Blesok no. 69, November-December, 2009
Les belles lettres sans pardon
Foreword to the anthology of the contemporary Macedonian short stories
DON’T YOU FYROM ME
Angelina Banović Markovska / Vesna Mojsova-Čepiševska
Most of the anthologies start by apologies, distancing and especially by expressing regrets, since “the space is so small”, “the number of limited”… Actually, we were limited here as well, but this limitation pertained only to the number of pages (it was not to be longer than two hundred), and we made our own rules, the starting point and the boundary where we would stop. Still, the main feature that led us all the time through this adventure was the passion. The passion of searching, selecting, reading, re-reading… This text was also written with passion, and the reason for it is in the happy occasion to show the Croatian readership the most recent Macedonian prose. Everything started like a common invitation to tango. We were invited by Zlatko Kramarić. In this triple dance, He, I and I very easily wrote a circle with a diameter of our Macedonian-Croatian creative writing future.
Each style formation cherishes or destroys a genre, and it is defined in its relation to it. The Macedonian postmodernism defines itself with respect to the short stories that it promotes. The novel is present in our literary XXI century – as a matter of fact, the postmodernism is a poli-genre formation that has crossed the strictly defined term deconstructing itself along its borders – however, the genre nowadays is a hybrid that opens the space for the short prose, as a key form of the Macedonian postmodern poetics. They say that the short stories are a mirror of the current situation, and it shows that there is no predominant writing model in our prose. Everybody tells his own story in his own way.
This anthology is a story of ours, and as such it is a really joyful act, both for us who worked on it and for those who would decide to take it in their own hands. Only in this way, via a mutual communication (between those who selected the material and those who have accepted it) we can have a recognition. Inspired by the bifocal perspective of Macedonia – the one created on us by the world, or at least by that part of the world that experiences us as a dark topos of the Balkan chaos and unenlightment, an dthe other, ours, created by us ourselves, experiencing ourselves as colonized subjects, victims of the world cultural imperialism – inspired us in the idea to present the Croatian readership a panoramic overview of the most provocative Macedonian writers born between 1950es and 1980es.
This foreword does not have the intention to give a literary-theoretical reading of the contemporary Macedonian prose. It only has the intention to introduce the reader into reading the selected material; however previously one should answer the question: Why have short stories been selected? We can give many answers and all will be justified, but we think that the following explanation is the simplest – the short story (unlike the novel or theatre plays) is more appropriate because it shows the poetics of the narrow space, its fragmented frame. As one of the ways in which we acknowledge the world living from one point to another, from one moment to another, fragmentation is a resistance to the reality which surrounds us and a way to prevent – or better say bridge – its domination in the very act of story telling. On the other hand, as an almost ideal form without a form, undefined and amorphous, the short stories have the desired attractiveness, they are a model that the Macedonian writers use to overcome their aporia, trying to overcome the ambivalence of the dispersive thought.
Thus, on these two hundred pages we could fit 33 authors. Some of them are still young, at the beginning of their artistic life (Duško Goševski and Aleks Bukarski, the former born in 1983, the latter one year later – 1984), others in the peak of their writing career (Duracovski, Minevski…), third already well established in the academic circles of the Macedonian cultural sphere (Kulavkova, Mihajlovski, Andonovski, Prokopiev…), but everybody together turned towards a non-fictional, self-ironic discourse whose only goal is re-designing of the spiritual freedom in the expanded sensibility.
Most of the prose discover the desire of the authors to turn into time. If not real time, then at least the fake one, for prose would not be fiction without this category. However, the best short stories occur when they are not told, but shown, when they plead that they have simply happened in time, at the moment and hat they are not just fiction. That is why it seems that the authors of this anthology (or at least most of them) ignore the chronos, turning their short stories into a timeless, inert, essay-like prose, sometimes philosophical, sometimes anecdotal, sometimes profane, on the very edge of a lucid, inventive, almost shocking, sometimes even erotically passionate writing.
