for its unusual blueness and its wondrous toughness. It seems like a piece of hardened skies. The important role of empresses in the last Chinese Qing dynasty (Manchu) is well visible in the Forbidden City: the empresses’ beds, their crazily decorated and posh crowns, full of feathers and transparent precious stones, European rococo clocks, homemade dolls and toys. There are also
small thrones where children-emperors sat, and opposite of them were ruling mothers, mothers in law, aunts. It is obvious that emperors and empresses were very generous to themselves. The aspiration to a luxurious and refined life was certainly stronger than their will to rule abiding the objective rules of justice and then still valid philosophical “heavenly” order. The Confucian teaching about the monarch’s obligations, responsibility and kindness melted away somewhere before the erection of this Forbidden City. Justice had already moved to the side of those who dethroned kings and queens. Still, the ceramics of these roofs fantastically established under the previous Ming dynasty is enthralling – the interweaving of the roof arcs gives an impression of ships anchored among clouds, the grid-like shadows in small gardens seem to triply wrap anyone who wishes to sit alone or with another person, dedicated to himself in his intimacy. The complete preservation of these fragile buildings is impressive. When the revolutionary army conquered Beijing, they didn’t fire cannons so as not to damage these architectural gems. Japanese occupiers also never plundered them, but there is a story that they cast cannons from about thirty bronze bowls from the large yards. (...) Evening. Banquet in Beijing. I discovered the value of Chinese cuisine during my travels in the United States, tried to confirm it from Warsaw to Paris, and promised myself that I would use this occasion to get a better insight of it, to see whether there is anything one cannot find in Chinese restaurants outside of China. The hotel served European and Chinese food and both were good. The banquet was scheduled in a new building, consisting of separate bigger and smaller rooms. About ten guests were already sitting in armchairs and drinking jasmine tea. The custom of drinking tea, without sugar and in all occasions, already made me feel at home, and kept my tonus, which constantly threatened to drop, both due to lack of sleep (I couldn’t get enough sleep since the night begins eight hours earlier than my biological clock, and meetings start
already at eight in the morning) and due to many new impressions and the need to monitor everything with increased attention. The climate was similar to ours. We sat at a round table. Several waiters are bringing appetizers, others are pouring Chinese brandy, sweet wine and orange juice. The appetizers are arranged fast, passed on, guests sitting next to each other are putting food into each other’s small dishes made of thin porcelain. The dishes are replaced every ten minutes, in order to remove the accumulated tastes. Other appetizers are arriving (most of the time I don’t know what I’m eating). There is a menu next to me, a list of dishes in Chinese. I sometimes ask, but the answers I get are also names in Chinese. Their names probably don’t exist in English. Some things I recognize: duck liver, thinly sliced pieces of smoked goose, cooked fresh fruit resembling peanuts, fiber salads, then something that looks like clams in their own sauce, which are actually eggs kept in ashes, underground, until they transform themselves into a kind of smoked oysters. Many things seem neither fresh nor cooked (despite all the anthropologists who claim
that these are main categories of civility). In high-degree civilizations, such as the Chinese, strict polarizations seem to fade and turn into shades and tones, where one actually defines himself: in a multitude of possibilities, which he accepts and manages to live with. About ten people are sitting at the table, conversation is constantly running, no one is interrupting. Every speaker waits for a pause in order to start talking. No one speaks long. Warm fish in a sauce abundant with black mushrooms, shiny and transparent, looking like carbonized crystals. Most people are drinking orange juice; I realized later that they were preparing for the duck that was about to arrive, which goes well with the taste of orange. A series of warm dishes continue after the fish (or appetizers, you cannot know any more): duck liver with leaves of some white vegetable, transparent and light as if blown by glassmakers. Perhaps it’s just potato. Then some bigger cubes of very tender meat in a sauce, I think it’s beef. For a moment, the door behind me, used by waiters, opens; all the Chinese guests are raising their heads and watching carefully.
Temple of Heaven in Beijing
E Y E
I slowly realize that I should turn as well. On a large plate, held vertically, the cook is showing a roasted duck, shiny like a redbrown sophisticated box, round and tight as if it were polished, not roasted. Then the duck disappears and we continue eating the dishes on the table. We expect them to bring larger plates, but they bring a new round of small bowls, thin leaves of dough, thinly sliced onion and thick soya sauce. There is no rice on the table. Concentration on what is being arranged, added, moved, replaced on the table, is becoming paroxysmal. I feel my hands are beginning to tremble. I notice by the way that there are no decorations or pictures on the walls. During a meal, everything is on the table: the eyes of the enemy, the beauty of a courtesan, a surprise on a journey, flower gardens and sunsets, southern winds and first snowflakes. The entire attention should be paid to the gradually replacing scenes on the table. They bring thin slices of duck on large plates. The shine of its roasted skin is preserved, as if invisible knives have passed through its tissue in order to cut it through. I understood the meaning of chopsticks used for taking food: nothing is sliced on the table, the scene of cutting and breaking up is completely excluded from the Chinese table. The sinister glow of metal cannot be seen anywhere. As if the manner of eating and behaving at the
table was brought to perfection and eternally confirmed before the discovery of metal and metal tools. (...) Archeology. In European romanticism, people believed that the Chinese, the only great cultural nation, don’t have a mythology. Important mythology philosopher Schelling wrote about it. It seemed that the Chinese have started living a civilized life and in a state organization so early that their own mythological tradition was deleted, while later Buddhist mythology with Hinduistic and Tibetan additions was attached to it. However, crucial evidence of the existence of an authentic Chinese mythology was brought by archeology. They explained me Chinese nationality doesn’t exist. China is a mark of state and statehood. The nationality, historical and ethnic whole, should be called by its name: Han, after the dynasty that achieved the state and national unity of populations who had a common alphabet and cultural tradition, but not a common language. It began at the end of the ancient world, from the III century B. C. It is possible to connect motifs from old bricks and silk cloths with ancient inscriptions. The Chinese alphabet, in different versions, has continuously existed for four thousand years, the same in its basic ideogrammic character. The first letters
