Blesok no. 69, November-December, 2009
Don’t You FYROM Me
– contemporary Macedonian short stories –
(Književna revija, Ogranak Matice hrvatske, Osijek, br. 2-3/2009)
Foreword to the book
Without any doubt, the former union of the south Slavic peoples functioned as a serious state – it had all the necessary attribites: repressive state mechanisms (secret police…), courts and controled scientific and cultural institutons, which, just like courts, were a bit too impregnated with monistic view of teh world (especially the humanities which participated in the cruel productio of the so-called “spirit engineers” or “fishermen of human souls”). However, the big question is now, if this “serious” state ever functioned as a “decent” society (with an obligation, if nothing else, to at least represent the sensitive individuals or groups in a positive light).
At those “lead” times, I was not the only one who asked difficult questions, such as “can the area from Triglav to Vardar be considered homogeneous”, or “can this clearly defined political space be considered a compact society”? However, then, as now, it was more than clear that the opposites were obvious in this society, although the ideological cleaners on duty convinced us that there were no dramatic “differences”, or cracks in this “perfect” community, that we had evil minds, that we were only looking poorly and interpreting wrongly. Everybody spoke and rattled in this artificial community, but nobody listed to anybody!
I remember the last (Yugo)Slavic congress in New York, which took place in the autumn (somewhere at the beginning of October), 1988. While I spoke about the lack of communication among Yugoslav literatures, outside the congress centre of Park hotel, parallel to my address, “the people happened”, and with only few packs of yoghurt thrown and populist paroles, they caused a pre-election mess with the political elite at the time. This first serious exit of the enraged and manipulated people on the streets thoroughly changed the political relations in our state at the time. Jasques Rupnik's diagnosis proved to be true – the nationalist passions, in their endlessly powerful possibilities for mobilization were at work again… While a governing paradigm disappeared without a trance, another (the democratic one) was still out of sight!
My presentation was unnoticed – my fellow slavists thought that it was pure opportunism to juxtapose a virtual world to the real one! And they could not understand at all how somebody could claim that there was no communication among Yugoslav literatures. Less than ten years later, some others (such as Igor Mandić, for example) proved again that there was communication between the Croatian and Serbian literature, and others (Stanko Lasić) were of an opinion similar to the one that I had previously expressed in Novi Sad. It was not naïve at all, and it was seen in the view of the editors of Quorum at the time – they did not date publish my (nationalistic – sic!) text and they “bravely” refused it (the guys honestly believed in the “happy” future of the “middle sized” country, dealing with awards of the “Seven SCOY Secretaries”).
At that time, by the end of the 1980es, I was teaching Macedonian literature at the Osijek University and I was a direct witness that there was none, much less planned contact between the Croatian and Macedonian (or any other) literature. Eventually, all the positive contacts that had ever happened in history were actually politically/ideologically motivated – this, of course also goes for the publishing of “Beli Mugri” (“White Dawns”) poetry book by Kosta Racin; this political motivation was most visible in the XIX century, in the relations between J. J. Strossmayer and the Miladinovci brothers! It sounds almost unbelievable now – back then we studied Yugoslav literature and we were not at all seduced by the idea to get to know each other better, to even try to participate in the existential themes and dilemmas of the “other” peoples, in their historical traumas (on the issues of national identity, name of the state, everyday existential themes…). The occasional exceptions (such as the Anthology of the Contemporary Macedonian Poetry, “Macedonian Literature” collection, “Masters of the Labyrinth” anthology, the rare monographs of some Macedonian writers, or the appropriate texts on the long relations between the two peoples…) only confirmed the rule that we were not too interested in the destiny of the “others”.
This sad fact (in which – to be honest – I have my share of the guilt!) motivated me to ask Angelina and Vesna – two great intellectuals from Macedonia, to made, for the Osijek “Literary Review” an anthology/overview of the contemporary Macedonian short stories. They have completed this task in an excellent manner, which is not simple at all, within the frames given in advance, on some two hundred pages, showing all the wealth of the contemporary Macedonian prose, its broad achievements and thematic preoccupations. Maybe finally we in Croatia as well will understand the greatness of J. J. Strossmayer, the man who in the middle of the XIX century saw what our politicians are not able to see today: that the space of “Western Balkans”/Macedonia offers the modern, democratic and European Croatia a possibility for “colonization”, or course, in a quite charming and legitimate way, with different premises than the ones of the classical colonizers. It is clear that it is very important, for the success of such an “innocent culturological colonization” to know the Other well, and to be able to recognize one's own fate in his “misfortunate” fate. The opposite view – to only seek for a dark topos of the Balkan chaos and uninligthment in him can not give a smart answer to the current political (and other) issues, because, in the same or similar way as the “others' we too are colonized subjects, victims of the world cultural imperialism! We must not be indifferent to the European transition reality. On the contrary, we should be more interested in the potential models with which we would overcome it, even more because there are no firm cultural and political criteria that could set a border between the East and the West, between Europe and its Otherness. This is not Europe's problem, because we too sometimes behave like Europe – the cultures and literatures of the countries of the former state are experienced as “foreign/strange”, and we forget that Western Europe experiences us in the same way, as something less valuable and worthy of attention, and they see our transition as “progress to better”.
This anthology, without any doubt, also opens this issue – the issue of the reception of a different, “foreign” culture/literature, its thematic and stylistic differences, but also our preparedness to participate in its “themes and dilemmas”. Because such occasions are rare, I am completely convinced in the honest intentions that Matica Hrvatska – Osijek “undertook” to make this anthology”.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska