Blesok no. 105, January, 2016
Disentangling the Genealogical Knots
Translated from Macedonian: Elizabeta Bakovska
A very unusual endeavor,
A very unusual book. But who is the author?
Dimitrie Duracovski „Insomnia“
“Insomnia” first of all confronts us with its unusual format (22 cm X 22 cm), but in general with its specific typographic and graphic design. This paratextual impulse at the very beginning hints an entry into a world without clearly set borders and without a stable basis in general. Therefore, “Insomnia” is something in between – first of all when it comes to genre. However, between what is really “Insomnia”?
Written during a temporally undefined insomnia, starting on 15 February 1999 and ending on 15 February 2000, the book is an annual collage of impressions, dreams, correspondence, e-mails, comics, sketches , “compiled banalities and ephemeralities and trivialities, a pile of written paper, residues of past days, pages of futile memories…” “Insomnia” is a true image of the author’s state of mind, a look on oneself, the world, home and fireplace.
But these are no memoires – the author is in the middle of this writing, rather than withdrawn at the margins in order to objectively recapitulate his life.
“Insomnia” is an annual summary too short to be an autobiography.
“Insomnia” is just the type of diary as the quoted Blanchot describes in the book itself: “…far from all those romantic pleasures. Diary is not a genuine confession, a story about itself. It is a Memorial… the truth of Diary is not in the interesting literary notes that are found in it, but in the insignificant trivialities that relate it to the everyday reality. Diary – that, obviously, quite lonely book – is most often written out of fear and loneliness pain…” (Insomnia, 2001)
Autobiography, or in this case Duracovski’s autobiographically inspired diary is a typical referential writing, while blurring of the border between the fictional and the real, in the case of autobiography, is a typical example of autofictionality, which is one of the main features of this book. Fictionalization of the diary discourse is what maybe makes Insomnia a novel. The dual modality: the referential one and the fictional one intertwine in the book, verifying the author both as a narrator and a character. Therefore, “Insomnia” is something of an outlaw biography, with a transgressive power that goes beyond genre. It is a twist and action against the rules of the genre, it subverses the novel and betrays the diary, but also the reader who wants to know upfront where he goes, without twists, without inconsistencies, without infractions.
“Insomnia” escapes the non-mimetical boundaries of the diary, its non-fictional world and quietly, but quite surprised, involves fiction, erasing the border between the real and the fictional. “Insomnia” escapes its diary discourse towards the fictional worlds of the magic realism and fantastic. The reader with Duracovski swings from reality to dreams, from the desert and peace in Struga to some stories about Anubis and the case of life on whose miniature bottom a small boat rocks, from the noon coffee and the everyday banalities towards summer hallucinations in the childhood and to Heraclites’s river in which one cannot enter twice because it is not the same. Duracovski has retold himself, he has transposed the form of what is called diary and skillfully played with his memories, with the forged memory via which he has constructed non-existent events based on the existent ones. In “Insomnia” the memories do not only depend on the real event, and the (auto)fiction – suspicious truth, forwards the story of life, practically broadening the vision, changing the perception:
“…But the best term is fiction. On one hand, it indicates that a new structure – probable or improbable – has been added to those who exist. On the other hand, it indicates that we do not try to follow the real thing. In the end, it indicates that we translate the subjective reality. Literature, the practical lie, is a psychological truth. Now we have defined literature: suspicious truth.” (Insomnia, 2001)
Duracovski is suspicious. We can truly believe his “diary” only when it comes to the quoted columns and articles from the dailies.
“Insomnia” is even a diary which besides the basic diary discourse in it implements two sub-genres of the genre itself”:
• art-diary (the book is abundant with sketches of the painter Duracovski, portraits, ideas, notes and similar) and
• autofictional diary.
The cause-effect plot and development of the characters “prevent” “Insomnia” from being a novel, which does not mean that the novel still cannot house it.
“Insomnia” is an evocation of others’ texts and the dialogue that the author has with art in general. Insomnia is an intertextual and intermedial novel-fabric of dailies, glossaries, encyclopedias, diary notes, short stories, dreams, blurred memories, comments, photographs, drawings, sketches and comics.
Typologically, “Insomnia” is abundant with more types of intertextuality. Duracovski has inserted an amalgam of different literary and non-literary texts in his autoreferential novel, he has positioned himself dialogically to the world of literature, film, social events, science. “Insomnia” is a collective memory spot, a book full with quotations, allusions, coincidences, mystifications, simulations. Writing that takes a position and refers to the intertext with estheticism and criticism, rather than with plain epigonism. Duracovski’s work is largely a reconstruction, reference to things already written in order to better tell one’s own story, more precisely draw the contours of one’s own life, one’s own work.