were written on beef shoulder, apparently for prophecy purposes. However, prophecies were made based on historical memory as well. (...) I believe that preserved drawings of human faces on ceramics from 6000 years ago are more valuable than the early alphabet. The high degree of stylization and its thoughtfulness could have appeared only as a result of differentiated opinion, which however cannot be fathomed only on the basis of the type of stylization. It is certain that ancient man considered fish symbols significant, but was the fish important as food, as a mysterious divinity or a guide to death and after it, who could tell? Night in the Train. Upon my wish to visit one of the three large groups of Buddhist caves, the hosts suggested the caves of Yun-Kang, northwest of Beijing. The trip lasts all night, although the distance is only 380 kilometers. The caves are in the Shaanxi province, famous for high quality coal. The Chinese Wall reaches it, and that is where Mongolia begins. The area is a dusty semi-desert, and the place we are traveling to is called Da-Tung. (...) Yun-Kang. Fifty-three caves are carved into yellowred limestone. The oldest has existed for
a thousand and five hundred years. Stairs were made around several of them, with Chinese roofs and terraces â€“ while below is a spacious and well preserved Buddhist monastery, without a single monk. However, there is a housekeeper inside, and there is always someone to serve tea. Most caves face an open area and are easy to approach, from the field or from the road. Some are within the monastery complex, or further behind the fence, locked. After I had seen them all, I saw that the division has nothing to do with the chronology of caves or the beauty of sculptures inside them or at their entrance. The only conclusion that could be made is that the best colored statues are most protected by terraces. Although the opposite could be concluded as well: that color has been preserved on the best protected sculptures. I donâ€™t know what exactly I expected from the cave sculptures. A large dose of Buddhist art, otherwise mostly dense, sometimes sublime, most often oversized. It was still unusual to see the enormous sitting Buddhas inside the caves, hardly illuminated by light from small holes in the cave walls,
E Y E The upper Yangtze River
somewhere with electric light, which revealed both a myriad of small Buddhas in each part of the internal wall and ceilings, as well as persistent coloring of the sculptures, supposed to increase their hypnotic strength. It was difficult to perceive them entirely due to their size. While climbing up, I saw their heads. While entering the caves, I could see their knees, hips, round stomachs and bellybuttons. Moving to their back, I could see the lotus flower they were sitting on, small creatures guarding them, snakes, and the upright spine carrying a large head, fleshy shoulders and large groups of back muscles. Most of the sculptures, large and small, even Buddhist scenes in stone relief, colored or not, were naïve, without any charm, even without genuine piousness. The artistic effect meant to leave an impression on an innocent observer, to impose to him or her at any price, and the price was: absence of a genuine experience or deeper psychological modeling of Buddha’s faces. Only one large Buddha from the locked caves, from the VIII century, Tang dynasty, had a stylistic idea and consistency. His fatness was especially skillfully emphasized with shallow relief, almost linear incisions. Furthermore – the certainty in arranging the masses, which, despite their roundness and weight, short fingers, cheeks, for which it’s most
important to elegantly flow into the chin, are breathing with refinement, even a certain detachment from earth. The small holes that opened up in the stone give the impression of martyrdom. (...) I was, however, struck with genuine beauty of a group of sculptures resembling an iconostasis, facing outside, at the entrance of cave 15A. The royal radiance of Buddha on the throne was carved with a hand that paid attention to the dignity of art, and carried within a memory of an effort towards growing cultivation. It awakened the feeling of distant memory, more valuable because it was encountered again. The radiant smile permeated his face, while the body in royal relaxedness was ready to accept the unearthly news arriving from the head. The face had an Indian sharpness, the line of the nose, mouth and eyelids, while the cheek bones and cheeks were Chinese. It was a group of sculptures created around 500 B.C. under Indian influence and probably by Indian artists. Three places next to this royal Buddha were empty, void, carved out. One was carved out by Americans and taken to the Metropolitan Museum. Perhaps I saw it during one of my visits, although I was more interested in painting then. However, I have recently had a moment of rare pleasure, eight months after my visit to China: wandering through the private Cernuski collection of oriental art in Paris, in the entrance hall before the stairway leading to the upper floor, I recognized the sculpture of Buddha, brother of the most beautiful Buddha from Yan-Kang, also carved out from there, as it turned out, which, although less famous than the mentioned two, was not less beautiful, or less sublime, perhaps even more human with his eyesclosed smile. Death in China. Exiting the city towards the miners’ settlements and manufactures, I watched the clearness of September skies, the cultivated fields, fresh greenery of the crops, the flowing river. However, I wished to see a cemetery. In cemeteries, one often sees and realizes things that are reached slowly, or which never cross our minds. I asked my hosts to stop by a cemetery. They told
E Y E
me there is no cemetery nearby. They started a long conversation; I wanted to know what I didn’t understand, what it is actually about, are they avoiding a visit to a cemetery or are there really no cemeteries on this road? When I arranged their
Through Life Intently Miodrag Pavlović (1928–2014), regular member of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts and European Academy of Poetry, great Serbian poet, essayist, prose and drama writer, translator and anthologist… He graduated at the Medical Faculty in Belgrade in 1954. His collection 87 Poems from 1954 is considered one of the three revolutionary books that introduced Serbian post-war modernism. Excellent expert in Serbian and European poetry, mythology, “spiritual disciplines”. His Anthology of Serbian Poetry from the XIII to the XX Century (first edition in 1964) is one of the most influential Serbian books of its kind in the XX century. Some of Pavlović’s most important works include Pillar of Memory (1953), Pilgrimage (1971), Entering Cremona (1989), Cosmology of Profane (1990), New Name of Curse (1996), With Christ Intently (2001)... He was awarded with all important Serbian literature awards as well as the European Poetry Award (2003) and “Petrarca’s Award” (2012)... He was decorated with the Order of St. Sava (2008). He passed away and was buried in 2014 in Tuttlingen, Germany, where he spent the last days of his life with his wife Marlene and daughters Kristina and Jasmina.