That is why the main priority when compiling this “short anthology of the Macedonian living short stories” was not the esthetic component (although we are quite convinced that this book also contains it to a large extent), but the idea that the focus of the reader should be directed to the defamiliarization as an ancient phenomenon. As if caught in a flashback, as you expect boring everyday scenes, you will be taken by the unusual styles and thematic solutions that the unpretentious form of Macedonian non-fiction offers, Maybe this is indeed not an anthology for eternal times (its compilers are not burdened by eternity anyway), but they are firmly convinced that the selected material has the capacity to include the Macedonian prose in time, show that we exist, as we are, schizomorphic, ironic, discursive, travestive, lucid, provocative, collage-like, fragmented, stubborn, short-sighted, transition-like, but with any inputs, outputs, disputes…
The two hundred pages offered by the Croatian side (a challenge that we accepted without much thinking) there are a number of short stories: realistic to fantastic, fixed (as if instant short stories as those written by Milčo Mančevski, Irena Pavlova De Odorico, Vlatko Maryinovski), to long enough (such as the short stories by Dragi Mihajlovski, Dimitar Pandev, Žarko Kujundžiski, Aleks Bukarski). The selection was carefully made with a single purpose -- to show that our Macedonian short stories have all the important features of the short story as a literary genre. We were led by the idea to stress the attractiveness of the story, but also the elliptical type of form, pushed by a developed semantic and esthetic paradoxicalness (Venko Andonovski, Olivera Korveziroska, Goce Smilevski), even when the story came from some other or previous tradition (Kim Mehmeti, Tomislav Osmanli, Dimitar Pandev, Ermis Lafazanovski). While some of the authors manifested a strong ability to make a point, others had special individuality (Dragi Mihajlovski, Jadranka Vladova, Aleksandar Prokopiev), still with most of them there was a feeling of the lively need for a game, improvisation and experiment, regardless of the fact whether they were authors born in the 1950es or 1980es, regardless of the fact whether that was exceptionally ”men's” or specifically ”women's” writing. Thus, if the Croatian readership knows in their literary history the model of la belle dame sans merci, the Macedonian one now discovers its woman writer as la belle dame sans pardon: brave, bold, self-aware, non-pathetic, sometimes indifferent and skeptical, but lyrical, turned towards the peripheral stories called life.
You would notice that some of the short stories of this anthology manifest also flexibility in the form, similarity to some other bordering genres: such as the comics and painting (Dimitrie Duracovski, Aleksandar Stankovski), closeness to anecdote (Ranko Mladenoski, Ivan Dodovski), diary and autobiography (Rumena Bužarovska, Igor Angjelkov, Dimitar Samardžeiv), image and film (Milčo Mančevski, Jagoda Mihajlovska-Georgieva), but almost all of them show an extreme interest in the reader. Not only in the Macedonian reader, but also in reader in general, because the short stories of our most recent production are open, bold, invasive and uncompromising, almost without any pardon, a crazy underground work taken down from the heights of the dry academic style: hyperbolic, self-ironic…, a playful voice-two voices without reserves from altercations, which aspires to show what we know, how to feel, how we actually live, how we breathe our fragmentariness, what we think of ourselves and the world.
Our short stories are for sure not new, but they are told in a bold way: controversial, catachrestic, in an anti-literary, but erudite language. It will maybe cause divided opinions with the audience and the critics, but we are convinced that this anthology can turn the attention to itself with its post-isms, and show that the Macedonian men and women writers have shaken the conventions of the anachronous mega-paradigms of the modernism ear and its powerful author's voice. This is done in many ways, not rarely in a social satire of the geopolitical relations in the region, which makes fun of the mentor-like approach of Europe towards an internal political problem that we have, re-designing nationalism into patriotism, in a spiritual freedom as an expanded memory that has surpassed the boundaries of the story telling itself.
That is why we are especially happy that we could, in a small retrospective, offer an insight into the more recent literary trends in Macedonia and its creative sensibilities that thematise our small and marginal world. Maybe this efforts of ours have a bit of mannerism, but via the narrative openness and the Macedonia linguistic ludicism which follows the semiotic theory of trace, difference and intertext, this mannerism is in the service of the current idea for restoration, making a remake of history, but in a hyperbolic way which demolishes the illusion of fiction and reality, which, on their side, in a big extent are contaminated by politics and subculture.
That is why we wish that the translations of these Macedonian short stories into Croatian are read also as a “message in the bottle” because only literary texts, short stories in our case, are those that can get in between dots and lines that mark the state borders in the atlases. Translation is a magic that discovers the fact that there are also other areas outside ours, that there are other allies outside your and our streets and rooms, different spaces outside our common time…
The creator learns the spiritual alphabet to set himself free and liberate the people around him from the illiterate life that gives birth to death and the non-writing death that does not give birth to life. This selection offers one of the many options for such a liberation. That is why in the conditions of incredibly accelerated life and intense communication via SMS instant messages, or the ones which are a bit longer in the electronic chats on the web, messages in bottles are a true refreshment. These messages do not have correct addresses, and the recipients of these messages are not strictly defined. However, those of us who have decided to send them to you and you who have decided to receive them, understand more than anything that we prefer the absurdness of writing to the absurdness of non-writing, to anyone or anytime. Still, it is most important that these messages travel and travel and travel, but they always find a heart in which they can throw their anchors. As a matter of fact, the heart is a central spot of the human existence. And the need for traveling (in the sense of life elixir) is a need for a dialogue, or better said, yearning for dialogue with the world, with the Other.
We honestly hope that such a need will be satisfied with this selected prose from Macedonia, because it easily, simply moves over the ontological boundaries, via the non-literary and non-narrative elements solves its problems and frustrations; indeed, this might be done in an unusual, sometimes even surrealistic or bizarre way, but with an allegorical narrative, which is both hermetic and open for new readings and interpretations.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska