Blesok no. 26, May-June, 2002
Some Juncture Points in the Poetics of Andrić and Koneski
Jasmina Mojsieva Guševa
Torment conditions the existence of altruism. The prose and the novels of Andrić, in a sense, can be understood as a result of an attempt to express altruistic philosophy of the author and his understanding of history of mankind, through described sufferings. It is evident that Godfried Ben’s lyrical –essayist attitudes had an influence in the formation of Andrić’s point of view regarding beauty and the eternity of artistic harmony. Also, the poet Walt Whitman had a great influence on Andrić. Namely, he influenced Andrić’s sense for pantheistic solidarity, for democracy and the conviction that “The future of the world is in the free traffic and in the solidarity of all races”. We can find the same element in the poetry of Koneski. He is deeply conscious of the existence of evil in the world, but he generously stands up for its overcoming saying that the fight and determination make the essence of human existence. Only by working can a human being resist death and misfortune; human hopelessness finds its consolation in creation. Maybe that is why he poses the question for the moral credibility of “poet’s lyre in meager times”. He firmly stands behind Eliot and Yesenin who, in fact, as he did, preferred to write rather that fight in meager times. Andrić as well writes his greatest works in the occupied Belgrade, isolated from the tempestuous events in the WWII. They both believe in the power of their quill. Wishes, convictions, and human eminence are, according to them, enough to overcome the numerous obstacles and chasms on the way which leads to harmony. Writer’s pledges, although vain and irrational to many people, mark the rational effort, which can overcome the metaphysical despair, and the chasm that separates life from death. That effort always helps the human being to feel encouraged by the fact that he is not alone, left and helpless, but he’s a part of the great human brotherhood.
Philosophical determinations of Andrić and Koneski are close to the understanding that the relation between the good and the evil on Earth, the relation between the altruism and egoism, is always the same, and sometimes that relation is on the side of evil. Yet, the human being needs to pledge to direct that relation on the side of the good. In their works they warn about the possible crime, suffering and temptation on one hand, whereas, conscious for the unavoidable egoism, they propagate audacity, dignity and faith in altruism, on the other. One of the main ideas of the poem “Sterna” is the rebellion against underground forces of evil. In that struggle he does not pledge for an absolute victory of good over evil, which is different from Andrić’s ideas. His ultimate realization is that after all victories and defeats, evil and good remains in a relative balance, and that human accomplishments are based on maintenance of that balance.
To Andrić, violence is ephemeral because it is unnatural and because it wants to violate the logic of order. It can only temporarily prevail over good, but it cannot remain and rule for a longer period, because the world then would become chaotic, and Andrić believes in laws of harmony. He creates a large pleiad of characters representing violence, such as: Hafiz, Ibrahim – pasha, Husa Chickenthief, boss Yevrem. Andrić always puts the exposure of the value of altruism on the first place. That is personified in the act of the creation of world. He loves the world and is capable to feel hope for change, even when there are so many distorted things, because he sees the complexity of all events that create perfection.
The ethics of both writers, which are subject of this work, beginning from national frames moves towards the world of harmonic unity. With their engagement and creative work, they exit their narrow national frames turning towards wider spaces of the Balkans. Their intellect yearns for broadness to the space, and this fact implies the altruistic determination. They walk on the “difficult, but holy way from the national to the general mankind” as Andrić himself speaks in a short essay published in “Literary south”, alluding on the movements of successors of the Young Bosnian movement. This ascertainment can be freely used also for their determination. Above all, we here point out Andrić’s engagement in the Young Bosnian movement and the struggle he fought for the preservation of the purity of his language. In his numerous works he expresses respect to efforts put by Petar Kochich and Young Bosnians for the preservation of their national language as a matter of survival oh his people. Koneski is the creator of the Grammar of the Macedonian Standard Language. He also struggled for the same matter in the years after liberation. Language shows the genesis of a nation, it preserves the essence of one’s cultural identity. They believe that language is the living power connected not only to the culture, but also to the survival of a nation. Therefore, language is to be preserved by all segments in state; they should be guardians and creators of the language. By such an attitude, they expressed their passionate love to their people and land. Although they respected and were fascinated by their national renaissance; Andrić was fascinated by the ideas of Karadjich and Nyegosh while Koneski – by Kliment Ohridski and Misirkov; they were never blinded by their national feelings, and never allowed such feelings to cause sacrificing of the common human good. Despite their national identity, ideas presented in their creative work determine them as cosmopolitans who stand up for the good of people regardless of their nationality or religion. Struggling for their national identity, they did not neglect the rights and values of other nations because they were conscious of the integrity of human community. The struggle of the modern world for the equality of nations, the respect of the spiritual world of small nations, and the respect of humanistic principles –they all are incorporated in the statement of one character in “Travnik Chronicle”, who poses the question: “Why it is as such that my righteous and good thought worths less than the same in Rome or Paris”? The value of human intellect, or the human essence in general, should not be conditioned by national or religious determination, or by any other convention. In Andrić’s humanistic concept, every human being is entitled to the same rights; he follows the way that leads to one common aim. Andrić’s novels and stories have a sense of encyclopaedic analysis of moral evaluations, yet such “encyclopaedicity”, as Miodrag Pavlovich notes, “has a special merit because it includes the restless space of the Balkans and its Turkish and Slavic coordinates, where it is difficult do preserve the usual measures and stable judgements of values.”