answers, they all went down to this: in cities, people are not buried in the soil, they are cremated. However, there are no cemeteries for ashes of the deceased either. The family receives the cremated remains. And what do they do with them?... It’s their own business. They take them home?... Probably. If they have space for holding urns with ashes. Peasants are buried in the soil, but the soil is immediately plowed. They cannot sacrifice fertile land for cemeteries. Rural cemeteries can only be found in remote mountain areas. Among rocks and stones. By the way, the jar with the ancestor’s ashes is kept in the kitchen, on the cupboard, among salt, soya and tea. (…) Present China has gone far in the process of customs’ secularization. Shaanxi Style Opera. We managed to get tickets for the opera, the same evening we were supposed to board the train and return to Beijing. So, we went to the opera with our suitcases and frequently watched the time. There were many people around the opera
building, all of them working class people, mostly miners, in working clothes or their civil uniforms. Entire families, women and children, all with entrance tickets. We could hardly see anything in the hall, everything was already packed with smoke, everyone was smoking. So, an opera with smoking. The audience was already in their seats, most of them wearing caps, but our places were waiting for us. Although some observers walked in and out, we could listen to the opera comfortably. The music was not entirely unknown to me, and I was watching the opera carefully and with pleasure. I liked the plot, it was a mixture of historical realism and fairytale, there was much injustice, patience, suffering, pranks, and happiness was reached difficultly and slowly. Everyone was watching everything with understanding and a correct attitude. It is uncertain how much emotions it included. However, I felt my emotions growing and I began undergoing everything, as if those were experiences from my own life. I finally saw that my nerves were pretty tense, both due to the well performed, sung and acted opera, and due to the audience. I
have never seen anything similar, although I dreamed about it in my youth, just like some of my older friends have. Real, genuine people approaching high and noble art, which is both theirs and new, both elegant and deeply human. I have stopped believing a long time ago that something like that was possible. My interest for opera has decreased a long time ago and I was skeptical towards what was waiting for me here. However, I was sad because I had to leave the opera before its end, something I have done many times before, willingly and feeling bored. I immediately became a fan of Chinese opera and couldn’t wait to see another performance, to get to know its basis, esthetical profile, as well as to expose myself to the entertainment it managed to offer me. The music and singing were pleasant, as well as the recitatives and acting. Costumes were such that emperors could borrow them from the theatrical cloakroom and wear them on their banquets. (...)
In Hunan province
(From: Miodrag Pavlović, “China”, editor Branislav Matić, SKC, Beograd, 1996)
T R A C E S
STEVAN RAIČKOVIĆ AND HIS CHINESE HORIZONS
Travel, My Son, You’ll See a Different World
It was the longest and most exciting journey in the history of his family. Through distances, through linguistic and other barriers, through the absence of habits and ease. At the beginning of 1980s, he thought that nothing will touch him there, that he would not bring back much under the arches of his eyelids. But then, manuscripts of two books, anthologies of ancient Chinese stories (1992) and Chinese poetry (1994), in Serbia, surprised him
uring some of my journeys to foreign lands (while life was flittering around me in colorful snowflakes), I felt – due to lack of knowl Cover page of “The Chinese Story” edge of foreign languages – so lonely, as by Stevan Raičković if I were in a mobile solitary confinement fenced with an impenetrable and invis(1995) National Museum in Beijing
ible wall. But, furthermore: staying in contemporary China – of course, without any insight in the opaque Chinese language – I had, as never in my life, an additional feeling of absolutely helpless wandering not only from city to city and house to house, but also from one human
T R A C E S Everything is a Story “As the front and back cover, these two texts bounded my book...” writes Raičković in the afterword of Chinese Story in 1994. “Although the pages between the covers of this little book mostly hold poetic texts, it was finally named after after the title of the first text, although it contains a seemingly inadequate word story. Such a title was selected by the author for a simple reason: because the name itself, as well as the associative notion contained in it, Chinese Story, best speaks about how the book was realized and created. Yes, everything is a story... states one of the earliest written verses in this manuscript...
face to another. Truth: the snakelike contours of the Chinese Wall, a few details from tombs of imperial dynasties, roofs of pagodas and numerous preserved (and still well maintained) forms of ancient architecture, which I stumbled upon... greeted me like distant acquaintances, whom I have already seen somewhere and somehow, known superficially or at least recognized based on the descriptions of others... However: numerous human faces which I curiously watched for days remained riddles at each encounter, from which I could not pick out a starting thread my eye would hang on to in the fruitless attempt to make the entwined, slant-eyed human yarns start unraveling before me... Already then, during the journey, while I was moving through endless spaces of China, my unenviable position, at least regarding the live (human) communication, depicted to a great extent another (self-portrait) image: it seemed to me as if I were pushed into a densely populated pantomime, which I had to participate in, of course, in a role of an unnoticeable, almost invisible stunt... among a billion of
equal, well-coordinated actors, who performed their everyday ritual around me... The only reassuring thing in this mobile theater was the already mentioned circumstance that, according to some earlier cognitions, although scarce, I recognized at least some external details in the enormous décor in which this, for me deaf and dumb, theatrical play was performed. Unfortunately, my knowledge had too few traces of Chinese literature... which would at least symbolically bring me closer to internal details, which, mysteriously and insolvably radiated from numerous faces I vainly watched during my journey through China (asking for any kind of spiritual stronghold). CHINESE STORY This intimate, branched picture, cast away somewhere in the shadows of memories, is waking up inside me after a decade, initiated by pure coincidence: a thin (untouched up to now) manuscript of translations of ancient Chinese stories unexpectedly reached my hands. Unlike a few texts from this ancient literature, translated into Serbian mostly from German, French, English and Russian languages – (including the unforgettable attempts of Miloš Crnjanski to open the doors of unrivaled Chinese lyrics to us) – the texts of stories sitting in front of me splashed me directly from their source, their spring: from the opaque Chinese language they were created in. Perhaps that very fact (of course, besides the common curiosity for any literary letter) woke up in me a more confidential attitude towards what I was reading: I had a genuine feeling-illusion that one of the numerous Chinese faces (I met a decade ago in my unspoken journey through China) was telling me, in the most reduced form, experiences from long gone centuries of their civilization. All that in my own, Serbian language, which they learned so well just because of me... and because of all the similar, certainly numerous, not to say endless number of people who will apparently never obtain the knowledge of their language, so difficult for us... (I was already accustomed to think about everything related to China – like an opium addict – only in the form
