Year XIII • special edition, 2019 • free copy www.nacionalnarevija.com
MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND INFORMATION OF SERBIA
P R O L O G U E
Publisher “Princip Pres” Cetinjska 6, 11000 Belgrade Tel.: +381 (11) 322 70 34, 32 30 447 www.nacionalnarevija.com email@example.com Director and Editor-in-Chief Mišo Vujović Editor Branislav Matić Technical Editor Aleksandar Ćosić Photography Editor Dragan Bosnić Header and cover design Jovan Željko Rajačić
APPROACHING THE BOOK FAIR IN LEIPZIG
erbian literature and publishing in 2019 will be presented at book fairs in Leipzig, Beijing, Moscow and Frankfurt. This presentation, just like this year in Serbian culture, will be marked by a series of significant anniversaries. “It is the 90th anniversary of the birth and 10th anniversary of the death of Milorad Pavić (1929–2009–2019), 90th anniversary of the birth of Aleksandar Popović (1929–1996), 30th anniversary of the death of Danilo Kiš (1935–1989–2019), 70th anniversary of the death of Rastko Petrović (1898–1949), 120th anniversary of the birth of Rade Drainac (1899–1943)... It is a centennial since the publication of the milestone collection of poems Lyrics of Ithaca (1919–2019) by Miloš Crnjanski.” Special significance will be attached to the 800th anniversary of gaining independence of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as well as the 810th anniversary of the creation of the Studenica Typikon. This important scripture 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”. Approaching the first of these book festivities, in Leipzig, from March 21 to 24, the main article in this issue was made in that light. We have prepared a shirt reminder from the first period of the Serbian printed book, in the 15th and 16th centuries. A special article addresses the writers whose anniversaries are celebrated. We also bring probably the last great interview in the life of Milorad Pavić, given in 2009 to National Review. We will point to the immeasurable significance of the five visionaries of Serbian spirituality, literature and science, five peaks of Serbian culture. There will be something to talk about in Leipzig.
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 writers Magazine registered in the Register of Public Media of the Republic Serbia, no. NV000385
ISSN 1452-8371 = Serbia - National Review COBISS.SR-ID 139201804
H E R I T A G E
Lighthouses A SMALL REMINDER FROM THE HISTORY OF SERBIAN BOOK (1)
in Times of Darkness
Those were great feats, first-class cultural heroism. In almost impossible circumstances, in the XV and XVI century, at the time Serbian lands were under Turkish slavery, Serbian books were made in printing houses in Cetinje, Goražde, Venice, Rujan, Gračanica, Mileševa, Belgrade, Kosjerić… There is not a single copy among the forty-odd known titles from that time without traces of several centuries of use. Serbs were the only enslaved nation in the Ottoman Empire who printed books, expressing a higher cultural, spiritual and technological degree than their invaders By: Predrag R. Milovanović
very book has its story. The most important books, those that initiated or made significant changes and remained in the foundations of a culture, all have an exciting story. Sometimes it’s a story about the creative efforts, the hardships that accompanied their emergence, sometimes the battle with censorship, authorities, the public, or protecting the book from numerous dangers… Important books were written by important people. At the time of their appearance, their books most often arrived to those who first recognized the meaning and significance of the written words. Holding the first edition of Rajić’s History, Vuk’s Dictionary, or translation of the New Testament, Njegoš’ Mountain Wreath… means observing a genuine part of history, witness of time. The story about every important old book is always a story of fighting and success. The books that arrived to us after several centuries or many decades were not preserved just like that. They didn’t travel through time with just anyone. They had to be in the right hands, many hands. Their previous owners loved them, or at least preserved them. They survived all the wars, devastations, bombings, migra-
tions, the most difficult times… Sometimes only a dozen, several or just one copy was preserved from the original 200 or 1.000. They arrive to us with traces of reading and scars testifying about the fierceness of fighting and dignity of success. These pages before the reader don’t have the objective to be an overview of Serbian books, because it is impossible to make on such a small space. This reduced selection was made with many limitations determined in advance (it excludes Serbian works printed in other languages, Dubrovnik literature, books printed in the so-called Bosančica, etc.). Our intention is just to remind of the existence of certain books, which had the greatest significance and highest range in Serbian culture, or those which were pioneers in certain fields. This time we are speaking about books published until 1683, and will continue in the following editions of National Review.
From Octoechos of Cetinje, 1494
THE FIRST PRINTED BOOKS A year after the fall of Constantinople and Byzantine Empire, the name of Serbia has appeared already in the first pages
H E R I T A G E
Ceremonial menaion of Božidar Vuković, Venice, 1538 Liturgical book of Vincenzo Vuković, Venice, 1554
ever printed with mobile letters in Europe. Gutenberg’s so-called Turkish Calendar, printed in 1454 before Gutenberg’s Bible, mentions Serbia in the poem for December (“They further write / That the Sultan has started off / To Serbia with his army / To the Hungarian border”). Forty years later, at the time of Columbus’ travels and the last years of the rule of Đurđe Crnojević (1490–1496) in Cetinje, Zeta (its Old Montenegrin, mountain part, the last remains of the medieval Serbian state) – the first Serbian printed book appeared. The Cetinje Octoechos, completed on January 4, 1494, was printed in Serbian-Slavonic Cyrillic letters, thanks to local master Đurđe, the efforts of the “humble priest” Hieromonk Makarije and seven of his monks, who later, after leaving Zeta, printed the first Romanian book. It is the first incunabulum in Cyrillic in the Balkans, printed in the first Cyrillic printing house founded by a Slav.
Orfelin Predrag R. Milovanović (Svilajnac, 1954 – Belgrade, 2015), expert in old and rare books, collector, one of the greatest bibliophiles in Serbian culture and supreme experts in old European publishing. He collected and left the biggest collection of old Serbian and Balkan books and the biggest collection of old Belgrade vedutas and maps. He returned some of the most precious books, such as the “Dečani Chrysobull” or “Dušan’s Code”, to Serbian treasuries. He founded the “Orfelin” antique shop and managed it for a long time in Skadarska and Knez-Mihailova streets, so entire Belgrade knew him as Peđa Orfelin. He wrote “Serbian Cornerstone Books” for “National Review” and “Princip Press” in October 2009 (“Meet Serbia” edition, book 22). If he hadn’t departed, he would have been sixty-five today.
The Cetinje Octoechos is a quarto format book, with two-colored printing, red and black, 270 folios with 24 to 30 rows each, woodcut initials, capital letters and additional signs. By its contents, it is a book of prayers that begin on Monday after the Sunday of All Saints and end on Saturday before the Great Lent. It is one of the most widely distributed books in Orthodox Christianity. By its achievement, the first Serbian printed book can be compared with those from much bigger and older European printing centers. The Octoechos of the Fifth Tone probably appeared the same year and was the most luxurious edition of this printing house, the first Serbian book with woodcut imprinted in the full format of the book. Only a fragment of it was preserved, four woodcuts of the original twenty-eight. The other two titles, Psalter and Book of Prayers, were printed in 1495/6. It seems that the hieromonk and his brothers remained dedicated to work and faithful until the last days of freedom. Đurđe Crnojević fled to Venice before the Turkish invasion. This could explain why the Four Gospels printed in 1496 were not preserved and perhaps remained incomplete. The graphics of the Cetinje printing house features a merge of stylistic elements, from Byzantine iconographic artwork, drawings with gothic characteristics, to renaissance details in the spirit of then Venetian printing. The high-quality printing in Cetinje served as a role model to future printers, and not only Serbian ones.
PRINTING HOUSES IN GORAŽDE AND VENICE The first period of perishing of Serbian printing lasted until 1519, when two new Serbian printing houses were founded, almost simultaneously. The printing house in Goražde has a remarkable place in the history of Serbian book. It was founded by Božidar Goraždanin with his sons Teodor and Đurađ. Three books, “handicrafts”, printed in this house – Liturgicon (1519), Psalter (1521) and Breviary (1523) – signified the revival of Serbian book and were the first books printed in the European part of the Ottoman Empire. In Venice, Božidar Vuković founded not only the most important Serbian printing house, but also a kind of a Serbian sanctuary, realizing the single long-term and continuous Serbian cultural endeavor in the XVI century. Printing books was a profitable business, but Vuković most probably started this endeavor led by political convictions and in order to make a legacy. He managed to reconcile the interests of Venice, Rome, Serbian Church, and the duties he later accepted after receiving an aristocratic title and coat of arms from Charles V. Božidar Vuković’s printing house between 1519 and 1539 and later between 1546 and 1561, while it was managed by his heir, his son Vincenzo, printed more publications with higher circulation than the total number printed in the XVI century in the territory of present Serbia.
The most significant is the first book Pages of Rujno from Vuković’s printing house – Liturgicon Four Gospels from from 1519, completed most probably only 1537 and the cover a few days after the edition from Goražde. page of the Belgrade As the first Serbian book printed outside Four Gospels of the nation’s land, it was the herald of from 1552 the later continuous cultural connection between Serbs in the enslaved homeland and the West. All Serbian printing houses of the time were probably supplied from this place in Venice. Especially charming is the third book from Vuković’s printing house – Book of Prayers, the so-called Book for Travelers, from 1521. It is the first Serbian book which addresses a wider circle of believers. It is a very small format book (93 x 65 mm) and the rarest among this printing house’s titles. The Octoechos of the Fifth Tone from 1537 has particularly beautiful woodcut on the entire folio, while the Holiday Menologium from 1538 is the most complex and most voluminous endeavor of Božidar Vuković, featuring supreme skills of this printing house and XVI century Serbian printing in general. It includes two Serbian services, two Teodosije’s (to Simeon and Sava) and one Tsamblak’s (to Stefan of Dečani). Judging by the number of preserved copies, this was the most widely distributed Serbian book of the time. The Octoechos from 1537 and Holiday Menologium are the only Serbian books printed both on paper and parchment. Božidar Vuković gave one such copy, in leather binding, as a gift to the Chilandar Monastery.