The problem of interhuman relations, of the division of the world that implies the alienation and solitariness, has a special place in the poetics of both writers. Those matters are more explicitly exposed in Andrić’s works, through ideas of his heroes who feel the discomfort of division among people. The old Christian Leventanets complains to the French Consul Deffosse: “No one knows how it is to be born and to live on the edge of two worlds, to know and understand both of them, and yet to be unable to do anything to bring those two worlds together and to make them understand each other; to love and hate each of them, to feel in both of your places of birth as if you have neither, to feel everywhere at home, yet to remain always as a stranger. Briefly, to live crucified, yet as a victim and a tormenter at the same time.” Such a feeling of solitariness and alienation also possesses other strangers in Andrić’s prose. Those are characters like Davna, Nikola Rota, Davil, Ibrahim – Pasha, or Max Levanfield. It is difficult to be a stranger in Bosnia. That fact is very well known by friar Nikola in the story “Glass”, who is horrified by the fact that he lives in a world that hates everything it does not possess. Koneski addresses to the spiritual and thoughtful effort of modern man not to despise and hate, not to judge, but, with the help of altruism, to understand and discover what is strange and distant to him, because it is the only way to survive as a human and to understand himself. This attitude of Koneski reveals on individual bases. In his poem “Doves”, for instance, he compares the doves which “equally share their love” to gestures of humans who either do not understand the altruistic gestures or do not dare to speak openly about them. The possibility of emergence of love even in most inadequate situations is associated to the blooming of the rose in the deep and cold winter, in his poem “A rose”.
The communicational process plays a great role in the establishment of trust and love among people. Yet, that process in the Balkans was put to a minimum level or it does not exist at all. The process of “enculturization” does not begin in Andrić’s heroes from diverse religious and civilizations, brought to the same level. The adoption of basic values and principals of the cultural environment in which they live is strange and important to them. “How is it possible – Deffosse asks himself – such a country to begin to find its order and accept as much civilization as its closest neighbours have, when its people are divided so much, as no other in Europe? There are four religions existing in this mountainous and poor space. Each one is strictly divided from the other. They all live under the same sky and on the same soil, but each one has it’s own holy place, far from their native land, in Rome, Moscow, Constantinople or Jerusalem.” Is it possible in any way that “the Balkan wasteland turn into an English meadow”; is it possible that peoples in the Balkans reach the necessary level of civilization to live together? – Koneski asks himself. In his observation “Field” he would realize that the thorn is growing and that there are other “uninvited guests”. With such a poetic personification, the tragic reality in the Balkans is apparent, in which different religions and civilizations spread eagerly in order to conquer as much bigger space as they can. Yet, they are now aware that their short roots are doomed to short living. That is sometimes done by some nationalities (the couch grass), and sometimes by others (the clover), yet common sense and tolerance (on which the cultivating process insists – the English meadow) are so difficult to prevail.