of the most personal and most intimate, meaning the most shifted images... so in this reminiscence, I almost forgot one of the most realistic facts related to the case I’m describing: the translation of this unexpected manuscript, of course, couldn’t originate from the head of those numerous and anonymous Chinese people I was surrounded with during me long-gone journey through their infinite land... but from the fragile and hovering pens of two of my accidental, but utterly genuine acquaintances from Belgrade – named Ada Zečević and Mirjana Đurđević...) Another, perhaps the most crucial component, which deeply stirred my emotions in the encounter with the mentioned manuscript, was that all texts in it, according to their expressively sensitive (almost fluid) indications, belonged to the world of pure poetry... which in this case – only due to a more natural and simpler communication – mantled a (mimicry) narrative robe over its oversensitive back. This foreign manuscript about a distant literature, almost unknown to me, along with numerous associations it spontaneously provoked, was at the same time an occasion to address, after many years, some notes on the same subject, which – already formed or only just commenced a long time ago – simply languished in one
of the folders on my desk, literally – at the reach of the hand: so this manuscript of mine about China commenced like that somehow... discreetly formed by that moment to the version it will gain in the pages to come... (1992)
CHINESE POEM “Travel, my son, you’ll see a different world.” This simple sentence, noted here as a motto, was told to me by my mother (over the phone) after my brother – in the city they lived together – told her that I’m preparing for a trip to China... It was the longest and most uncertain journey not only in my entire life, but also in the humble (too humble) history of our entire family... which at that time (already very sparse) lived scattered in distant settlements and different habitats... Up to then, this caring and irreplaceable person – (I still cannot say the word old lady) – although most often very open towards different habits of
Inscription In a small world / Storm and wind rose / At over 10.000 kilometers // A drop of heart / Pointing at the morning sun / In the distant horizon (To comrade Stevan Raičković, sincerely, Tsuan Yun Yuan, at the Academy of Arts in Nanjing, November 1981)
T R A C E S
her children, even grandchildren... feared (in an old-fashioned manner) for each of our settings off from cities we stayed in... However... the journey to distant and mysterious China, even she had felt it – although imprisoned in her decades-long stillness – was a great and almost Godgranted challenge... which could not be refused so simply, even despite the trepidations and fears from traffic accidents (“lurking every traveler”)... So, I set off to the most adventurous journey in my life with a kind of an additional, unexpected blessing... And so I levitated... (like a balloon on an invisible leash)... throughout that different world for three too
long and too short weeks: I hanged in a plane over the Himalayas and cruised in a chunk along the Yangtze river... visited the remains of imperial tombs, stern Buddhist temples and flamboyant pagodas... wandered for hours (in the severe northern wind which tore my hair) on the worn stone viaducts of the Chinese Wall... squeezed (carelessly) through a billion of equally dressed pedestrians and bicyclers and (cautiously) through a porcelain forest of thousands and thousands colorful vases, jugs and bowls... looked far out to the endless horizons of rice and cotton... crawled around gigantic flowerpots under blossoming branches of fragrant teas and lost myself in labyrinths of chrysanthemums... rested above the very edges of polished lakes and muddy canals... and glanced into
Stevan Stevan Raičković (1928– 2007), Serbian poet and academician. Attended gymnasium in Senta, Kruševac, Smederevo and Subotica. Studied at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade. Started publishing poems already at the age of seventeen. Member of the Literary Department of Radio Belgrade from 1949 to 1959 and until 1980 editor in “Prosveta” publishing. Corresponding member of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts from 1972, regular from 1981. He wrote more than twenty collections of poems, seven books for children, several books of essays. He translated Russian poets (Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Brodsky, Pasternak), Shakespeare, Petrarca. Raičković’s collected works were published in 1998. His poetry was translated into Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovakian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Rusyne, Albanian, Slovenian and Macedonian. Winner of “Zmaj”, “Neven”, “Njegoš”, “Dučić”, “Branko Miljković”, “Desanka Maksimović”, “Vasko Popa”, “Dušan Vasiljev”, “Miloš N. Đurić”, “Three-Handed Theotokos”, “Meša Selimović”... awards.
(yellowish) fingers opening (muddy) shells full of (glittering) pearls for hours... However... everything I passed by and everything I soaked my curious glances in – so this short journey of mine would be eternally and to the very last detail engraved in my memory – imperceptibly faded away during the years, lost its contours and proportions, scents and scales of sounds and murmurs... All that mixed or merged together... chipped or fell off... wiped out to a certain extent... or disappeared completely... My China... was already turning into an unrecognizable torso... and more and more resembled the one who carried it within him... SUBSEQUENT REVELATIONS And so it was... To a certain moment... On the deserted panel of my desk – which I haven’t even normally touched for months – (placed on one another as a beginning of a colorful wall), three colorful thick folders appeared... they barged into my (lonely) room, in a second, in a similar way the thin manuscript of translations of old Chinese stories flapped its wings and arrived to me only a few years ago. It was – not a bit terrifying in volume – an enormous anthology of Chinese poetry... covering a span of almost three millennia... in Serbian... this time again in the already recognizable translation of my two acquaintances from Belgrade. The entire immense China, which I only visually, fragmentarily and poorly,
anticipated during my long-gone journey... (and began forgetting)... started to unravel before me – from page to page – its most tender (almost spiritual) layers... located in the invisible foundations of all those (uncountable) people “whose faces I have watched so curiously and helplessly for days”... The one who gave me her blessing or my brother are no longer in this world... those whom I could now tell a few real words about my repeated pilgrimage, this time through the millennia-long vastness and depth of China: there was just my hardly warmed up January-February room in Vračar, Belgrade, in St. Sava’s street... and the passed away a long time ago and without any earthly faces Chinese lyricists in it... who, with a warm breath, murmur in Serbian from typed pieces of paper from colorful folders on my revived desk I am slowly going through... This time, nothing resembles my previous stay in China: there is not a single colorful November vase, broken then glued... not a single broken gray stone in the windy Chinese Wall... or the earless statue in the dark catacomb of one of the Ming tombs... or the patched black mast on the Tan Hu lake... Only the essential, entire, sentimental or desperate, almost capillary colored... Chinese poem... trembling in my winter hands like a still living heart (just plucked out from the folders on the desk)... (1994)
Daily life in the Chinese capital
(From Stevan Raičković’s “Chinese Story”, editor Miroslav Maksimović, BIGZ, Belgrade, 1995)
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, Belgrade photoHypnism, Zenithism... The critics of that journalists, around time used the name between-the-wars mod1932 (Photo: ernism, although this period, in the opin- Aleksandar Simić. ion of many theoreticians, can creatively be From the book classified as expressionism or surrealism. “Urban Nomad” It was a great and splendid time in Serby Darko Ćirić, bian culture. Belgrade City In this climate, Miloš Crnjanski, Rastko Museum, 2011) Petrović and Rade Drainac come of age and are being published. “We sing in free Terazije Square verse, which is a consequence of our conand “Moscow” tent”, says Crnjanski. Hotel in Belgrade, Unfortunately, many of them will later 1920s 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.
