| Diwan Special issue|
Born in 1957 in Slavonski Brod (Croatia), lives in Tuzla (B&H).
”A people that has such a future need not worry about its youth!” Josip Broz would say prophetically when receiving the baton or waving his hand during the 70s, greeting the citizens who cheered at the glorious anniversaries of the Revolution. And the people absorbed his expressions and his prophetic gift. If the press today contains different variants of this sentence, that is only because the president’s biographers or aspiring journalists interpreted Tito’s words freely ingratiating themselves to the Comintern ruling caste or, perhaps, to the above-mentioned people. Because, through the ages, the people has always represented a safe sanctuary for writers running from the darkness of oblivion.
But where is the youth in all that? Is this a subject about which much could be said: the future of the youth in the space of unreliable press, where every scribbler, reaching as far back as Ancient Egypt (when scribes were powerful and holy men) can leave a historical trace? We state: the letter is a trace that does not lie. Even when the user of paper mercilessly ”shakes out the fleas” that are to ”bite” the virtuous truth, the text, naively and foolishly like Trojan’s meadow, brings forth a small plant of elder that smells nice and sings a mocking song. Or is the subject the opposite: the future of the people that absorb expressions and the president’s prophetic gift? A people that does not listen to the language of plants and does not believe its own ears.
What is the relation between the youth and the people? ”You will be as I, but I cannot be as you!”1 says a voice from long ago when even the people was still in diapers. When there was no youth in today’s sense of the world. Back then, man was born old and wise, obedient to God and ruler. Younger members of society did not write, they tended to the sheep and got beatings, because the truth had to be learnt off by heart. Books
1 Dijak of Hrasno, Old Bosnian Texts, Mak Dizdar, Svjetlost, Sarajevo 1900, p. 173.
were few and inaccessible, but the truth was well known and clear. The youth ran around the mountains and groves thinking light-heartedly that they belonged to the chosen people following the authentic voice of God. But who could ever study while tending sheep?
Today, debutante writers write erotic novels and sing urban lyrical songs. The romance of the countryside has been replaced by the smell of marijuana and petrol, and brotherly love and sisterly mercy by the smoke of burning grass from a shattered hearth. So: do lovers in this age of hatred and gunpowder whisper gentle, but already worn out words? After the Bosnian agony and exodus, is ”man’s battered heart preparing to die,”2 or is it spreading the ashes so that, like a phoenix, it may chirp again about inevitable love? Did the youthful knights of the pen break their paper spears, swords and maces in vain after Dayton, or will the dress of brocade and silk behind the bloody war finally be ripped off like the curtain that hides the lock and key to a chastity belt?
”My wacky heart is still trying to embrace the whole world with your arms.”3
This quote from a poem by the ”incurable” Mehmed Begić gives us hope that the youth is still burning in the effort to reach its own heart, liver and sexual organs. That they have not been fooled by illusions outside the soul and body. For Example: an ideal seat in an office of a successful specimen of the human genus. The basic assumption of lyricism: that the language, customs, attitudes, roles of the lovers in the typology of relations, even of emotions can be changed, but that the song is an authentic expression – did not waiver here. In truth, the heart has been dethroned from the pedestal of poetry long ago, and the author will not shout:
”Heart of mine, my crazy heart, may lightning strike you dead!”
2 Pablo Neruda, ”Ode to Federico Garcia Lorka”. 3 Magazine ”Album” No. 6, Sarajevo 1999, p. 25, ”Like Someone in Love” M. Begić.
as Laza Kostić, a Serb Romantic poet, rapturously sings. Begić’s heart is ”wacky” not only because the young poet is ”fending off ” love (this is an authentic, traditionally lyrical and genuine pose), but also because this urban sensibility is expressed in slang. ”Wacky” is everything that is not ”cool” and that has not accepted the image of the law of the ”concrete jungle”. This applies to the heart, as well. Personified and hyperbolised, it wants to ”embrace the whole world,” because love is strong and unselfish. And the arms of yet another twenty-year-old princess are being wrapped around that world, at the end of the second millennium, like a million times before. It is extraordinary that it is not clear whether it is a nakedly ambitious lady desiring the blessings of vanity, or a humble Cinderella being offered the goods of the world by the prince of poetry. In both cases, the result will be the same – and that is good – the ”sin” of love and passion will deceive ”chastity” and elevate it to a higher level of experienced maturity. As according to the natural recipe from paradise: to Adam the apple, and to Eve the fig leaf.
Begić’s rhythmic flow of sentences is that of prose, banally simple like a fleeting remark on the street, or an order for a drink at a café. Such musical modesty is a feature of unpretentious poetry, asphalt poetry, post-war poetry, that is melodiously dry like a pile of bricks, like a heap of dust. It is ”dry” even when it speaks of love. What wonder and what splendour can the heart of a young poet from Mostar in 1999 expect, even if he is in love? Does he have to build the world from the beginning in order to be able to trust the world?