Heroes in Andrić’s prose feel fear and rejection when they realize that their identity is not unique and that the world, which was complete to them, is composed of numerous different, and even opposed under-worlds. That realization leads to conflict situations, in which they feel unsafe, unsatisfied and resigned. That is the base for hatred and religious fatalism, so much present among characters that belong to different religions. Unfortunately, Deffosse’s realizations, saying that each religious community in Bosnia believes that its benefit is conditioned by the harm done to other religions and that progress of one is a harm to another, are true. The problem is that the process marked as habitualization, which turns the unusual, the unfamiliar and the strange into usual, familiar and domestic, does not work for the Bosnian man. Exactly that mechanism of habitualization, which is normal in other cultural environments, calms down passions and creates harmonic atmosphere for living. The absence of such a process in Bosnia, probably, is a result of the temper characteristics of Bosnian people, which are explicitly defined by Andrić in his novel “Travnik Chronicle”: “The Turkish rule left to its Christian citizens certain characteristics of its mentality, such as hypocrisy, stubbornness, distrust, laziness of the thought and the fear of every innovation and every work or movement. Those characteristics were incorporated in the nature of the Bosnian man and remained as permanent features of his character”. He is too much suspicious towards everything unknown and new, yet he is also stubborn in preserving his condition.
It seems as if Andrić has anticipated the present situation in Bosnia with those realizations. Whereas in the European continent borders vanish and there are less and less interethnic divisions, there is a completely retrograde process in Bosnia. The creation of multicultural societies, in which members of different cultures live side by side, but also together, is a utopia for Bosnia.
Balkan space, concerning its diversity, does not need to be a home of human hatred, but simply it should be a “fertile soil” for spiritual, creative, individual, and before all social development. The great old tradition of prejudices towards everything that is strange should be prevailed by the common sense of altruistic behaviour. According to Kant’s convictions, the altruism functions through rationality. Every moral action corresponds to the principals that should be accepted. The real action is harmony with common sense and does not violate its principals. With the new education the tradition fades away, it disappears, and that is exactly what Andrić wants to point out in his works. Through the character of the French vice-consul in Travnik – Deffosse, Andrić expresses the idea about the benevolence as a function of sensitivity and of the favorable spiritual condition of the individual. Deffosse understands everything around him with common sense and a clear though: “Deffosse objectively analyzed everything around him and tried to find the real cause about what happened, without trying to understand the harm or the benefit, amenity or inamenity that he or his Consulate felt”. He always respected his collocutors, regardless of their religion or their ideas and attitudes. His tolerance towards the point of view of the other is a result of the way he thinks and on the ability to sense and recognize the real danger. He never shows envy or hatred to his chief. He has no negative emotions; he is not vain or malicious. On the contrary, he possesses all qualities necessary for an altruistic attitude, which give him spiritual broadmindedness and nobleness.
Koneski, with his awaken contemplative gift, wisely notes all altruistic occurrences, beginning from love, joy, play, philanthropy. Sensitivity forces him to think twice before he makes any decision. The act of deep belief in people, of altruistic concern for the benefit of others is included in the following verses: Although the dream gave me right/ to lay a shadow on each forehead, / tell me fairly: have I ever/ offended you, even once, how?” He avoids using force, although he possesses it, so as not to offend others, and to provoke their hatred.