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 Mihailo 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
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.
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LJUBIVOJE RŠUMOVIĆ (1939), POET, EXCLUSIVELY FOR “NATIONAL REVIEW”, FROM THE FREE TERRITORY
All the Havocs of Old Ršum Ljubivoje from Ljubiš, Zlatibor, shared with us all the tips and tricks, all the scams and flicks ever since ancient Greeks. He released news from the swoons, made three knots on an eyelash, sunbathed in the moonlight and said: “The last thing we need is dragons!” He listened to the call of the blackcock and gave us stray poems. He taught us that homeland is defended with beauty. Today, twenty-odd years after the death of Duško Radović, he is still the first to read everything Ljubivoje writes
By: Branislav Matić
enerations have been growing up with his poems and he was maturing with all those generations. He was the best friend from the textbook of all our children. Even in this “staged interview”, he participated as a real pal. Together we went through the album he always carries in the place behind the inner pocket of his jacket (some call it the heart). As Ljubivoje said, I could put some more phrases there, but there is no need to. Childhood, homeland. Now it’s definitely clear to me: when one is born and raised in Zlatibor, Zlatibor becomes the
measure for everything in life: for love and With brother beauty, friendship and gentleness, goodness Milivoje at a fair and success! My personality was formed, in 1949 among other things, with the optimistic song “Oh, Zlatibor, my tall pine tree, I am climbing into your heights!” It pulled my ears, from horizontal into vertical position. In time, climbing and conquering tops became my obsession and meaning of life. Ljubiš, where I was born and spent my childhood, and Zlatibor, about which I wrote my first verses (“Zlatibor, you are golden, that is why I love you!”), became Photo: Archives the homeland of everything I have ever of the interviewee written in life and everything I have done. and Dragan Bosnić
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With poets Branko Ćopić and Matija Bećković
My teacher Milica Vođević recognized in me something different from other children. I was enthusiastic about books as objects, as chests of secrets which need to be revealed by reading. She gave me books to read, some as a gift. Then she began giving me ideas what I should write about and how. She wasn’t a poet, but she liked poetry, like any other eighteen year-old girl at that postwar time. Mihailo and Milesa. My parents were poor peasants with a rich soul. My mother,
From the inner pocket album “The tenderest memories” are perhaps always those from childhood. Ljubiš was the entire world, that is where all my curiosities began, that is where all answers to my questions were. My family, father Mihailo, mother Milesa and brother Milivoje. Grandpa Stevan and grandma Jovanka. Tomcat Sherwood. Dog Čoek. Horses Cvetko and Cura. Oxen Ruško and Boško. Cousins Marko and Janićije, friends Velizar, Savo, Neđo, Gvozden, Vera, Stojka, Ljilja. Mountain Zlatibor. Hills Borkovac, Straža, Čigota, Nevolja. Trešnje Grkalja i Trešnjica, Gusto liješće, Gujina stena, Pećina, Mumlava. Teachers Kariman, Đorđe and Milica, Milica, Milica, the best in the world, who introduced poetry to me. That is the album I carry in a place behind my inner pocket someone call the heart.
from the rich Simović family from Gostilj, fell in love with Mihailo, a poor man, and married him (his mother died at his birth and his father three days later from Spanish fever in 1918), although she could’ve married a teacher or an accountant. I was born and blessed with that love! My father was raised by his grandmother, my greatgrandmother Anika, hardworking widow, who formed my personality with her strong rationality. I was brought up by the scarcity we lived in and educated by the language of folk epic poems and the gusle of my grandfather Stevan. My mother kept in her memory, as the greatest treasure, a poem by Zmaj Jova, which she constantly recited to my brother and me. The name of the poem is “When God Created Earth”, and it is in the foundation of my creativity. Book. I didn’t consider the songs grandpa Stevan and grandpa Božo sang with the gusle as literature. Not even Zmaj Jova’s poem my mother told us. They read them from their heads, not books. I didn’t know what literature is, but I assumed that it is what’s written in books. I read my mother’s
elementary school textbook, which was full of stories about the battles of Serbian commits against Arnauts. That was interesting literature for me. Someone gave me a little book Great Race of the Nail and Horseshoe. I knew what a nail and what a horseshoe were, so it was interesting for me how they were made from iron ore dug in a coalmine. Then father brought a booklet with drawings from Čajetina. Later I found out it was a comic book, entitled The Three Stooges. Funny characters, witty text and drawings as a divine handwriting, made me begin drawing comics and cartoons myself. Later it turned out that this supported my education in Užice, because Vesti paid well for them. Poet in the highlands. We should believe those who say that a good writer “has to be born”, because it’s proven that genes can be transferred from generation to generation. I suppose genes also carry a talent for a certain art or some other skill. I am still convinced that the fascination in childhood has a crucial role in creating a writer. If my third grade teacher
Milica Vođević had torn the little poem With friends, on she took from me while I was handing it to the ship of writer my classmate Savo Joksimović, and if she Momo Kapor on the Sava River in had punished me, I would today be a reBelgrade tired medical doctor, not a poet. The poem went: “There is a Savo, / who slept with his grandma, / grandma moved in bed, / and into Savo she farted! / Grandma, this you shouldn’t allow, / our Savo has no teeth left now!” Many teachers would consider it insolence deserving punishment, but Milica didn’t think so. She took me aside and praised me “because the poem was funny”, but she also asked me if I have ever seen Branko Ćopić using the world “farted”. I said I haven’t. Then she gave me a lesson on literary language used for writing literary works, and told me to write a poem
Poetry for Kids Today Thanks to Zmaj and Duško Radović, adults also like reading such poetry. It’s good, because that’s how the golden message of friendship and imagination lasts and transfers from generation to generation. I consider myself an adult, yet I like reading younger contemporary colleagues such as Branko Stevanović, Dejan Aleksić, Uroš Petrović, Igor Kolarov...