H E R I T A G E Considering that he hadn’t received either a vow or support from his father, his son Vincenzo did an extraordinary work. Left without any handmade templates, Vincenzo renewed his father’s editions, trying to introduce new graphic elements. The most wonderful example is the Psalter from 1546, with each page with text edged with decorative frames. RUJAN, GRAČANICA, MILEŠEVA, BELGRADE
From the Belgrade Four Gospels, 1552
The Four Gospels of Rujan from 1537 is the first book printed in the territory of present Serbia. It was printed by monk Teodosije, with humble skills, improvised technique and unequally, in the Rujan Monastery of St. George near Zlatibor. The book touchingly testifies about the feats of monk Teodosije, who obviously created the book in unthinkably difficult circumstances. The large format Octoechos of the Fifth Tone was printed in 1539 in Gračanica Monastery, Kosovo. Upon the request of Metropolitan of Novo Brdo Nikanor, it was created by “Christ’s servant Dimitrije” looking up to the editions from Cetinje and Venice, with original elements expressed mostly in the woodcut presentation of the monastery. Already accustomed to slavery, the founding of the Mileševa printing house was initiated twice, in 1544 and 1546. The afterword of the Psalter from 1544 notes an exciting testimony about purchasing the printing press from Venice. A unique endeavor in terms of printing quality and the only such attempt outside of the Serbian Church was undertaken in 1552 in Belgrade by Duke Radiša Dmitrović, Trojan Gundulić from Dubrovnik and Hieromonk Mardarije. They printed the Four Gospels with ceremonial letters, the most beautiful book printed in the Serbian lands up to then. After the departure of Hieromonk Mardarije to Mrkša Church, where he founded a printing house ten years after the Belgrade one, the printing of Serbian books in the Balkans stopped. After Vincenzo’s withdrawal, Stefan of Skadar and later Jakov of Kamena continued the work in Vuković’s printing house in Venice until 1566. Sporadic attempts of Jerolim Zagurović, Jakov Krajkov, Ste-
fan Paštrović and Sava Dečanac (the latter two printed the Alphabet Book in only two folios in 1597), as a reflex and effort to continue the work started in Vuković’s printing house, ended in 1638 with Jakov Ginami’s Psalter, the last Venetian edition of Serbian-Slavonic books. The appearance and life of Serbian book in the XV and XVI century are characterized by excellence unseen in the cultures of other nations. First of all, the degree of self-sacrifice, vitality and persistence of those who initiated printing in impossible circumstances of slavery. The preserved books alone testify about the meaning of those inspiring and farsighted endeavors. The total of forty-odd known titles printed at the time all have traces of centuries-long use, which is not the case with any corpus of books of the time. Also testifying about the strength of the feat is the fact that Serbs were the only enslaved nation that printed books in the Ottoman Empire. It is a case very rare in history, that the enslaved people expressed a higher technological and spiritual degree of development in some field than their invaders. However, the unbearable living conditions under the Ottomans finally led to the shutting down of all Serbian printing houses. WAKING UP IN THE XVIII CENTURY Until the XVIII century, the Serbian people, repeatedly decimated and scattered in the vast area of three powerful states, without any cultural center or road sign, lacked any conditions for printing books. A recent discovery of a book, unknown up to now, largely reduced the time vacuum in the history of Serbian book and raised hope in future discoveries. Menologium from 1719 appeared as the first Serbian book printed in Cyrillic after 1638, from a dark place of our cultural history. It was printed in Vienna, based on a Russian template, in twelve copper engraved folios, with over four hundred of miniature menologium presentations. This discovery does not reduce the significance of Hristifor Žefarović’s Stematography (Vienna, 1741), considered the turning point of new Serbian literature.
SMALL CONTRIBUTIONS TO UNDERSTANDING SERBIAN CULTURE AND SPIRITUALITY
Five Great Men
The first gave legal status to the Serbian church and consecrated the state, placing the Serbian foundation in the Holy City. The second performed the greatest “conservative revolution” in Serbian culture, at the end of the time of slavery and darkness, returning the resurrected nation to culture and culture to the resurrected nation. The third wrote the timeless epic of Serbian survival and ascension, dreaming of Prizren, Peć and freedom. The fourth made discoveries stretching into the secret of the creation of the world. The fifth mathematically expressed the heavenly and divine mechanics, enlightening eons. (…) Those who don’t perceive them will hardly perceive anything important in Serbian culture and spirituality
uch people are rare, but exist in many nations and epochs. The size of a nation and importance of an epoch depends on their size and variety. Their deeds are sometimes results of efforts of many generations, and announce their spiritual maturing. Sometimes they are freelancers, “appearing out of nowhere”, pushing boundaries, opening expanses, creating foundations. They do it even when they are not entirely aware of the far-reaching impact of their deed, simply fulfilling their fate, following their internal voice. They first see and then act – this is what they all have in common. They are not waiting for things to happen, because they know that “God is acting through us”. They are not expecting their contemporaries to entirely understand them, because deep inside they know that their contemporaries are in the near or distant future. They are not asking their nation to bow to them, because they know that they are there to serve their nation. They don’t expect mercy from people, knowing that they have already received it from God, as a gift and as a cross. We have five completely different persons and greatnesses before us. We chose them as chapters from the publication Great Serbian Visionaries, written by Milovan Vitezović and Branislav Matić (Belgrade, 2009) and brought them before our
readers, in expectation of the upcoming International Book Fair in Leipzig. They are not here for us to compare or identify them, or to judge them, but to get at least contours of the richness of the chain to which present Serbian culture is connected. The first gave a legal status to the Serbian church and consecrated the state, placing the Serbian foundation in the Holy City, exactly where the Last Supper took place and the New Testament was established. He thus introduced Serbs into the most significant spiritual stream of mankind, the one leading from the First Revelation to the Last Day. The second performed the greatest “conservative revolution” in Serbian culture, returning the resurrected nation to culture and culture to the resurrected nation. The third… We will add more chapters about great visionaries of Serbian faith, culture, art and science in another occasion, in a thicker volume.
Monument to St. Sava on the to St. Sava Plateau in Belgrade, by sculptor Nebojša Mitrić
SAVA NEMANJIĆ (1175–1235), FOUNDER OF THE HOLY SERBS’ DYNASTY The idea about the unity of Serbian lands and their unification into a powerful country in the Balkans is certainly as old as the very beginnings of first Serbian states. The
V I S I O N A R I E S Paja Jovanović: “Apotheosis of Vuk Karadžić”, oil on canvas, 1897 (in private collection, Belgrade)
possibility of realizing such a complex idea was first perceived by Grand Prince of Raška Stefan Nemanja, who understood the symphony of spiritual and secular authority in a Byzantine state establishment. The departure of Prince Rastko, third Nemanja’s son, the fulfillment of their prayers to God, to Mt. Athos, where he became monk Sava, should be perceived through it. Also perceived through it should be Nemanja’s conceding the princely throne to his middle son Stefan, son-in-law of then Byzantine emperor Alexios Angelos, after Nemanja took a monastic vow. Nothing in their actions was accidental. There was a clear vision, there was a concrete plan. The erection of the Serbian monastery of Chilandar in Mt. Athos, “in the name of the father and sons” (Simeon/Nemanja, Simon/Stefan and Sava/Rastko) and taking Byzantine Emperor Alexios Angelos as a co-ktetor, created the foundations of Serbian spiritual independence. Sava wrote the Chilandar Typicon, with the approval of the emperor co-ktetor, based on the Typicon of the Monastery of Mother of God Evergetida, who gave full independence to this imperial monastery in Constantinople. Created based on the Chilandar Typicon, Sava’s Studenica Typicon enabled independent Studenica to acquire mortmains throughout the Serbian lands and erect Orthodox Serbian churches and monasteries. The clergy and monks for them were prepared in Chilandar, capable of holding services in Serbo-Slavic language. This is how the Orthodox Serbian church was first founded and then proclaimed independent. When the ecumenical patriarch Mihailo Saraten ordained Archimandrite of Studenica Sava Nemanjić as first archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox church in Nicaea in 1219, the right of Serbian prelates was established to choose their archbishops themselves, further enabling the old Serbian archbishop, in ac-
It Won’t Let Go, but It Will We will state just a few from the abundance of Serbian folk proverbs, noted and preserved by Vuk Karadžić: “It is easy to muddy a shallow puddle and make a fool angry.” “Poverty and cough cannot be hidden.” “If there is shame, there is honesty.” “There is no wheat without weed or people without degenerates.” “A small axe breaks down a large tree.” “Woe onto that man who waits for the enemy at his doorstep.” “Everything for honor, honor for nothing.”