Andrić and Koneski begin their literary career in the first decades of the century, when the Balkan areas begin to absorb the decadent literary influences with their moral and psychological assumptions. Yet, they do not follow the tempestuous dynamics of the avant-garde streams. Their reserved melancholic nature was opposing to the group actions and loud declarations. Those who know Andrić and Koneski describe them as reserved, calm individuals, whose words, before uttering, are well thought-out. Opposed to the meddlesome narcissism of decadent poets, preoccupied with the fashionable narcissism and with the enjoyment in the self-existing solipsism, they are preoccupied with the tragic sense of life. The uncontrollable wave of pessimism present in the lyrics of Koneski and Andrić produces a melancholic reflexivity and a spiritual vision. Their poetry is an authentic voice of human solitariness, an internal unrest, poetry of their suffering and despair. Yet, we are to differ between the romantic individualism, based on the psychological subjectivism, and decadent moral egoism expressed by denial of the national existence, of tradition and of collective experiences. The confessing sound of Koneski’s lyrics, especially expressed in “Lyrical notes”, and in “Ex Ponto”, in “Restlessness”, as well as in the numerous lyrical travels and essayist notes of Andrić, most of all can be related to the traditional stream of meditative lyrics that has its roots in the time of romanticism. They are both loners and dreamers for better future, altruists who are worried about the destiny of the world. Their internal intimate world opposes to the outer, and in such an antagonism they find their stimulation for creative work, freeing themselves from their sensitive introvert personalities. Their vision of art is a permanent and passionate strain for the unity of their subjective, poetic “I” with the great “I’ of the world. In such a way, they open themselves to the philosophy of humanism, which leads them to sensibility and stresses the consciousness of the existence of evil. In their numerous statements we can sense their fate in harmony and their sorrow that it is difficult to reach such harmony in life. Expressing his attitude towards friendship, love and towards the woman, Andrić shows a hope and a wish for broadmindedness. His message to people is: “Live and fight the best you can; pray to God and love the whole nature; yet give most love, care and compassion to people.” The altruistic determination can also be sensed in the following lines: “I feel great love to people, to their children, to fortune and misfortune, to sin and passion and to the whole grief they reveal, to struggle and failures, to misleads and sufferings of victims, to everything human on this planet”. Koneski expresses his untamed inspiration of philanthropy through his short poem “Hugging”: “How did I feel such urge/ to hug a branch of vine/.. I could, as well/ hug even a snake/ in the same manner, -/ nothing could harm me, in such feeling of love,/ of such hugging!”
What separates them both from other writers is the deep consciousness for the value of literary inheritance and the deep creative impulse to oppose the chaotic modern world to the harmonic reality of art. Whereas modernists, in their revolt against the already established norms and laws, were drastically braking their relation to the past, they quenched their thirst on the rich spring of tradition. Their knowledge of “national code” of the poetry of a writer, according to Koneski, is the basic precondition for the correct interpretation of the poetic ideas of the writer. This, again, leads us to the doors of collective experience, whereas it drifts us from the actual avant-garde influences. And we will again stress the ascertainment of the importance of tradition in legitimizing altruism. The revelation of universal human truths, their sense of the endless time, includes them among great writers, through whose creation the whole Balkan tradition utters. They clearly know that the spirit of the Balkans or the spirit of their native lands is much more important than their personal spirit. Their intellect appreciates the values of collective experience, and this fact implicitly leads towards altruistic aspiration. The people are the power that gives spirit to the poet, in order to create verses which, with their beauty and strength, penetrate in the deep roots of the ancient knowledge of humanity. Exposing the ancient wisdom of their own people and enriching them with their creative vision, they produce endless values. In that context we can mention the poems “Vezilka”, “Teshkoto”, “Sick Dojchin”, the series for “Marko the King” and many others that reveal the relation of the poet to the national soil of which he had sprouted. That wonderful connection of the tradition and vision resulted in richness in the development of many original ideas. The relation between tradition and innovations (a term used by Blaže Koneski) will be especially interpreted by him in the interview for the magazine “Expression”: “I have never believed in a complete breaking up with the tradition as a pledge for renewal of the poetic expression. As it is usually said, tradition (in all fields – as well as in art) should be approached in a creative manner”. Tradition in the creative work of Koneski and Andrić appears as a pattern to reach new artistic values, and plays role in creation of their own expressive style.
The fact that the basic principle of the two writers is humanity, order and sense, can be also seen in their stylistic expression, in the sentences which are calm and harmonic, clear and full of hidden wisdom. Under the veil of the alleged simplicity of their styles there is a deep contemplativity, complexity of the idea and vision. Their words provoke a wide range of associations and, maybe, that is exactly why their creative work remains remembered.
Author’s principle that the final goal of the human being is humanity can be also seen in how Andrić describes his characters that shine with their altruism. He fully enters the text, always speaking in first person pronoun and in his name. He expresses his characters with love and warmness, which have characteristics of their deepest human nature. In such procedure he wanted to rise those moments of love and beauty above all norms, cold laws, blind conventions, and to prove that happiness is eternal and undestroyable. Such is the following scene from the story “On state’s property”: “It was difficult to say who laughed sweeter, the girl or Mitjan. They clashed, refused and attracted, enthralled by the joyous splashes of their laughter. From that game, everything around them began to change. Greenery, fruits and flowers surrounded the barren area around the stable filled with gurgles by some creeks and faucets. Around them, the joyous atmosphere spread, created by the game, and with every new race, with every new clash and shout it became richer and more fragrant.”