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First Movie It was Viva Zapata, which I saw thirty times, because it was shown in the Čajetina cinema. The film was shown in the school gym, where beds were placed for us, village children, who lived there. There was probably something from the dramaturgy of the movie that remained in me, and there was something I didn’t like, such as Zapata dying at the end. That, for instance, helped me suggest Krvavac, who made the movie about my brother-in-law Vladimir Perić Valter, not to have the hero die at the end, which Šiba accepted, as the wish of Valter’s family.
In Thailand, on the bridge that was demolished when the movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai” was shot
Young Ljubivoje in Užice in 1956 and later in Belgrade with poets Brana Crnčević and Milovan Vitezović
for tomorrow about the most beautiful mountain we are living in, Zlatibor. I wrote “Zlatibor, you are golden, that is why I love you”. She said that a poem has to be longer, and that I should continue in that manner. So I wrote a few more verses: “Zlatibor, oh, mountain dear, / people all live nicely here. / No one can touch you, / your calm streams too. / My family also lives there, / Zlatibor, you’re a fairytale.” She sent the poem to Pioneer Newspaper and I was awarded with a graphite pencil with an eraser on top. This is what decided that I would become a writer. The support in childhood from the teacher and parents is necessary. First journey. Departure. My first departure “into the world” was the trip from Ljubiš to “the city”, Čajetina, to the Lower Gymnasium. I was surprised to see so many trees “in the city”. In the village I imagined the city shackled in concrete streets, packed with houses, skyscrapers,
without any greenery at all. I liked Čajetina because it was full of trees. The departure to Čajetina was the first step of my gradual but definitive leaving the country. The idea of “returning one day to be a teacher in Ljubiš”, as I wrote in my diary those days, has been with me all the time, but in vain. Some of my poems have traces of that idea. “In mid-spring in Paris, / people wear Japanese silk / and in Ljubiš nearer to me / they are wearing April flowers” (“In Mid-Spring, 1973) Or another, older one: “The sky fell on the chest of the stone / Like unexpected rain / In the place where my shoulder is touched / By the breath of summer in Ljubiš” (“Evening”, 1966) I have traveled throughout the world as a reporter of Radio-Television Belgrade, I’ve seen many wonders, filmed them and wrote about them, but none of the world wonders could outwonder my Ljubiš and my Zlatibor. Important stops on my way. From Ljubiš I have taken the fascination with verses and ambition to write. From Čajetina – the first serious love experience and the first written sonnet dedicated to Sekulić Olivera, starting: “A sonnet wreath I make for you / You who are not far / I, who is cheating myself / That someone could love me too!” From Užice, even today I carry the doubt in everything I do, healthy doubt which doesn’t encourage, but initiates, makes me work better, write wittier, live more naturally, love more convincingly. I made first real friends
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from the art world in Užice, first honest friends. One of them is Milojko Đoković, reporter and publicist, also my godfather. From Užice I went to my first working action to Macedonia. There, in Pelagonia, on the slopes of Kajmakčalan, I made a decision to use my work for common wellbeing. After Pelagonia, I went to five or six more working actions and everywhere, besides working on the construction sites, I left a trace of my creative work. I wrote diaries, made wall newspaper, drew comics, entertained the participants! When the city Department of Culture called me in 1986 to become head of the “Boško Buha” theater, I accepted immediately. I left for a salary one third lower than the one I had as editor in the “Književne novine” publishing house. It was one more working action of mine! Even today, at the age of seventy-three, I’m a volunteer in the Culture and Education Community of Serbia and “Friends of Serbian children”. I am involved in actions! Now I’m thinking about the last stop, where I’ll happily depart from life. It will surely be one of my Free Territories, in Baćevac near Belgrade or in Ljubiš! My Belgrade. As a freshman from the country, I got the students’ home in Voždovac, the famous “Brioni”, where Grozdana Olujić lived and wrote Field Trip to the Sky. The wooden barracks, which used to be dorms for working action participants, were dried, so the wind was blowing from all sides. As soon as the winter came and it started snowing, we would wake up with five centimeters of white coldness on us. I got sick from facial nerves inflammation, facialis on both sides, tragic when you look at it, unbearable when you have it. And fatal too, as Dr. Perišić from the Clinic for Infectious Diseases told me straightforwardly while waving his head. Five months in the hospital, infusion, because swallowing was suspended with paralysis, lost year at the faculty. However, I won. They say it’s not tragic to fall, it’s tragic not to rise after the fall! Every misfortune has a particle of luck; that is, I suppose, the frame of fate of human survival. If I hadn’t lost that year, perhaps I would never have met Nataša, mother of our sons, grandmother of our grandsons, Penelope who waited for me to return from my numerous journeys down the world roads and literary wastelands. While I was in
Užice, my Belgrade poet was Mića Danojlić, and when I came to Belgrade I met Duško Radović. Mića taught me to make verses, Duško taught me wisdom. I finished my education with Mića, but with Duško I didn’t: even today, twenty-odd years after his death, he is still the first to read everything I write.