cordance with the symphony, to crown Serbian kings with a Serbian crown. Sava gave the legal status to archbishopric and royal rights of Serbs with his Nomocannon (Legal Code), selection of the most important laws of Prohorion, Vasilika and Justinian’s Law, translated, interpreted and adjusted for Serbs. By giving legal status to the Serbian church and Serbian state, Archbishop Sava provided recognitions of other rulers (two emperors, three caesars, one king and one caliph) and the highest ecclesiastical officials during his two important journeys. The recognition was confirmed with a Serbian edifice in heavenly Jerusalem. After purchasing the house of John the Theologian from Muslims, where the Last Supper was held in the upper room and the New Testament established, and giving the house as a present to the Patriarchy of Jerusalem, Sava gained the right to raise a Serbian church dedicated to John the Theologian, next to the house on the Zion. Now only foundations of the Serbian church remain, exactly above the crypt of David’s tomb. Such activities and theological postulates of Sava Nemanjić gave birth to the Serbian spiritual and state idea, later customary laws, postulates of spiritual honor, legal and moral features of the Serbian nation. VUK KARADŽIĆ (1787–1864), THE ONE WHO RETURNED THE SOUL TO THE NATION If we observe the personality of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić from such a point of view, we will see much mythological in him. Starting from his appearance. Besides his mythological lameness, he also had the temper of a holy fool. In his letter to Bishop Josif Rajačić, Metropolitan Stratimirović indicated the proclamation of Peter the First a saint as a “master deed of Vuk”, recognizing his power to “create saints in the faith of Montenegro”. Many wished to mock him in different occasions in the prince’s office. However, in such mocking, Vuk was never a comical character, but an almost mythological being. If we observe the most faithful portrait of Vuk, made based on the daguerreotype of Anastas Jovanović, we see incredibly shiny roentgen eyes on the face of an old man, which seem to look through times and objects.
V I S I O N A R I E S
Cetinje Monastery, 15th century, endowment of Ivan Crnojević
Vuk’s achievement, let alone the content, seems mythological. According to its volume and size of the endeavor, it is almost unbelievable a single man could do it in a single lifetime. It was often indicated that Vuk had done work that needed hundreds of people in hundreds of years in other nations. A work equal to the work of national institutes. And Vuk’s work is the entire spiritual experience of ancestors. A national mirror for recognizing the nation. Psychiatrists, psychologists, parapsychologists are all searching for the soul of an individual; if we search for the soul of a nation, we’ll find it in literature and language. Vuk returned the soul to the liberated Serbian nation. It is enough to just take his Serbian Dictionary, which is at the same time a dictionary of Serbian mythology. “Chesnica (Christmas bread) is described correctly, and not only chesnica, but also the badnjaks (ritual Oak tree for Christmas), Christmas, weddings, abduction (how girls are abducted), Epiphany, memorials, Christmas, St. George’s Day, St. John’s Eve, fairies, witches, vampires, stuachi, vrzino kolo, grabancijaš, ranilo, ružičalo, zavjetina, krstonoša, krsno ime, po-
bratim, dodole, kraljice, lazarice, koleda … Even those who have never read before will read the Serbian Dictionary” – he wrote to Lukijan in 1817. “... Vuk Karadžić is the greatest ‘conservative revolutionary’ in the history of Serbian culture… Revolutionary for his methodology, conservative for his loyalty and faithfulness, he bridged a horrible gap between the living people and alienated elite, enabled the return of the people to culture and culture to the people. Neither literature without people nor people without literature…” This is my nation! We can all say that, recognizing ourselves in how Vuk presented us to the world. And for once, here, we must admit that we are Vuk’s nation. He is telling us who we are, from the first cry to the mourning song around the tomb. When speaking about Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, considering everything or regardless of everything, we are speaking about him as a myth, as if the myth is at least a thousand, not just two hundred years old. Bringing him in connection with the collected spiritual heritage of a nation, we transfer the entire ancientness of heritage to him as
well. The real measures of time are no longer valid, as if our time has a double bottom. Vuk saved us for ourselves. And for others. The best way to celebrate Vuk is to be aware of ourselves. Among others. PETAR THE SECOND PETROVIĆ NJEGOŠ (1813–1851), THE BISHOP OF SERBIAN POETRY If anyone in the entire Serbiandom after St. Sava “had a reason to be born”, according to Njegoš’s verses, it is Njegoš himself. It seems that eternity was inborn to him, as well as the time he was born in, and his teacher, poet Sima Milutinović Sarajlija, who introduced him to poetry, to sing of and therefore most permanently and most supremely determine the fate and being of his nation. Even when they overgrow their teachers, great spirits never watch them from the achieved heights, but raise them into heights above them.Thus Njegoš always elevated Sima Sarajlija. During his visit to Cetinje in 1834, when he brought the cast letters of his new Serbian or-
thography for the recently purchased monastic printing house, Vuk Stefanović Karadžić advised young Njegoš, just confirmed poet, to ignore bad poetic role models, to abandon foreign classicism, which is disappearing anyway, and to write in the national spirit, which makes nations recognizable in their romanticist exaltations and enthusiasms. He advised him to write in the spirit of folk proverbs’ wisdom, to imagine his poetic weaving on national basis, to use folk conceptions as role models and material: “Have your rulers, have your dance, have your heroes and heroisms, have your mourning songs, have your proverbs and stories. Sing about Montenegro and pay your debt to the Serbian nation and dear language.” That is how the contents for the most famous Njegoš’s epic, The Mountain Wreath, were created. Even before its publishing, it was clear to the wisest Serbs who lived in Vienna that not a single epic in Serbian poetry will be able to compare with The Mountain Wreath and its poetic beauty. While Njegoš was personally reading them The Mountain Wreath, it was clear to all of them that he wrote a work which will become the pride of Serbi-
Petar II Petrović Nјegoš, two portraits from the 19th century
an poetry, a work in which “the Serbian soul is reduced into the historical fate of national survival and existence”. After it had been published, it all became clear to every literate Serb. The epic of Serbian survival was published. “Never has any Serb sang or thought this way” – said Njegoš’s teacher, poet Sima Milutinović Sarajlija in Belgrade, in the Society of Serbian Letters. The publishing of The Mountain Wreath printed in Vuk’s orthography proclaimed the victory of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić’s linguistic and literary principles. Literary estheticians disputed about Njegoš, most often whether The Light of the Microcosm is above The Mountain Wreath with its spiritual elevation. The Light of the Microcosm is an epic of a spiritual advisor and his questions reaching the highest spiritual realms, and The Mountain Wreath remains the work without which great Njegoš wouldn’t exist in the national meaning, and without which there would be less of us. His entire opus can be called The Serbian Mirror, in which he is magnificently reflected with his nation, whose liberation he dreamed of, as the defender of the Kosovo idea and real author of the cult of Obilić: “If only Serbiandom would be liberated, so the Serbian prince could set off to imperial Prizren, and I to my Patriarchate of Peć!” NIKOLA TESLA (1856–1943), GENIUS, SCIENTIST, MYSTIC It is more or less clear to any serious person today that Nikola Tesla was not only an ingenious scientist, but also an esotericist. Such a merge of science and mysticism is found perhaps only in Newton and Paracelsus or earlier in renaissance magicians. All Tesla’s discoveries, we anticipate, come from the path of the primordial search for God and initiation into the secret of creating the world. The son of Serbian Orthodox priest Milutin Tesla, from the village of Smiljan in Lika, completed high school in Gospić and studied technology in Graz and Prague. As an engineer, he worked in Budapest, Paris, New York. Then he opened his own laboratory in New York and worked in it until his death. Most of the fundamental inventions in electrical engineering are his work (more than a thousand patents in total). Patents in the field of polyphase alternating current (1887–1890) are the foundations of pres-
Knowing Who You Are “If I have the luck to realize at least some of my ideals, it will be for the welfare of entire mankind. If my hopes are realized, my sweetest thought will be that it was a work of a Serb. Long live Serbiandom! (...) I have, as you can see and hear, remained a Serb even across the sea, where I’m involved in research. You should do the same and, with your knowledge and work, spread the glory of Serbiandom in the world.” (Nikola Tesla in his speech to students of the Great School in Belgrade, June 3, 1892)
ent power engineering. The discoveries of induction and synchronous motors, generators and transformers of polyphase currents… His patents were inevitable in the construction of the first large generators for polyphase currents. The invention of a turbine without blades, as well as pumps and speedometers based on the same principle (1913) — in which he invested twenty years of his life and work – was thoroughly understood only in our times, provoking excitement in the scientific world with its originality… Almost a century ago, he astonishingly succeeded in producing high frequency currents with dozens of thousands of periods, with a voltage of several million volts. Tesla’s experiments in New York and Colorado Springs resemble rituals of superhuman intelligence, and his Colorado Springs Research Diary remind of notes about initiation. His oscillators are used in radio technology, industry, in the process of releasing nuclear energy, medicine. He established the technology of wireless transfer of electricity and wireless remote controlling. His antenna of the “World Radio Station”, raised in Long Island in 1900, provoked disbelief at the time and was considered science fiction, while today it is commonly used even in the most hidden corners of the planet. This is when Tesla’s withdrawal from the masses of the world into deep loneliness began. He lived in an urban asylum, alone in the crowd. It is known that he continued his work with the same intensity, some of his discoveries were made public and available for mass consumption, while it is less and less clear what was the main thing he was dealing with and how far he got. It seems that the more was written about it, the more remained hidden. Many serious people are convinced that the discoveries and insights Tesla achieved were so great, that there was no one he could announce them to in his epoch. No one was following him anymore and his eyes, in the world of armed indus-
Nikola Tesla (Archive of NR)
V I S I O N A R I E S Milutin Milanković as a professor of the University in Belgrade, 1924
trialists and greedy merchants, hadn’t met the eyes whom such power could be entrusted to. The urn with his earthly dust, a golden ball on a stone pedestal, resembling a mystical core of the world or primordial image of the universe, is kept in his museum in Belgrade since 1957. According to his own wish. He bequeathed his entire legacy to his homeland. MILUTIN MILANKOVIĆ (1879–1958), MASTER OF HEAVENLY MECHANICS
Milanković as a student in Osijek, around 1890
He was a civil engineer, astronomer, mathematician, geophysicist. He founded the academic studies of applied mathematics and heavenly mechanics in Serbia. A medal named after him has been awarded by the European Geophysical Society every year since 1993. According to official citation indexes, he is the most quoted Serbian scientist abroad. He is author of the most accurate calendar in the world, conceived in a way that it needs to be corrected only after 28.800 years. He is the founder of modern climatology and climatic modeling. It was necessary to spend five years of intensive work of a global network of institutes and an enormous dollar amount for a research, which, several decades later, only confirmed his spectacular findings, based on mathematical calculations of heavenly mechanisms. He is one of the founders of plate tectonics, making the basics for modern geology. He proved that the position of continents in the geological past “was significantly different from the present, and that they have certainly moved in time”. “There is no other explanation: he could see through time and matter, and mathematically proved the seen and recognized. Although the equipment and technical aid he had at his disposal were null.”