And while the world is pliantly acquiring a genuine shape, let us listen in on how the ladies chatter about love:
”Sanja M. melted into the armchair. Marija D. rolled around in the unmade bed.
”I can’t believe that pussy just disappeared like that.”
”Maybe there’s someone else. Did you ever think he had another? Or others?”
”I don’t think so. You know what he’s like. He’s not as cold as a Jewish bride on her honeymoon, but he’s also not…”
”Maybe he’s perverted. Maybe he’s attracted to women with a
wooden leg, but he doesn’t have the courage to admit it to you. I mean, he doesn’t have to courage to tell you openly to cut off one of your legs?
”He is perverted. That’s true. But his perversion consists of doing things that drive me crazy.”
”He doesn’t put the seat down. He throws cigarette butts into glasses. He reads while he eats. He’s irresponsible. He’s late for appointments. He disappears before I wake up.”4
This prose excerpt is a quote from a wider literary entity, a fragment depicting a typical situation where the most intimate of friends gossip about the lover of one of them. Here the phrase is a narrative tool, the authentic conversation of the characters. The expression: ”Jewish bride on her honeymoon” belongs to the ethno-literary style of phrasing where national qualities do not necessarily have psychological effects on the community member (because the characters’ conversation is not politicised). The author of the excerpt, Krešimir Pintarić, uses this phrase in order to give the characters a recognisable attitude and tone of arrogance and confidence in an intimate exchange. The behaviour of the lover is also a phrase as he defiantly ”doesn’t put the seat down”, ”throws cigarette butts” and ”reads while he eats”. The relationship is depicted as superficial according to the stereotype of cosmopolitan shallowness (being ”cool” at any price). But the dynamics and attractiveness grow with the introduction of the perversion motif. The strong black humour is contained in the possibility that the pervert is ”attracted to women with a wooden leg”, but lacks the courage to persuade his beloved to have an amputation. This detail gives vivacity to the dialogue, because its inventiveness surpasses the conversation flow preceding it.
The expression ”pussy” is especially prominent. Spoken by a woman’s lips, this word acquires extraordinary weight, because young ladies are taking over the terminology usually applied by men to denote those unworthy of belonging to the macho-legion. By reducing the monumentality of the phallus to a dash the physiology of genitalia aesthetically confirms the bisexuality of the text and the male fear of castration
4 Magazine ”Quorum” No. 5/6, Zagreb 1998, p.65, ”Kundera” K. Pintarić.
as Sigmund Freud would point out behind his beard, cigar and penetrating gaze. For Pintarić’s characters are spoilt and stubborn. The arrogance, so typical for the quasi-urban sensibility, is an innate attitude in the behaviour of both the two girlfriends and the absent lover. For them, arrogance is a basic feeling as the need for domination in retaining their (frail) identity and self-importance. Pintarić criticises unobtrusively: the continuation of the dialogue shows that the cause for the conversation is no drama (the unsatisfied Marija will not leave the schmuck), but only common gossip.
The language is precise and purified, which directly develops in prose the environment of a scene. Only in the case of: ”He’s irresponsible. He’s late for appointments,” and in the case of: ”…that he has another? Or others?” there is deviation and stylistic misbalance. In both cases, the repetition (irresponsible – late for appointments…) is not rhythmically functional, but represents consistently transferred local ”slang” which increases the dialogue’s authenticity.
It is sad that both cited authors portray scepticism towards the possibility of a ”great and worthy” love. Begić does so through his resignation and nostalgia, while Pintarić does so through satire and black humour. A very prolific consequence in the assessment of their texts is the absence of pathos and euphoria, but the lack of joy and unbridled eros (within the subject of love) surpasses the generational problem of these authors.
”You watch me innocently
You watch me like an infant
containing the Antichrist
You watch me
Like a monk like a whore
You watch me and
slide your hands into the earth
I eat you lustily As if I were swallowing the sky
And your bones get caught in my teeth
Your eyes are tasty
There is enough meat
And the hunger is insatiable
I wave with your hand
Ripped out of your shoulder
I bite finger by finger
The best for last Furiously I bite my children when they come close This is my feast alone I will devour you myself”5
These words were written by the hand of the lovely Aleksandra Čvorović (Banjaluka, sighs of young men), and not by a male writer’s immersion into the psychology of the opposite sex. Hence, presumably, such stark amazonian fury. The cruelty of the praying mantis, the mercilessness of Medea and the cannibalistic urge of the African princess are irrefutable proof of true love. But such passion and such a presence of sex in an explosion of violence is seldom expected by men. Not in their worst nightmares. How can that gentle poetess, made-up and pampered like Madame Shanell turn into a ”ravenous beast”? Men fear such women (while desiring them), because in every patriarchal tyrant there is a hidden servile flunky prepared to subject himself forever to the charms of the ”weaker” half of humanity. The fatal attraction of Eros and Tanathos in the image of the modern Aphrodite, is that the future of love?