With sons and grandchildren
Roads waiting. While my “heels were itching me”, as they were itching Yesenin’s Pugachov, all roads were mine. Among those I have tramped, two of them were most remarkable: the journey to North Cape, the northernmost point of Europe, and the journey to Sri Lanka, the Green Paradise. These days I’m getting ready to start off to those two journeys again, but this time as a travelogue. I determined the anchor points, I’m waiting for the bear to sit in my head and I’ll be on my way. The Northern Adventure, as I called the journey to North Cape, begins in Copenhagen and Munich, where we buy equipment and form the team. In Oslo we film Vigeland’s Poem about Life in Frogner Park. Our ambassador ignores us, refuses to accept us. We start off to the Lofoten Islands for fishing. The next stop is Hammerfest, where we meet major Skansen, Norwegian, who gives us a military vehicle for the trip. Along the way we save a “Crazy German”, as Skansen called him, a man who started off to North Cape with “VW Beetle” and who would have died in the snow if we hadn’t saved him. We arrive to North Cape, put the Yugoslav flag on the mast, write our names in the book of those who succeeded in reaching that point, among them also the French Emperor Philip of Arc. On our way back, we visit Karasjok, capital of Finnmark, Laponia. We hunt reindeers in the mountain, sing a song about beautiful five year-old Helen Mary. We take part in the reindeer race on the frozen river and win. We remain uninjured in the Laponian disco club, which we entered dressed in Swedish lamb fur. We return to Oslo, film major Angel, pioneer of European skiing, in front of the Holmenkollen ski jump. We read segments
Branko, Mihailo, Vuk I have been the “father on a business trip” most of the time, so they were, luckily, raised by Nataša. Thus they turned out well, probably even better than if I had constantly been over their heads and their free time.
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In front of the birth house of the poet Duško Radović, with his brother and son In front of the house he builds himself in his hometown on Zlatibor
In front of his birth house
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from his book about Montenegrins, whom he came to help in their battle against the Ottoman Turks. I speak with Knut Haugland, member of the Kon-Tiki expedition. The ambassador sends emissaries to bring us into the embassy, because the cover page of Dagbladet shows the photo of Ratko Ilić, director, and me, entitled “First Yugoslavs at North Cape”. We ignore him and go to take a vaccine against smallpox, since there was an epidemic in Belgrade. The return home is always, this time as well, the most joyful moment of the journey. What are journeys for me? Accumulating experience. Opening new windows into the world of people and world of secrets beyond the mind. Deciphering time and space. I could state some more phrases, but there is no need to.
privileges, which I don’t have. People in Ljubiš even think I’m a total loser for not being able to press the authorities to make a kilometer and a half of a road, so that I could reach my house of birth with my car. In Baćevac, my Free Territory, where I have my Belgrade dwelling, they think I have fallen into disgrace of politicians because I can’t convince the communal service in Barajevo to fix the 300 meters of road, so that I could reach the gate with my car when it’s raining. The real roads I walk down every day, as you can see, are difficult to pass and thank God it’s like that. Otherwise I would become vain and fall into one of the deadly sins. Luckily, those other roads, those of the spirit and the soul, have no obstacles for me.
I, the classic. I still cannot accept and understand the title related to my name. I assume that the “classic” implies some
Free Territory. One cannot come to any territory with a pure heart and without the burden of everyday life on his soul. I have two Free Territories, one in Ljubiš, where I’m building a cottage into which I will always be able to retreat and protect myself, and the other in Baćevac, near Belgrade, where I made a house for myself, my sons and grandsons, where we all run away when Belgrade knocks on our doors with its metropolitan arrogance. These are territories free of stress, careless, leaning with their left shoulder on art and with their right shoulder on a family hug. I don’t like our politics, but I see the politicians are thinking less and less how they will stand before Milošević, not before Miloš. s
Role Models First of all Nikola Tesla, about whom grandpa Stevan told me about in my childhood. Mother Milesa even called me Tesla, because I was always walking around with a book in my hand. For her, the “book in the hand” was a symbol of Tesla-like fascination, thus hard work and creativity. Then “Banović Strahinja” and other Serbian epic poems, sung by grandpa Stevan and grandpa Božo while playing the gusle. Then Branko Ćopić, whose rhymes I first used for my little poems, and whose humor I immediately understood and accepted. Then Zmaj Jova, whose poem “When God Created Earth” my mother used to sing for me as a lullaby. And finally Duško Radović, whose friendship supported me and made me continue writing for children.
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Recreation of a Lost World
TANJA STUPAR TRIFUNOVIĆ, A WRITER WITH “INTERNAL REFUGEE BUNDLE”
The greatest success is to find that spark that drives you to live and create. As much as the writer shapes the writing, the opposite is also true. Before encountering one’s weaknesses, people foolishly think they are strong and invulnerable. Tradition is not a dead thing in a museum depot, but it is created now as well. The horror of travel bags, and memories scattered around closets of deserted houses, is haunting the refugees. Is it possible to build a home on the foundations of invisible worlds? By: Sandra Josović
till a little girl, just learned how to read, she decided to become a writer. She made this decision in the easement of her house in Dalmatia and immediately wrote a poem about spring. She has forgotten those distant verses, replaced the Dalmatian karst with tree alleys of Banjaluka, and she made her decision come true. Tanja Stupar Trifunović is a recognizable name in Serbian and Southern Slavic literary scene. Translated and awarded. Her first novel, Clocks in Mother’s Womb, was this winter shortlisted for NIN Award. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Putevi, a magazine for literature, art and culture from Banjaluka. She lives and works in Banjaluka, and is permanently employed by the National University Library of Republika Srpska. She enjoys the smell of books on a daily basis, the books that fascinated her already at her young age. You are a recognized and awarded writer. What do you see as your greatest success? Success brings joy and recognitions are always encouraging, but we should not fall into their trap. Their guiding function can be easily confused with the goal. The goal is lost in a distance, and you stand on the side of a road holding on to a sign showing where you were supposed to go. I think that greatest success for someone is that life spark that drives us to live and work, its presence, and presence of people with whom we can share it.
You fled from Zadar to Banjaluka when you were thirteen. To what extent does your origin defines you as a writer and where is your home today? In an interview, Grass said that “nothing drives you to write so obsessively as loss – in my case loss of home”. As a writer he tried, he says, to recall something that was lost by means of literature. And in this statement I have found a large part of my own truth. Loss is a driving force. Loss of home is probably not decisive, but is only one in the series of losses one experiences in life. However, this event has certainly enhanced that feeling of not belonging and the need to recreate the lost world. The question of another or spare home is very interesting. It seems to me that I have al-
Photographs: Archive of T. S. Trifunović and A. Čavić
Literature, Wonderful and Scary – Literature used to have that power to give or take away from reality, to seduce me and displace me, to have power over me, better than me having power over it. It was a slippery slope. It is a profession that is not a profession, and would not let you chose any other one. Writing makes the hole in the ground on which you are standing, the bottom of the vessel that is you. It turns you not into a vessel in which the worlds has been poured, but through which the world runs. In order to write, one must be pass-through, open, must be able not to observe but to see the world, without dressing it into one’s own images of the world. Tis thing with writing is wonderful and scary. That. That is a house the foundation of which is not made of solid concrete, but the entire visible and invisible world.
