Three events – all three fresh and directly related to our daily lives – reasons for possible revisions to the attitudes that we thought (or at least some of us thought) to be invariable once and for all. The first case concerns Peter Handke, the latest Nobel prize laureate in literature.
The general position of the irreconcilably divided Serbia are – two opinions. According to the first, Handke is one of the greatest friends of the Serbs, a writer who came to our aid when it was most difficult for us, visited us, traveled along and across Serbia and, most importantly, opposed the worldwide anti-Serb conspiracy that marked us in the 1990s as “the bad guys”. (True, not only because of political correctness, but on the basis of the facts, there were also “bad women”, and there are even today, just as a reasonable insider, a resident of Serbia, who with skepticism based on life experience, hears reports from the international community about the situation in our country, doesn’t see too much reason to correct that characterization from the 90’s today.)
Proponents of the second view do not forgive Handke for endorsing Milosevic, and thata at the funeral he gave a speech denying the Srebrenica genocide and, in general, paying tribute to our then (and present) opposition. As is always the case here, everything that has to do with us (sometimes, however, and what has nothing to do with us) becomes the cause of a much wider debate and conflict that sometimes grow into wars. And so the “Handke case” threatens to flood the world media like a tsunami, already provoking strong reactions, and the US PEN asks of the Nobel Committee to review the decision on the winner.
However, looking at the trenches established in this way, it is not difficult to conclude that the views of the two sides are not based on the basic theme of “story”, and it derives from the heading that goes by the name of the award and reads “for literature”, which will say that both points of view undermine the fact that the author of Cursing the audience won the award for his literary work, not because he beat his first wife or acted as a free-spirited intellectual, who is unnerved by the united calls for the bombing of Yugoslavia. Of course, this fact is difficult to explain to the local town, which has long ago “confidently” determined that Andric was awarded the Nobel because he signed the document that the Kingdom of Yugoslavia acceded to the Triple Pact (he did not sign but was present) because he was Tito’s opponent (he was not it either, at least certainly not publicly, also because he was a member of the League of Communists, the Presidium of the National Assembly of the People’s Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federation Council, the president of the Union of Writers of Yugoslavia, the vice-president of the Association for Cultural Cooperation with the Soviet Union …), and there were also opinions that he became a laureate of this award only that Miroslav Krleža does not receive it, otherwise Tito’s intimus and a certified communist. (The first Krleža, of course, was, while the second, after the Dialectical Antibarbarus from 1939, and Prica’s response, the Barbarity of Krleža’s “Antibarbarus” from 1940, was questioned.)
But back to Handke. He himself stated that there was a lot of talk about him, but that few of his books were read. If the ratio were expressed as a percentage, it would probably be higher in our country than anywhere else in the world, whether it be Handke or any other writer. How we, however, fit into the world trends is the phenomena of confusing the biography of the author and his art work. Shakespeare, for example, is regarded by the whole world as one of the world’s greatest playwrights (and thinkers), although we know very little about him. The irrefutably established facts from his biography do not throw too much pretty light on his personality, while the fact that he left behind only three of his signatures – all three different, provokes some doubts about the authorship of his oeuvre. Even biographies, or at least some parts of them, of Goethe or Beethoven, Byron or Gene, Sartre or Rembo, do not always coincide with the established notion of exalted artists and, in particular, their truly magnificent works. The relationship that is established between the biography of the author and his art is complex, so many lovers of poetry by Branko Radicevic (1824 – 1853) would be appalled to know that he wrote the famous poem Kad mlidijah umreti (1845) at the time when he was fired up with strenght and life enthusiasm. After all, what do we know for certain about the lives of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, yet we regard them as the greats of tragic art.
But to no purpose is hope is that those who ambushed Handke will revise their views. In our case, especially, primarily because town does not like to read, and also because political speeches and appropriate rhetoric are designed to prevent people from bothering to read and expose themselves to the dangerous effect of books.
Case number two
If the distinction between the biography of the writer and his work is not clear to the people, how can the difference between a literary character and an actor interpreting that character on stage be explained to him? Mission Impossible!
And what to say about the subject that the actor uses in the play, interpreting the dramatic character, that plays the role of props, and that his stage use fits into the complex relationship between signifier and signified ?! In support of the ignorant people here might be the fact that Plato was dealing with this topic, truthfully, on a slightly different level (significantly different, namely), and that – reducing what was for change – he eventually drove out poets from an ideal state. This will say that Branislav Trifunovic, otherwise completely innocent by law, because the Serbian flag in the play Fall was not torn by neither B. Trifunovic nor by his character, would be banished from Serbia by those who did not read Plato. Just like they didn’t read Handke, Andric, Krleza, Shakespeare and Radicevic. After all, why would they stick to the law as a drunk would to the fence?
The government and Its Opposition
Another current event that is subject to possible revision concerns Branislav Nusic. Relatively Nebojsa Romcevic. Specifically, Egon Savin, who directed Romcevic’s play The Government and Its Opposition at the National Theater in Nis, which emerged as a more or less overt replica of Nusic’s comedy. In Romcevic’s piece, a representative of the current government offers a poor intellectual studying the social sciences here a hefty sum of money, and as a counterpart asks him to start publicly criticizing the authorities. Both the scientist and the government official know what’s next: a “hot rabbit” through which tabloids will drag the unhappy intellectual, both are aware that the intellectuals’ social rating will jump in opposition circles, but – brother – money is money, and the government will keep the opposition under control.
Although from a literary point of view, Romcevic’s idea is not original, because we come accross it in different varieties in Nusic (Madam Minister, Member of Parliament, PhD), in the comedy The Government and Its Opposition dramaturgically it functions in a humorous, effective and provocative manner, and also tangents government and our rather colorful opposition. At the Niš premiere, the government officials laughed sourly, and local opposition quickly dissociated itself from the play.
When, speak of the devil, only a few days later second Trifunovic – Sergej, namely – announced that he had received an indecent proposal: someone from the government offered him half a million euros and the status of a future coalition partner, of course, under certain conditions.
Apart from the logical assumption that some other oppositionists were faced with similar offers, but that they did not have any dilemmas that they shared with the public, and that our opposition is (not) even monolithic in this respect, what else in this case could be subject to revision? In the first place, it is the previously made statement that no one reads anything here. (Perhaps, after all, someone was reading Nusic. Or Romcevic.) Second, the thesis that nothing has changed in Serbia since Nusic’s time. And finally, the third possible revision concerns the information that appears in Romcevic’s comedy. There, namely, a representative of the government offers an intellectual 100,000 dinars per month, and the reality denies the writer because Trifunović was offered a much larger amount. At least, then, it is worth revisiting the view that intellectual engagement here is cheap.