“Insomnia” is a world in which the erased border are additionally covered by the borrowed Joycean snow which constantly falls from the Universe – as an intertextual leitmotif – in the memory, the dead can be more alive than the living – in reality, the living can be deader than the dead, imprisoned in the coffins of their minds.
“Indeed, as with Joyce, the newspapers were right today. It has snowed for several days without a break. It is 2 am, I look through the window as it snows, on the lake, on the shore and on the reeds, it snows on the field to the north so it is just like with him, because it really is, I look outside to the west, and that is so close, maybe some hundred steps, to the old deserted graveyard, where my father lies, dead for 37 years – and the snow falls slowly and persistently, covering the graves with its white, soft coldness.”
“Insomnia” is a snow covered, frozen world. Yearning for the dreamed Hyperborea, the country to which we look to find the truth, the country of all childhoods, of golden times. “Insomnia” is covered with the cold from the north, the inability of the author to find his home, his apathy at the threshold of the new millennium, but one would be wrong to say that there is no warmth in it, a tiny thread of nostalgia, another half that makes the book a whole.
The other hemisphere of “Insomnia” is the one related to the childhood, innocence of a time that would never return, adolescent craziness, but also fatal loses: the one of the father and the one of dear friend Alex. Duracovski’s father, who died when he was only ten, could be felt everywhere around the diary discourse of the book. He lives in the book, from the very beginning to the very end, as a reconstruction brought o life again in the memory of the author via the intertext:
“This search for the father, this question for one’s own identity and origin, is transformed into a battle with death, by tearing the father from death – by writing about the lost father. The father is reconstructed and found again in literature. Writing is a bitter need for immortality, an illusion in which the disappeared can be found…” (Insomnia, 2001)
“Insomnia” is a vertical axis set by several literary texts and other media: painting, comics, film, music… The intertext in “Insomnia” is a foundation, literary material which unites, builds, reconstructs the subjective and intersubjective destinies of all characters who pass between the cover pages of the books. It is a bridge, an engaged force that helps pain the home, situation, enables the province to oppose the world.
In “Insomnia” everybody says something significant, something that the author wisely and wittily manages to bring into his own story. Joyce, Artaud, Hugo, Bierce, Jodorowsky, Chandler, Lovecraft, Man Rei, Breton, Duchamp, Wells, Vian, Carroll, Tolkien, Pinchot, Pasternak, Topor, Rimbaud, Warhol, Boyce, Poe, Borges, Brunot, Witold.
However, despite this literary layer in “Insomnia” there is another one, less literary, sometimes intretextual, related to the social reality and the crisis of the time. The social-political dimension of “Insomnia” is a direct consequence of the crisis in the country and the Kosovo war. Duracovski is a careful reader and critic of the daily news, especially the columns. “Doctor, we live inn apocalyptic times”, tells Duracovski his doctor friend thinking of his friends from the neighborhood with the dogs of the war breathing in their necks.
“We are in a middle of a chaos, we are losing our city, the state, ourselves and we no longer know anything, Struga no longer lives here and if there is any of it, it is somewhere in some corner, pushed there, cornered, scared, hibernating, tranquilized, dead” (Insomnia, 2001)
Horror at Blace. Horrible scenes with refuges, the state border in chaos. Numberless lines of people. Rain. Depression, Darkness. Cruelty of reality. Insomnia.
“Insomnia” is a novel of alienation and crisis. The book behaves just as Duracovski’s soul though the words of Nives Kurtović: it floats, wanders, it has no permanent home… We cannot find its place. It is a fight with one’s own identity, with its own origin, with its own choice. “Not being settled is the basic ‘poetologic’ problem in Insomnia” says Elizabeta Sheleva. The condition of insomnia, the condition in which nothing is real, everything is distant – a copy of the copy where the original skillfully escapes, seems to have moved into Duracovski’s book, decentered the discourse, scattered the book across its borders. It is interesting but it seems that the nomadic restlessness of Duracovski and his not being settled also contribute to the genre unsettledness if the book itself.
“This insomnia maybe even justifies the decentered composition of the text: the dispersive structure of narration, the depressiveness of the narrative subject, the depressiveness of the intertext throughout the overall textual tissue. In other words, the physiological state of insomnia has semiotically been redirected into structural insomnia (not belonging, not being distinctive, not residing) and the very narrative text” (Шелева, 2003).
For the end of these notes I would say that “Insomnia” is a hybrid, crossing the borders, breaking the rules, an anti-pact, an outlaw’s art-diary, writing which is sometimes faithful, and sometimes deceitful – it is a postmodern autoreferential diary.
1. Дурацовски, Димитрие: Insomnia. Скопје: Магор, 2001
2. Шелева, Елизабета. Отворено писмо. Скопје: Магор, 2003