Milutin Milanković was born on May 28, 1879 in Dalj, then Austro-Hungary, as the oldest child of Milan and Jelisaveta (born Muačević). He was twenty-three when he graduated civil engineering in Vienna. Three years later, in 1905, he got a job in the famous civil engineering company in Vienna, “Adolf Baron Pittel Beobau – Unternehmung”. For four years, he was building “structures in reinforced concrete”: bridges, viaducts, waterworks, embankments, throughout the empire… He was spending the fourth month of his fourth decade when the probably greatest reversal happened in his life in 1909. Ljubomir Stojanović, philologist, then minister of education in the Kingdom of Serbia, appointed him professor at the Department of Applied Mathematics of the Belgrade University. Thus began his university and scientific career, which led him to the very top of the epoch. He proved that precession, slope of rotation axes change and eccentric orbit of the Earth around the Sun are crucial factors of the periodical impact on climate change in the past of our planet. Furthermore, he created and explained a precise periodization of the beginning and ending of ice ages on Earth for 600.000 years into the past, beginning from 1800. The impeccable correctness of his calculations of the cyclicality of those phenomena was confirmed and they are now known in science as “Milanković’s Cycles”. The Cannon of Insolation and the IceAge Problem is considered the most important work in Serbian science in the XX century. Milanković’s plan for the reform of the Julian calendar was officially accepted in 1923, in Constantinople, at the Pan-Orthodox Council. The highest Orthodox body confirmed it as the most accurate calendar, which corrects all major shortcomings of both the Julian and Gregorian calendars. However, due to known circumstances, the conclusion (still) hasn’t been applied. “He ploughed the heavenly furrows at the end of the second, while the results of his work will be reaped in the third millennium.” (From the publication “Great Serbian Visionaries”, written by Milovan Vitezović and Branislav Matić, “Princip Press” and “Politika”, Belgrade, 2009)
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.
OBSERVING THE DOUBLE ANNIVERSARY OF MILORAD PAVIĆ (1929–2009), THE MOST TRANSLATED SERBIAN AUTHOR
Every Book Is a Virgin
He is considered one of the most attractive writers of our time, together with Borges, Eco, Márquez. He taught millions of readers throughout the world how to choose their own path through the book, not necessary from beginning to end, and that each one of them is creating his own vision, a unique item. He pulled them into a creative game, in which no one is innocent, neither the writer nor the reader. He feels as a writer of the first, not the XXI century. He despises amateurism, doesn’t worry about the fate of books, and is not afraid for the unfinished ones. “An unfinished book is like life without death” By: Mila Milosavljević
ilorad Pavić’s creative biography is made of a series of varied literary and scientific achievements. He entered literature with his book of poetry Palimpsests, followed by the History of Serbian Literature in the Baroque (XVII– XVIII), studies Gavril Stefanović Venclović and Vojislav Ilić, books of stories The Iron Curtain, Horses of St. Marco, study History of Serbian Classicist and Pre-Romanticism Literature, book of stories Russian Greyhound, scientific synthesis Birth of New Serbian Literature.
He became internationally famous with Milorad Pavić as his novel Dictionary of the Khazars (1984), a boy at the piano translated into twenty-eight languages, and and with his sister Jasmina his fame was later confirmed with his novels Landscape Painted with Tea, Last Love in Constantinople, The Inner Side of the Wind, The Star Cape and Writing Box, Colorful Mirror, Unique Item, Bathroom Wedding, Second Body, The Glass Snail, Damascene… The series will undoubtedly be joined by Academician the newly published Artificial Birthmark. Milorad Pavić Observing the 90th anniversary of the in Tašmajdan birth and 10th of the death of the most Park in Belgrade
F O R
R E R E A D I N G
From personal album: Boyhood and youth
translated Serbian author – in the eve of the International Book Fair in Leipzig – we are reminding our readers of the interview Pavić gave to National Review several months before his departure. Since last summer, you are the only living writer whose bust was placed in front of the Moscow Library. How much does the unquestionably planetary popularity mean to you? I am very grateful to Russian sculptor Gregory Pototsky, who made the bust in Moscow. He has carefully chosen the pedestal made of light-pink marble, so that the monument doesn’t resemble a postmortem bust. That monument, however, would not exist if it weren’t for the Russian readers of my books.
Photo: Željko Sinobad and Guest’s Archive
You taught millions of readers in the Serbian cultural area and throughout the planet a different way of reading, nonlinear? I taught them to choose their own path through the book. Non-linear prose is something like a buffet. If you’re not afraid of the freedom to choose, you will
Theater Pavić entered the XXI century, as he says, through the theatrical scene. Many plays based on his literary texts were performed in the past years, starting with the “Dictionary of the Khazars”. A multimedia version of the famous novel was performed in the Prague Theater. A theater from Augsburg is performing the same play. The drama “Forever and a Day” was staged by the Moscow Art Theater (MHAT) and a theater from Voronezh. The St. Petersburg theater “Osobnjak” is playing the “Lexicon” (a version of the “Dictionary of the Khazars” in commedia dell’arte style)…
take what you like, as much as you want, as much as you need. Non-linear writing is wonderful and joyful for a reader. It allows us not to read a novel or story only in the classical, well-known way, from beginning to end, but to choose a path of our own. All my works can be read in the classical manner, but also open a possibility of being read differently, as a dictionary, as a crossword, to be turned in the middle of reading as a clepsydra, to be understood as a manual for fortune telling or astrological guide. That means that the book is a virgin for every reader. THE ART OF READING You have often written about writers’ ideals. What is your ideal? Perhaps I could say that my ideal is behind me. You are giving the reader a very important role, not only passive? I realized the writer-reader coproduction. Writers or composers are only assemblers of sheet music. Music doesn’t exist until it’s performed, played. It’s the same with literature. It doesn’t exist until someone reads it. I understood readers as artists and divided roles with them: I assemble the sheet music, they perform it. A reader is, therefore, a reproductive artist. When a journalism student asks you in his graduation interview “how you find subjects for writing”, what do you say? They find me. Even now they occasionally knock on my window, but I drive them away.
Today, in the explosion of new media, many predict books an ill fate? I don’t think so. Paper books will die, because there will be no more forests on Earth to cut for making paper for books and newspapers. However, book has died numerous times and reappeared as a phoenix in an even more powerful form. It died in the bark of the tree, in stone, in scrolls, in parchments, in handwriting, so it will also have to die in its paper form. It will be replaced with electronic books. An American publisher asked me recently to publish six of my novels translated into English in electronic form, as an e-book. E-books have numerous advantages: you can take them to bed, you don’t need a night lamp (because it has its own illumination), you don’t have to put your glasses on (because letters in an electronic book can be increased or decreased), you don’t need a book shelf in your apartment (because a hundred novels can fit in one electronic book – which, by the way, looks like any other paper book). Whether we like it or not, that is the future of books. There has never been more reading in the history of books as the case is today. Worrying about books is false. It will only share its duties with new electronic media. My involvement in interactive drama made me feel as if I’m writing in the first, not the twenty-first century. Your works are read, translated, you are awarded and popular both in your country and abroad, every step you make is followed, each of your words has a special echo. Can we say that Milorad Pavić is a satisfied writer? Am I a satisfied writer? The world does not condone success. Besides, if you constantly have to live above your physical and medical powers, you cannot speak about satisfaction. Despite all that, I’m a happy man, because my books and the books of my wife Jasmina Mihajlović make me happy. Her books, so different from mine, always surprise me in a specific way. I especially take pleasure in meeting my readers. I receive numerous touching letters by internet or regular post from all parts of the world. Six years ago I made a file for storing the most wonderful letters from my readers.