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ways been more involved in the lost home, than on this newly founded one. JOY AND SORROW OF A NEW HOME And what did you encounter with Banjaluka looked like? I remember being fascinated by trees. My brother and I were sitting in the park, in the center of the city, looking at the sky, puzzled why the trees were so big here. Streets and trees. And joy because of discovering a new city. And sorrow, because there were obituaries posted on many trees and houses. That is how you know that it is war, although at first sight it looks like peace, with those alleys of trees and silence. Impressions were slapping and overwhelming me. I was young, scared, and intoxicated with the new environment. I was cold that first autumn in Banjaluka more than any time before or after that. Sometimes I would have four-five longsleeved shirts on me, one on top of the other. Water was turning into ice in the room in the winter. I had never seen so much snow.
Tradition of the Future – Tradition is preserved, but also built. If we don’t create anything today, what will be our tradition in one hundred years? Therefore, both guardians and creators are equally important. If we want to have a live literary scene, if we want to have writers in the future too, we must learn to face the present-day literature. It is changeable, uncertain, not all of it will remain remembered, but we must be open to what is happening right now, just like we are open to the past. Only in that way we will have a tradition that is alive, tradition of the future. Let us not forget that tradition is being created now as well.
The new home was different from the old one. The house was old and beautiful, with wooden floor that creaks when you walk. My dad was unhappy and as constantly talking about our house that he and his father had built according to their own design, about indestructibility of that house that had been left “on the other side” in the war. In his story, that house grew into Noah’s Arc in which he could keep all of us together in one place and save us from everything. In the new house and new life in Banjaluka we have encountered the powerlessness of our own father. He didn’t find his way out here, although he tried to hide it. He was sitting at the same chair at the table. He was going to work. But he never stopped going back to Dalmatia in his head. We, the children, did not have time then to think much about it and to romanticize the rocky landscapes of Dalmatia. We were growing up unaware of that great division that caught up with us later. Now, when we are grown-ups (or at least trying to be), I clearly see that division and misplacement that we carry inside. How? I guess it is that permanent, internal refugee bundle. No one of us is quite certain as to where we want to live, or what we want from life. My father, who never got used to it and mother who was never sure whether she is supposed to get used to the new surroundings. At the end, my parents returned to Dalmatia after all. As for me, Banjaluka is finally the place where I live, “my temporary permanent home”. I gave birth to my daughter here, and
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thus something fragile and personal sprouted in this city. It has become closer to me, its trees and the river and everything it offers echoed inside me differently. Still, I think I will never have that feeling of home and belonging that I used to have. And, actually, I no longer want that. I feel a little sorry for people who are too attached to the place where they were born. The horror of being a refugee has been transformed into a pleasant feeling of being liberated of the local spirit that, whether you want it or not, always takes certain patina of staleness and a kind of unison opinion that certain people, having been born here, are therefore better, more civilized, more cultured than the others. Of course, it is a horrifying and unfair and stupid argument, but a very widespread one, in every city where you arrive as a guest or refugee. IN SURPLUSES OF LIFE Your poetry and fiction are direct, sometimes brutally honest. What leads you to those subjects and to what extent does writing liberate you? Themes and motifs in writing are like people. They either attract you or not. But if you are working on a relationship, it will necessarily become better. It is the same with writing. There is no bad subject, they get re-networked, supplemented, they pull one toward the other. As much as the writer shapes the writing, the opposite is also true. The process is mutual. And in order for it to lead toward the results, the necessary fuel is primarily the willingness to be open, honesty, in addition to working, reading, long periods of looking at the blank screen, feeling numb in the chair... What was the inspiration for your first novel (Clocks in Mother’s Womb)? The inspiration and starting point is visible already in the title, but not in the way we are used to talking about mothers in childlike and idealistic manner, without letting them really become alive in front of us as human beings filled with virtues and vices. I was interested in mothers as people who used to have their own lives, and at one moment, and that is typically the arrival of a child, they start hiding it, like some kind of a tail, an embarrassing surplus. The heroine’s mother is hiding those “surpluses of her own life” and her being from other people in the household, in order to “protect them from herself ”,
Roads You are the editor of “Putevi”, a magazine for literature, art and culture. To what extent have the audience and critics recognized a magazine like this? The most beautiful thing about “Putevi” is that people read it, they are interested in it. The magazine has a fantastic power to frown and anger those who think that they are the only ones who know what “Putevi” should look like. There are always people who think that they are the only criterion. After fifty-one hundred years, those judges completely disappear, and what they had been passionately persecuted, declared fashionable, bad novelties, becomes the tradition.
in her imagination and belief, so that she would only be the mother. After her mother’s death, the heroine goes to look for her real mother, her true personality. She wants to meet her and put the pieces of her back together, because she only knows the motherly part of her mother, and everything else is hiding in a shadow. She is interested in her feelings, details from her intimate life before she had become a mother. Through her journey and stay in her parents’ house, she also reevaluates other places where she lived in her life, from actual places to spiritual settlements, such as literature, fantasy and dreams. Although the mother is the starting point of the story, the novel is at the same time a story about daughters who are yet to accept or reject certain life roles on the road of a woman, without losing themselves on the way. Have you ever aspired to go far away from these borders of ours? I have thought about it many times, like most of the people who live here or have meanwhile moved away, but never strongly and deeply. It has never come to that firm and irreversible decision, because I am actually afraid of traveling and moving because of my memories as a refugee. The horror of travel bags, and memories scattered around closets of deserted houses, is haunting me. Do you consider yourself a strong woman? I consider myself to be a woman who, thanks to the ultimate limits of my weaknesses, had to find inside myself the strength and become strong And who, thanks to the weakness, learned that weakness and strength are two sides of the same coin, and that one should not insist on one or the other, but should be aware of the weaknesses in order to be able to find strength. Before encountering my own weakness, like all foolish people, I thought I was strong. s
Višegrad, The Bridge on the Drina (Photo: Slobodan Krstić)