With special rejection and resignation he paints his characters who have accomplished their living by actions harmful to humanity. He describes the egoistic character of Nada in “Family photo” in the following way: “Her fashionable dress of beige silk is unsuitable for her short, fat appearance. Under the strong lipstick there are pale, thin lips, which don’t show her teeth neither when she speaks, nor when she smiles. To Kamenkovichs, laughter is a gold coin, and they don’t throw their gold coins around, but they keep them for themselves. There is something insulted, angry in her voice, expression and in her whole appearance. She doesn’t deprive herself of nothing, she doesn’t feel uneasy in front of anyone, she never restrains, says everything that comes up to her mind exactly when something does come up, not caring about anything or anyone. Because what comes up to her mind is true to her, what she says is a law to her, and what she does – that is the real thing.”
Andrić draws every exposure of antihuman forces of destruction, inexistence and death with the procedure of an utmost objectivism and distancing. He described those acts of violence and destructiveness as an unreasonable and unintelligible manifestation of evil. We can find such descriptions in “Stormers”, in “Anika”, in “A story for the vizier’s elephant”.
The emotional attitude of Koneski is hidden behind the form of intellectuality. He has the ability to honestly, simply and clearly express his personal attitude towards matters, and through it he generalizes some knowledge. Yet, he frequently uses the syntagms “my origin”, “clear joy”, “clear pearl”, “soft tranquility”, “warm voice”, when he talks about something that has essential dimensions and moral values, whereas, at the same time, he uses the syntagms “evil doom”, “black waters”, “black glow”, “black voices”, “mournful shriek” when he describes the universal evil, human pain, loneliness, separation and sorrow.
8. Andrić, Ivo, Essay on Walt Whitman 1919.
9. Koneski, Blaže, The Lyra, Subjects and Characters, Kultura, Skopje, 1990, 379.
10. Andrić, Ivo. A Few Remarks on the Kocic's Struggle for National Language, Teaching Language and Literature in High School, Beograd, 1951, 1-2, 4.
11. Pavlovic, Miodrag, A View of Andrić's Work, A Collection of Essays on Ivo Andrić, SANU, Beograd, 1977, 204.
12. Andrić, Ivo, Travnik Chronicles, Svetlost, Sarajevo, 1989, 328.
13. Melville W. Herskovits, Man and his Works: The science of cultural anthropology, New York, Knopf, 1948.
14. Andrić, Ivo, Travnik Chronicles, Svetlost, Sarajevo, 1989, 296.
15. The term was taken from the book of Peter L. Berger, Brigitte Berger and Hanssfried Kellner, Hopeless Mind, Penguin Books, London, 1974, 165.
16. Andrić, Ivo, Travnik Chronicles, Svetlost, Sarajevo, 1989, 296.
17. Andrić, Ivo, Travnik Chronicles, Svetlost, Sarajevo, 1989, 414.
18. Koneski, Blaže, Poems, Kultura, Skopje, 1990, p. 163.
1. Andrić, Ivo, Ex Ponto, Misla, Skopje, 1967, 28.
2. Andrić, Ivo, Ex Ponto, Misla, Skopje, 1967, 77.
3. Koneski, Blaže, Poems 1, Kultura, Skopje, 1990, 261.
4. Andrić had an already differentiated opinion on Njegoš’s fight against the absurd and on “rebelled man” ten years before Camus.
5. Koneski, Blaže, Expression, Sarajevo, No. 7, 1977 (We would like here to stress the fact that Koneski did not participate at the discussion in the 50s, a discussion between the realists and modernists, and by such an attitude, he remained consistent in his theoretical and creative determinations, which have their own way.
6. Andrić, Ivo, On State Property, in Thurst, Svetlost, Sarajevo, book 6, 1989, 235.
7. Andrić, Ivo, Family Portrait, in Signs, Svetlost, Sarajevo, book 8, 1989, 275.