FROM ZERO ALTITUDE It is certainly not easy to bear the dynamics of an active creative life such as yours? I have a growing need to travel somewhere, to take a break. However, discovering such places for resting is difficult. A reader once offered me by e-mail to use his houses in the Aegean islands. I like zero altitude most. I sometimes bring stories from such travels, such as “Two Hand Fans from Galata” from Constantinople or “The Story of Grass” from Cairo. Which journey, which place has particularly impressed you? Corfu. An island that has been occupied by everyone who ever had a ship. Only Turks have never conquered it. The famous Turkish pirate Hairudin Barbarosa docked his ship, tried to conquer the island, but when he saw that Greeks retreated to the cliffs, he wasn’t in the mood to climb, so he took the wind and left Corfu play its music in accordance with the Venetian tune in the following centuries. The people of Corfu still sing and play music as if in Italy. Jasmina was finalizing her new book Love without Secrets, which will be presented by “Dereta” in this year’s fair, and I was drinking “retsina” – the oldest existing wine in Europe (mentioned in the Odyssey). In Corfu I remembered another Greek city and wrote the story “Three Wise Waters from Ephesus”. I was most impressed by the “Serbian House” in Corfu, where I remembered my grandfather who died at the Salonika Front, as well as Dositej Obradović, who stayed in
At the premier of a production based on Pavić’s literature: Moscow Academic Theatre, 21 April 2002
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At the desk in his Belgrade apartment
Corfu three times (unfortunately, there is not a single plate stating it). Every true artist, as well as any creative work, has a particular secret, a formula. Do you have any special form for those who are fatefully bound to books? According to a XV century work (which is definitely much older), every book has a sentence or verse which are yours only and speak about you. Open a book randomly with your nail and count rows (verses) until you reach the one corresponding your date of birth. That is a place where the book has to tell you something personal. Never repeat the procedure with the same book. Another thing: don’t worry if you sometimes don’t read a book till its end. It’s not bad for the book. An unfinished book is like life without death.
Sounding “I have a need, not only in case of poetry, but literary creativity in general, to read my sentences and texts out loud to myself, in order to check how they sound. I haven’t learnt about sentences from writers. I learnt from Serbian XVII and XVIII century orators, especially the famous orator from Szentendre, Gavrilo Stefanović Venclović, one of the greatest stylists of Serbian language. Therefore, I have learnt sentences intended to be spoken out loud in church or other public place, not written and read by the eye. Such sentences have a rhetorical charge, a rhetorical base.”
A BIOGRAPHY FOR EVERY CENTURY What is your attitude towards bestsellers in literature? One of the last sentences in my novel Second Body is: “Readers, not writers, are leading literature to the future.” It is known that you have a very lively communication with your readers through the internet. What is it that they commonly or uncommonly write you, what are the most frequent questions? I could say that I’m a lucky man, because I have millions of friends – readers who write me every day, more wisely than the texts I read about my books in the daily or trade press. I already said that I have a large file “Readers’ Letters”, which is filled at dizzying speed. I’ll mention a few of the latest ones. One is from the Ex en Provence university in France. It is written by a postgraduate student, who is working on a thesis about my books, and wants to know my attitude towards postmodernism. A medical student from Smederevska Palanka wrote that he felt a wish to write while reading my books, and a Russian living in the US says that his girlfriend gave him one of my novels to read, so that he could better understand who she is. They often ask me
for Serbian originals of my books. I’m sorry that, with the present state of our postal and other connections with the world, I’m not always able to answer their requests. You have written your own Autobiography for the XXI Century? If a man lives in two centuries, he’s got two biographies. My autobiography for the XX century can be read on my website www. khazars.com. Now it’s the first time I’m providing my autobiography for the XXI century. I married Jasmina Mihajlović a decade ago. She is about thirty years younger than me, but she says that, besides a biography, I also have a bibliography, and that she is over a hundred years old, because she adds my years to hers. She writes novels in female language (for example, Parisian Kiss, “Azbooka”, St. Petersburg, 2007). During the seven years of the XXI century, I published two novels, Second Body and Paper Theater, as well as a novel for children and adults, dedicated to my granddaughter Teodora. I also wrote the comedy Bathroom Wedding. During that time, my fame definitely moved from the West to the East (Russia, Poland, Japan, China, South Korea…). I learned another thing in my old age: fame moves in time as well. To my amazement, I won my only and dearest medal in the
XXI century, “White Eagle”, awarded by His Royal Highness Aleksandar Karađorđević. I had a literary evening in the most beautiful hall of Europe, “Megaron” in Athens. I spent two weeks in the most beautiful hotel in the world, “Adam and Eve” in Turkey. Instead of walls, that hotel has grass on the outside and mirrors on the inside. I have recently received honoris causa at the “Kliment of Ohrid” university in Sofia. It reminded me that I’m no longer able to climb Jungfrau or Grossglockner, as I have in my youth, while I was member of the mountaineering national team of a country that no longer exists.
In Belgrade, Dorćol With a Russian hound Near a pyramid in Egypt
WHEN MUSES ARE HEARD, CANNONS ARE SILENT You have an army of readers. Who are your literary favorites?
Autumn “A conference about my books has recently been held in the Rača Monastery on the Drina, within their permanent manifestation. My ‘Short History of Belgrade’ will be published this autumn in Russia, translated by Larisa Savelyeva. I have contracts with European and Asian publishers for a series of my books, and Matica Srpska will publish a book about the reception of my books in the world. Since there are about 40 translations of my books into foreign languages, it is a really big job.”
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Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, In Jasna Polјana, Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita, Kafka’s at the grave of Trial. And a hundred of other titles, inLev Nikolayevich Tolstoy cluding Jasmina Mihajlović’s two books Travel Album and Private Collection. Milorad Pavić’s life motto? When muses are heard, cannons are silent.
In Copenhagen, August 1995
Of all your talents, how was this specific one, which determined your present profession, singled out? It wasn’t. The Pavićs have been writers for over two hundred years. We had a poet or drama writer in every second generation, ever since the XVIII century, when one of my distant ancestors published a collection of decasyllabic verse poems in Buda, following the trend of gusle epic poetry.
Artificial Birthmark The latest novel written by Milorad Pavić, “Artificial Birthmark”, published by Matica Srpska from Novi Sad, recently printed for the readers, includes two more novels of the same writer (“Glass Snail” and “Damascene”), as well as a CD with a Greek film about the life and work of the prominent writer. The novel, as the writer has revealed us, speaks about the fact that, at one of the crossroads in our life, we are forced to choose our future, this or different one, depending on our decision in the critical moment. The book reflects both futures, following the main character on both roads after the crucial decision.
If you could, what would you change on the road you have passed? Certain sentences in certain books. However, since I know how it ended in Dučić’s case (as a disaster, he ruined his verses), I don’t dare do such a thing. Politics? Something you should keep away from if you’re not a professional (I despise amateurism). Religion? I believe Christianity is inseparable from Christian culture and especially the artistic streams of the Balkans. When I say that I belong to the Byzantine commonwealth, as it is called today, I want to warn about the connection with Ancient Greece, which is still alive in the Balkans through epic traditions of different nations, through Byzantine tradition. In that sense, my novels are also part of that epic tradition. You are currently reading? An excellent book on reconnection, nothing to do with fiction. And writing? I have recently written my last story. That’s its name. It is dedicated to a passed away poet. It wasn’t published. Perhaps I’ll never publish it.
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SERBIAN WRITER VLADIMIR PIŠTALO, EXCLUSIVELY FOR “NATIONAL REVIEW”
Makes Us Real
He considers metaphor a tool the Creator deliberately forgot in the world. The eternity of our lives is in details. As in fairytales, we should recognize ourselves among the masks of others. We must fight to regain the values of our culture, placed on banknotes with numerous zeroes by minters of false money. He was writing a novel about Tesla for eight years, now he’s writing a “Book on Andrić”, and after that he wants to start writing about Vladan Desnica By: Vesna Kapor
he backbone of his worlds are remarkable details, which, essentially, create the importance of our lives, and eventually the civilization. Readers unmistakably feel how much the writer truly inhabits his lines, how strong his emotion is. With Vladimir Pištalo, the reader is sure
that the stake is the highest: trust in the reader and the world, entirely dedicated to searching for his self. From his first poetic prose to later novels, Pištalo has been breaking stereotypes with his narration. He is poetic enough to swing you beyond the real, he is close
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In a Few Sentences Born in Sarajevo in 1960. Graduated from the Faculty of Law in Belgrade, obtained his doctoral degree at the New Hampshire University in the US. He teaches world and American history at the Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He published books of poetic prose: Picture Book, Nights, Manifests, End of the Century, novellas Corto Maltese and Alexandride, books of stories Vitrage in Memory, Stories from Around the World, novels Millennium in Belgrade, Tesla, Portrait among Masks and Venice. Winner of NIN’s award, Award of the National Library of Serbia for the most popular book, “Isidora Sekulić”, “Moma Dimić”, “Kočić’s Pen” award, as well as the “Miloš Đurić” award (fro the translation of the poetry of Charles Simić from English). Translated into more than ten languages.
From old albums: Vladimir with his father, mother, a friend and grandfather Spasa
and dynamic, intriguing enough so, after reading, you continue swimming in the world that remains floating as a trace for a long time. From novellas Corto Maltese and Alexandride, collections of stories, to the novel Tesla, Portrait among Masks, you have a tendency towards big biographies. In all those stories, one can feel the passion for revealing the world within one’s self through others. Is that an artistic fate or matter of decision? Not much is a matter of decision. Ivo Andrić wrote that the part of himself he chose is less important. And people don’t have this impression about Andrić. Let me be the devil’s advocate and say that these are not big, but small subjects, and that it all depends on the eye of the observer. Many think that Corto Maltese is a great comic book. And it is. However, I asked the children of the Zemun Gymnasium about Corto. Three of thirty in the class heard about it. My Alexandride is a story about Alexander the Great, as well as a version of Serbian Alexandride, a medieval novel in which Alexander was presented as a Christian hero. How many people know about such novels? I’m a bit suspicious about the tendency towards great-
ness, which sometimes appears in my books. I attempt to approach great subjects, so to say, in a small or unexpected way. I approached Venice from a Slavic aspect. The real world is a small world, said one poet. The truthfulness of a book is either revealed in a detail or not revealed at all. Paradoxically, the eternity of our lives is in details. Searching through the world and symbolism of carnivals continues in Venice, and the book is considered as a bildungsroman or novel of metamorphosis? The main metaphor in Venice is Metamorphosis, the inconstancy of the visible world. Most philosophers speak about the Being as a static category. Few of them speak about Creation as a constant process. The world is made and exists through Creation. Such was Heraclitus. Never in the same river twice. That’s how Ovidius thought about the world in his Metamorphosis. Such is my novel Venice. If one takes a closer look, Venice is actually a series of miniatures, a series of picturepostcards composed as a novel. Did you have a vision of a novel at the beginning or did you compose the novel after noting sensations? They are not only sensations. I had an idea what I want to say, not only in the form of images, but also in the area of ideas. (Images and ideas, in an exciting process, somehow fit into each other.) Of course I didn’t know how all that would fit in. If I knew, there wouldn’t be any revelation, no added value. If nothing surprises me in the process of creation, how will the reader be surprised? If everything I do is known to me, it will also be known to others. And vice versa. WALKING WITH HIS GRANDFATHER’S STEPS In Venice, as well as in Tesla and many stories, the thing is not only about introspection, but also about masks. The eternal question: what is a mask and what am I? The story how a human can be brought down to a lower form, animal form, and elevated into higher, heavenly realms, and that carnivals are places of such metamorphoses. Is the carnival in Venice actually a parabola for the constant state of civilization?
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As in fairytales. One should recognize oneself among masks. One should recognize disguised others. Truths are disguised in illusions! And illusions are disguised in truths! One should recognize them. I don’t think it is the carnivalization Bakhtin wrote about. In ideological fairytales, the seed of illusion in the truth grows into a complete illusion in time. It should be re-recognized under a new mask. The title Tesla, Portrait among Masks on one hand suggests that Tesla spoke a simple truth, as he saw it, among people who wear masks and adapt. On the other hand, the title points out the role of love (not towards mankind, but towards concrete human beings) in Tesla’s life. Only love makes the other person real. Without love, people remain masks for one another. “Where does that leave me?” That sentence from Venice may open layers of stories about ancestors in us, about the “suitcase of heritage” we carry through the world, about faces and steps we are traces of…? People always told me I look like my father. However, whenever I start shaving, I see the stubborn jaw of my grandfather Spasa Pištalo in the mirror. He was a railway man and passed me the love for trains. I can only imagine how much smoke he inhaled riding on the Sarajevo-Dubrovnik railway. Besides, he looked like Chaplin when he was young. I don’t. He could walk on his hands. I can’t. He had a habit people considered strange when I was a child: every day he would go for a walk. He’d walk around the entire city of Mostar. I liked
Dream of the Writer and Dream of the Reader What is your relation towards what you have written? My relation is such that in one moment I decided that there were enough versions of the story (fifteen in the case of Tesla), that there are no excessive words in the text or I’m not able to see them. That’s where my part of the dream ends. From that moment, it’s important what the reader dreams regarding the book. We can call it bouncing dreams. I think that dreams, meaning hopes and expectations, are the integral part of our character, more important than anything written in our ID card.
Respect for Respect In the sound and fury our literary scene is overcome by, you stand on the side, belonging both to everyone and no one. Is the secret in the knowledge that “without our soul there wouldn’t be anything” (Webster, Venice)? Perhaps it concerns the soul and perhaps it’s about the investment in the text you mentioned in your introduction. One gets respect if one invests respect. That also refers to respect for the reader. You must treat the reader as if he or she is as good as you are in your best moments. However, this also wouldn’t mean anything without emotions. It’s not bad to like what you write about. You invest emotions to get emotions.
that, so I started going for walks very early. Those long walks remained a half-inherited, half-chosen habit. Since I go for walks every day, whether I’m in Worcester or in Boston, I walk through those cities with “my grandfather’s steps”.
Searching through the worlds of Ivo Andrić: On the bridge in Višegrad
SEARCHING FOR VALUES “One can find another world without leaving the one we live in.” (Venice) About journeys, cities, lands...? While writing about Ivo Andrić, I found that journeys, whether we talk about intoxication with them or doubting them, are one of the most important subjects of our Nobel Prize winner. Notes from Rome, Sintra, Bursa, Istanbul, Madrid, Vienna, Krakow, Stockholm, Beijing, are scattered in Andrić’s prose. After the Book on Andrić, which I’m writing now, I will write, or collect, a series of travelogues. Most of my travelogues are kept in notebooks and I need to take them out. Notes from Botswana, South Africa, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Egypt… are waiting for me. And many others. Yes, from Montevideo as well… “The Mediterranean – the eyes of my ancestors in the frescoes of Fiume.” (Venice) How much are we determined by the heritage of the nation we belong to? My mother was a literature professor, so I knew the entire history of our literature, especially poetry, before I started learning it in school. As a boy, I knew many epic folk poems by heart. I forgot most of them, but the essence remained. And I know where to find what I need. I needed them while writing the novel about Tesla. Nikola Tesla read epic folk poems once a week. The folk gusle player Petar Perunović used to vis-
Photo: Writer’s archive
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“Mediterranean begins a few hundred meters above the Pištalo family house in Mostar”: Vladimir and the brand new Old Bridge on the Neretva
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it him in New York. While writing Tesla’s portrait, among masks, I chose two epic poems concerning my hero: “Wedding of Milić Barjaktar” and “Wedding of Dušan”. Using the sensibility of those poems, I described Tesla’s experience of World War II. My English translator thus noticed that Tesla unites literary procedures from the most ancient to the most modern ones, from folk epics to symbolism, futurism, expressionism, surrealism. As well as realism and postmodernism. Following Tesla’s life from the preindustrial to the atomic age, the novel adjusts its language, reflecting the changing literary techniques. “Your soul is a province or capital, regardless of the place you live in.” (Tesla) What people, experiences and paradigms from the Serbian cultural heritage should first be revitalized and reaffirmed today? Almost all. All those people who were rightfully on Serbian coins and banknotes
Essential Question “What is this world? What is the reason of existence?” (Tesla) That’s the essential question. If a person lives his life without asking this question, it’s as if he was never born.
and were later devaluated together with those banknotes, as they kept getting more and more zeroes. Minters of false money were later ashamed to print the real faces of great people on banknotes, so they began making generic faces, like photo-robots. The faces on the devaluated banknotes were no longer Andrić, Njegoš and Vuk, as we know them from photos, but faces drawn as if someone described them to a court artist and later printed on a hectograph: wanted! I believe those faces and their values are still wanted and searched for. I invested years in some of those values and those faces. I dedicated two years to the symbol such as the city of Belgrade, writing my novel Millennium in Belgrade. I dedicated eight years to revealing and illustrating the story about Nikola Tesla. I will dedicate another few years to reviving the slipping away realities (in plural not in singular) of Ivo Andrić. After that I would like to write a book or a long essay about the great writer Vladan Desnica. NEW HISTORY OF OUR SOUL Your Tesla? A dark haired man, thin as a greyhound, tall, handsome. Always sick, always on the
verge of a catastrophe, yet indestructible. Ready to take risks against general opinion, even unable not to take them. Indescribably stubborn. Intuitively talented author, with deep eyes, playing the role of a positivist following the trend of his time. They say he was able to evaluate the depth of a person at first glance and based on that decide how much time he would dedicate him or her. They say he could think about scientific problems while watching movies, watching through the movies in a way. They say he felt continuity through the buzz of time or even the city noise. Your Andrić? Ivo Andrić felt responsibility towards the reader, unmatched in our present time. He believed that literature is an offered helping hand, which can make a person sad, but mustn’t insult or discourage. He assumed that he, as a writer, may sometimes be someone’s only friend and advisor and that he mustn’t fail in that role. In our mocking culture, he warned that “mockers are rarely right”. He attempted to see people from the inside, the way they see themselves. He never hesitated to console his reader, repeating that he or she is never alone in anything and never the first to experience something.
Your Crnjanski? Last summer I read Crnjanski’s essays again. My attention was drawn by the fact that he was strongly against whining, complaining and dark subjects our literature was and is prone to. He liked Branko Radičević exactly for the fact that he introduced new, merrier, erotic subjects into our poetry. I was touched by the tendency towards light and joy in a poet who also knew how to lament. Regarding Andrić’s Ex Ponto, Crnjanski wrote that perhaps a new history of our soul begins with it. Joy and directness in it are more in form than in subjects. Crnjanski was a fighter for the new history of our soul.
In front of Becker College in Worcester. Massachusetts, USA, where he teaches world and American history
ECHOES OF LANGUAGE IN THE TISSUE OF A HUMAN “Seen from the outside, Serbian language is small, but its interior is spacious.” (Tes-
About Old Age “The carnival showed what will be when I’m not me. When I become the wind, when I become the river, when I become the branches of trees. That’ll be the end of greediness. When I become: everything.” (Venice) How do you see yourself in twenty years and what kind of old age would you like? If I were rich, I would do the same I’m doing now. If I were very old (rich in age), I would still do what I’m doing now. That would be nice old age.
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la) You live in the United States, but you write in Serbian; you once said that it’s your only way of expression? The language you start speaking and speak in your childhood becomes part of you so much that it immediately provokes echoes in your tissue. In a matter of seconds, words turn into hopes, disturbances, discomfort, promises. They become your physical states. They become you. A word of the mother tongue personified in a second. This is what mainly poetry, but also prose, is based on. In a language you learn later, words are information, not a physical echo in your being. It remains a handshake in rubber gloves and a kiss after an injection of novocaine. The archaic language, oneiric and thick experience on one hand, and the amazing easiness of moving through space and time, through the contents of the read, on the other, are balanced in your work from beginning to end. How did you maintain such dynamics and lyrical expression through the years of writing? By attention! Without rushing, neither in terms of language nor subject. A writer must first conquer a certain language purity and build a language which is not common, but his own. There are words you
particularly like, and there are those you know but never use, because they provoke a negative physical reaction in you. That’s the most difficult part of the job. Then a writer conquers his own initial subjects, usually related to defining his own being. Afterwards, gradually, he expands the circle of subjects. That is where experience helps. I wrote once that a young writer must and an older write shouldn’t be afraid of banality. You say: Sarajevo, Mostar, Belgrade: these are my cities. You have been in Boston for a long time. As if your life is arranged through postcards and stories about cities? I think in images, and that’s how I think about cities as well. I wrote a story about Mostar, which is my favorite, and which has a very original title – “Mostar”. I wrote “postcards” about Sarajevo and Boston. I wrote a novel about Belgrade – Millennium in Belgrade, and somehow I continue writing about it every time I visit it. I’m inspired by something I hear on the street or by graffiti. Perhaps a human with several cities has one of his selves in each of them, who greets him at the station or airport and imperceptibly merges with him when he goes for a walk.
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NIKOLA MALOVIĆ, WRITER, A WANDERING NATIVE OF THE BAY OF KOTOR STEADY ON HIS FEET, COASTGUARD OF SERBIAN LITERATURE
It’s Hard to
His books are full of fishhooks, which save both the writer and the reader. From his bookstore “So” (“Salt”), on the square of Herzeg’s city, on his timeless island, he prevents the Bay from sinking into convert madness and the world from becoming bland by unsalted lies. From his zero altitude he sees Serbia, crucified by the hands of foreigners and their marionettes, being raped and kicked in the head, in reason, in dignity. It needs a “hero of our time”, ready to rise and die for Serbia. If it’s not national, a state becomes a company. The Montenegrin treachery is not just apostasy; it is also a cultural suicide. The market totalitarianism and primitivism of liberal capitalism must be opposed with mastery. Not everything in the form of a book is a book
e is the eleventh generation of newcomers from Durmitor and Old Herzegovina, whose eyes turned blue from the sea. His mother tongue is Serbian, although his mother is a Slovenian from Styria. His father, the oldest barber in the Bay, shaved Ivo Andrić. The Bay is the entire world to him. It is the only place he travels and still hasn’t managed to see everything. From The Last Decade to The Sail of Hope, this “Terazije Bayman” firmly wanders firmly those blue-striped landscapes. The nets of Serbian literature widespread from his window to the sea have never moved away from it. Nikola Malović (Kotor, 1970) in National Review. Origins. I have been a native of the Bay since 1694. That year, in the emigration of Orthodox Christians from Old Herzegovina, present Montenegro, my ancestors reached the coastal area liberated from the Turks in 1687.
By: Branislav Matić In my novel The Wandering Man from the Bay of Kotor I said that the eyes of my ancestors turned blue from great astonishment when they saw the sea. I’m the eleventh generation originating from the village of Duži on Durmitor. If it weren’t for the sea, I wouldn’t be here now. I say that with a reason, because Marjeta Štrakl, Slovenian girl from Styria,
On the sailing boat “Bavižela”, with phototype edition of “The Mountain Wreath”, August 2016
Sailing Nikola Malović (Kotor, 1970) graduated at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade. He published books “The Last Decade” (short stories), “Captain Vizin – 360 degrees around the Bay” (stories in the form of drama), “The Needlepoint of Perast”, “Blue-Striped Stories”, novels “The Wandering Man of the Bay of Kotor” (2007) and “The Sail of Hope” (2014), and more than 2.500 texts. He is author of the photo-monograph “Herceg Novi: The City of 100.001 Stairs” (2011), books of documentary prose “The Barber of the Bay of Kotor” (2015), “God in a Bottle” (2015), and editor of the “Humor of the Bay of Kotor” (2017). He is editor in chief of the publishing department of the “So” Bookstore in Herceg Novi (“Bokeljologija” edition) and member of the Serbian Literary Association. He lives in Herceg Novi.
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the youngest of three sisters, came to the Bay for her summer vacation, to visit her middle sister, who got married after spending a summer vacation with their eldest sister, married in Herceg-Novi. In Boka, summer When asked what was the first thing she of 1989, after noticed in my father, my mother says that it enrolling in the Faculty of Philology were the Barber’s blue eyes. We all call my father the Barber, because he is the oldest in Belgrade barber in the Bay, with a fifty-eight yearlong career! He cut and shaved more than 100.000 people, five generations of some families (great-grandfather, grandfather, father, son and grandson), including Ivo Andrić. In the documentary prose book Barber of the Bay, signed by me, my father explains that Andrić’s beard was one of the most difficult for shaving. A curiosity: my mother tongue – if we define it as the language one starts speaking – is not Serbian, it’s Slovenian. And if it weren’t for the accident I had as a baby, I would surely, outside of hospitals, spend more time with my mother, because my father had to turn thousands of shavings and haircuts into a roof over our heads. Today, I definitely say that my mother tongue is – Serbian. My parents were members of the Communist Party. My mother first out of conviction, and my father so that no one would question his private entrepreneurship. In such a family, God didn’t exist and we never celebrated saint days. My first knowledge about Christianity came from my mother, who was Roman Catholic, more as Christian fairytales than as catechesis. Since I was baptized in the Church of the Holy Virgin in Bijela after all, like all my ancestors except the first one, who came already baptized, I opened my spiritual eyes only in 1999 in Belgrade under bombs. Then I started celebrating my saint day. At its tenth birthday, in a navy shirt, July 1980
Photo: Guest’s Archive
The Bay. The Bay of Kotor first used to be my homeland, while now it extended to the size of a world at scale. It is therefore no wonder that I present the Bay as teatrum mundi in my novels. My previous homeland and present world has baroque cities, an artificial island from the Renaissance, palimpsests of histories, rows of captains’ palaces reflected in the calm sea, excellent cuisine, culture of tolerance, the island where Saint Sava established the Bishopric of Zeta in 1219…
If one would observe the Bay of Kotor, the only fiord in the Mediterranean, as an island, it wouldn’t be a big mistake. The Bay is bordered on three sides with the sea of steep rocks and on the fourth side – with the sea of the sea. One needs several lifetimes to see the entire Bay. Proof? I have never set foot on the biggest island in the Bay, St. Marko. I’ve never been in Gornji Stoliv, the urban medallion with a bell tower and a clock. I’ve been on almost all mountain tops and sea depths, peninsulas and capes, I sailed the meandering contours of the Bay as the first Serb, happy that there’s so much more left to experience and see. The Bay of Kotor is a wondrous geography: it has its spiritual east on the geographical west (Herceg Novi) and its spiritual west on the geographical east (Kotor). Being born in Kotor (1970) received its meaning later, when I saw how important Kotor is in all historical maps, both as the main port of our medieval state and as a city which, except for Dubrovnik, cannot be compared with any other. All images of my childhood, except for the physically painful ones, are related to the summer. The trunks were a sufficient property to be happy in the privileged geography. Especially when you also have flippers and snorkels. One of the most impressive moving memo-images is the moment I’m looking through two ponts – two stone piers – everything is teeming with life. I see: seaweed, sea lettuce, algae whose names I don’t know, crabs, sea spiders, schools of tiny Mediterranean sand smelts, a small school of tasty mullets, little wrasses, as colorful as macaws, clusters of mussels on processed rocks, oysters on unprocessed ones, warty venuses and vongole in the sand, little snails, cornets and limpets, sea urchins and squirting cucumbers… – all the way to the depth of five and length of a hundred meters. Alas, today this ecological paradise is buried! A hotel was built in the place of the previous Fish Processing Factory, where I used to swim as a boy. Its Monte-Moor owner poured pharaonic quantities of stone and soil of inadequate chemical structure on the beach – in order to place as many chargeable deck chairs and parasols as possible. The arrival of liberal capitalism buried a great part of my hopes that the beauty we received is eternal and that freedom doesn’t need to be reconquered.
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Nikola and Viktorija Malović, wedding in Stari Grad municipality, Belgrade, February 1999 With his brother Boris, 1993 At the Patron Saint Day, 2016
As all people are divided into living, dead and those who sail seas, thus those living in the coastal region are divided into those who sail and those who praise the sea, but stick to land. As professor of the ancient Naval Academy of Kotor, I say that I belong to the latter – those who stick to land, although many of my relatives and ancestors were seamen. I discovered ancestors under the Russian imperial navy flag in the capital photo-monograph History of Maritime in the Bay of Kotor written by Predrag V. Kovačević, edited and published by me. As soon as I anticipated, in 2004, two years prior to the Montenegro referendum, which was scooped of course, that the ideology of Montenegrinity will impair my Serbian language and literature professor’s diploma, I moved from Kotor to Herceg Novi and, together with my wife, founded the “So” Bookshop, classical bookstore and publishing house. Thus I renewed the tradition of the oldest regional bookstore and publishing activity,
with the permission of the heirs of Jovo Sekulović (1879–1950), who opened a bookstore in 1898, in the Austro-Hungarian Herceg Novi, three years before Geca Kon in Belgrade. As a bookseller with an almost fifteen years’ experience, I can confirm that there have never been many books about the sea in Serbian. Therefore all that write about blue and white subjects always have a double width. Herceg Novi. When my wife realized that, except for the seamen from our family, we don’t know anyone who gained an apartment without a loan or inheritance, we felt especially proud. The “So” bookstore (since 2004) provided us a small apartment in Herceg Novi, with a view of the sea. Perhaps the apartment would’ve been bigger if I haven’t personally financed the publishing of an expensive, own photomonograph Herceg Novi: A City of 100.001 Stairs. It was necessary to travel the length and breadth of the Riviera, again from zero
altitude to the thousand-meter heights, to create a photo-monograph dedicated to the fact that a city founded in 1382 has more stairways than real streets, due to salt trade. For two years, my wife and I spent summers and winters in a nutshell, touring the seemingly small geography, however full of stairways. There is a big difference between Herceg Novi and Kotor, as if two Bays exist. Kotor is the center of all chargeable events in the Bay, including masonry and the occult, while Herceg Novi is wild, cheaper, profaner, less educated, without social, political and artistic crème, such as those escorting Josip Broz Tito while he stayed in Igalo with members of his palace. The Wandering Man from the Bay of Kotor squeezes Kotor like a lemon, while The Sail of Hope squeezes the essence from magical Perast. In order to remain independent as a writer, I have to sacrifice a lot. Thus I’m living as if in an island. In my “So” bookstore at the main city square.
In time I became a souvenir, which is a growing burden for me, since I’m not a very social person. However, it’s impossible to resist readers who come during the holiday season and claim that they had read my books several times. Belgrade. Although I salt my literary Serbian with Romancisms, I’ve never said that I have actually been writing in Belgrade style all this time. Literature connoisseurs know what that means. In the mutual gifting between Belgrade and me, we all won, because if it weren’t for The Wandering Man of the Bay of Kotor that year of 2007, we couldn’t so convincingly say that there are a sea of Romancisms belonging to the Serbian language. Croatians would claim the right to the so-called Bay language, something that ideological Montenegrins still haven’t thought of (sic!). Croatians spice their language version with Romancisms, many of them do so, unlike me, who is completely alone in contemporary Serbian literature.
In Hilandar, June 2016 Public reading of the entire Nјegoš’ “The Mountain Wreath” in front of “So” Bookstore, July 2005 In “Laguna” with Dejan Papić, at the signing of the agreement for the “Wandering Bokean”, July 2007
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Fortunately for me, that made me recognizable. It’s difficult to single out important places in the map of Belgrade, because Belgrade on this side of both rivers is for me the same emotional whole. I am testis temporum, the witness of time: everything that minced Belgrade minced me as well – from the agony of the disintegration of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and wars that followed, economic embargo imposed by the western world, students’ and civil protests in the 90s, NATO bombing, fall of Milošević and coming to power of sponsored names and surnames – everything influenced my forming in a way I think today, that our perspective is in our retrospective. Although my wife is Belgrade-born, I always stay in the “Kasina” hotel in Terazije. There is a memorial plate in front of room 308, stating: “Nikola Malović, awarded Serbian writer from the Bay of Kotor, stays in this room”. I made up a new term for myself, which rightfully belongs to me: The Terazije Bayman. Big Writers of Small Towns. You’re asking the wrong person whether he thinks that our charming little towns have lost their self-confidence and idea about their role and importance… There are certain differences between charming little towns and a little town on the coast, impossible not to adore. The little coastal town of Kotor was the main port of medieval Serbia, and it knows it. Just as Dubrovnik knows that it used to be a Republic, and now looks at present Zagreb from a historical height. If it had stayed within the Serbian state, Dubrovnik would also look at present Belgrade from a height, with a good reason. The people from the Coast have an inborn feeling that they are not inside a frame of “little, charming towns”, but that they have always been framed in historical independences, loose sovereignties, and certainly proven comunitads, such as, for example, Herceg Novi, which is celebrating 300 years of its comunitad. Municipality… I believe there are a number of readers who want Herceg Novi to finalmente appear in a big novel, in an unusual, yet contemporary way. Such a novel is in the process of creation. Its mission is to offer a new mythology of a
Workshop Writing on a computer is different from writing by hand, but it has been impossible to write by hand for a long time now. I write during the night, which is not good. I write both in Cyrillic and Latin alphabet, as I read. I published books both in Cyrillic and Latin alphabet. I would support and respect any regulation, which would give advantage to the Cyrillic alphabet, as the alphabet that determines us. The first sentence and the title are very important. Only a bookseller, who is also a writer, knows the power of the well written text on the back cover. In a sea of titles, a reader holds a new book in his hands for 10-20 seconds. If the text hasn’t thrown a hook in that time, the reader’s eye leaves the luring text. The first sentence in my novel “The Wandering Man of the Bay of Kotor” (“I’m still thinking in Serbian”) is the most commented first sentence in contemporary Serbian literature. It was the first sentence in Serbian after the referendum in Montenegro and the first sentence in the dilated pupils of the Second Serbia. I was writing my novel “The Sail of Hope” for six years in a room with a view of the sea, with only two Vangelis’ compositions in my ears “Conquest of Paradise” and “12 O’clock”. During my writing, I learned to hear the work of different wines and short, mostly Serbian brandies. I can write while people are ardently cooking on “24 Kitchen” channel, or with the sound completely muted during some sports event, but only on green fields.
coastal city, these times, as well as the time behind the curve of our days, and to endear life with a privileged view of the sea. A country without a sea, when you take everything into consideration, isn’t worth a thing. Century, Culture. I believe that the only thing the West can advance in is evil. I believe that Serbs are organically not a part of that story, and that we need a hero of our times. That hero must rise, ready to die for Serbia. Without him, there is no independence or sovereignty, or culture that has been enriching the world heritage for centuries. If it’s not national, a state becomes a company. Today it’s Serbia, tomorrow it can be Wal-Mart.
Founders of literary “Group P-70” in Serbian Drama. If viewed from zero al2009: Vladimir titude, our only chance is in the shuffling Kecmanović, of global cards, and God save us from the Slobodan Vladušić, shuffling of global cards! Nikola Malović, Serbia seems like a multiply raped body, Dejan Stojilјković which is now kicked with boots in the and Marko Krstić head, teeth, stomach, genitals and spine. It is completely owned by foreigners, withIn front of “So” out a bit of self-respect, with destroyed Bookstore in healthcare, education and judiciary, with Herceg-Novi
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Journeys Odysseus is more famous for his wanderings than for his other real essence: that he hasn’t left his homeland of Ithaca at all. The phenomenon according to which I’m centripetal, not centrifugal, according to which I’m anti-Odysseus, and according to which I declaratively never travel, is explained in my novel “The Wandering Man of the Bay of Kotor” (“Laguna”, 2007, nine editions). The publisher in Moscow gave up on printing the translation of “The Wandering Man” because I didn’t accept to travel to Moscow. On the other hand, staying in one place, I make interviews with foreigners every day. Without cameras or dictation machines. I ask them everything and find out “what kind of people live on that side”. Dived into geography dived into tourism, I see that tourism has spoiled everything it touched, and that tourists, exactly as in Dučić’s definition, neither see what they’re looking at, nor hear what is told to them. To tell the truth, I did have a wish to go to my first and only journey, to Mt. Athos, as a pilgrim, not as a tourist. All those who said that one man goes to Chilandar and another one returns were right.
are seen in Serbia as well, so we can speak about the syndrome of ethnic age and devaluation of a nation. Books and High Culture. If Pavić, in his second phase, couldn’t manage to maintain artistic literature in a time of market totalitarianism – other writers will find it very difficult as well, since they are also hungry for money. However, a good writer can appease the masses by throwing a few sexual intercourses here and there, while writing all the time about the only three subjects in literature: God, love and death. The master of written words will be the one whose novel is eternally sold. Only such books should be written. People hungry for appearing in the media are wrong, thinking that those who write a “new book” every year earn more money. Such books will be sold only while the author is visiting TV studios. Not everything in the form of a book is a book. Collusion. Since I was given the assignment in high school to underline all sententiae in The Bridge on the Drina, I continued doing so and realized how all thoughts, which can be stated independently, influenced me, from the Epic of Gilgamesh to the novel of the recent winner of NIN’s Award. During my education, I passed through all literary steps and they all had an influence on me. I was lucky to conquer my own style, so my sentences, in which I break the syntagma with enclitics, along with using Romancisms, became recognizable. Thus I will say, for example, the Bay of Kotor finalmente lost its praiseworthy hinterland… Everything we have learnt is either what we read or heard. I have heard most insights in a short period of time from Professor Aleksandar Jerkov. I appreciate many Serbian writers, from Goran Petrović on. I am proud to be one of the founders of “Grupa P-70”, which turned the other-Serbian writers into dust, whose traces I don’t see as an experienced bookseller. I don’t fear criticism, because I’m mature. Before putting a final point, all my commas are in place. If I were living in Belgrade, I’d have more than the present ten awards, but life in Herceg Novi brought me a state of peace with a constantly vain price.
Serbia - National Review, Leipzig