Men, it seems, are tired of writing and war. Of the real and the virtual slaughterhouse. Tired of the pressure to hold forth on the pages of history and literature. Mired in resignation, irony and scepticism, male master of the pen of the young generation are witnesses of a destroyed reality, rather than visionaries of an (amorous) tomorrow. In any case, isn’t it true that more women are being born in the world, and not only because men are killed by careers or bullets.
5 Magazine ”Album” No. 10, Sarajevo 2000, p. 22-23, ”The Whispering of Clay Pidgeons”, A. Čvorović.
”The Rules of Attraction” and ”Less than Zero” are two novels by the American Bret Easton Ellis, published in 1985 and 1987. The post-computer and post-Vietnam America can be directly associated with Balkan examples. But the bitterness of the ”yuppie” chronicle about the life of rich and ”empty” characters craves for an authentic emotion in the blasé hopelessness of luxury. A generation can become ”lost” in the overabundance of life just as easily as in the overabundance of death. And, derived from the ”Zeitgeist” where Edgar Morin wrote about technologies, comes the question: What is the difference between failure in war and in peace, or in wealth and in poverty?
The modern sensibility of the ”instant” generation is embodied in the ”fast love” setting that is not much different from the ”fast food” phenomena on the sidewalks of megalopolises. Relations between the sexes show, for a moment, the emphasis on new-born female aggressiveness and the more passive roles of the male segment of the population, but this is not a significantly new quality, because we have seen similar scenes as far back as Boccaccio whose mature female characters are more debauched than his male characters.
Fifteen reasons why beer is better than a woman
Beer does not get jealous when you go for another.
Whenever you go to a bar, you know you’ll get yourself a beer.
Beer doesn’t get upset when you come home smelling of beer.
You can’t take beer to fancy restaurants.
When you pour it down properly, your head feels all right.
When you’re finished with a beer, the bottle is still worth 5 cents.
Beer doesn’t have to be washed to taste good.
Beer always goes in smoothly.
Beer you can share with your friends.
Beer is always wet.
You always know you’re the first one who opened it.
Cold beer is good beer.
You can take more than one beer and not feel guilty.
You can enjoy beer your whole life.6
This text by an anonymous author was borrowed as a reprint of an inscription on a T-shirt from New York and published in Sarajevo. But the anonymity of the creator does not diminish the clarity of the text. Both as to textual meaning and as to the references towards social groups from which the text originates and towards which it is directed. The wittiness of the ”male dimension of self-irony”, with which the agile editor of the magazine ALBUM, Ranko the Killer Milanović-Blank, ”justifies” the publication of the text does nothing to lessen the sting directed at the ”gentler”, and (in the text) undervalued, sex. Of course, the glorification of beer in this text looks more like some Bacchanalia or orgy ”misdirected” from the ancient or Viking times, more like a ”hell’s angels” party than a cultured inscription transferred from beneath the Statue of Liberty to freedom-loving Sarajevo.
But let’s get back to the text. An experienced reader will notice that the ”popular creator” from Manhattan is quite an expert in the matters of love life. This is not some misogynist mired in solitude and his own ”helplessness and pain”. Not only does this writer know ”why beer is better than a woman” through the 15 incriminated reasons, but he has tried out each of these ”details” first with a woman, his own or another’s, and then with a beer (he would add: ”That’s why I opted for beer!”). ”The People” knows all too well what an ”upset” wife awaiting a drunk ”hubby” looks like and how ”expensive” a fancy restaurant is when after dinner he does not get his ”dues” from the desired lady. He knows how the heart ”bolts” when his wife cordially greets her high-school ”sweetheart”. In that case, why does the ”writer – expert” bother about women at all, why doesn’t he satisfy himself with just the beer? Isn’t it enough to hold in your hand your only friend – a beer, and with a smile of superiority ”jeer” at the female sex? Why write about it?
There are two possible (and probable) answers. It is in the nature of civilised humaneness to ”finish off ” the ”defeated” enemy. Therefore, we could interpret the text as the final proclamation of the ”ruin” of the
6 Magazine ”Album” No. 6, Sarajevo 1999, p. 156, signed: ”The People”.
female sex. But according to its structure, the text looks more like a challenge – a call for a duel in which death (from old age?) is still to come, than like an obituary or a testament. Ultimately, even eccentric writers write texts in order for an audience to read them: that is, in order to communicate with someone (with women?), even in the uncertain future. That is why the answer is most probably hidden deep in the past of the human race. The man’s loyal dog always sits by the fire and you can ”enjoy him for his whole (canine) life”, and you can also ”share him with your friends”. Just like beer, for example. But a dog and a beer do not have the necessary language, immediate or otherwise. And when the ”hangovers pass” even the most hardened beer-drinker wishes for a cup of coffee and a wet towel draped over his head. Also, of course, for a kind word. Even in slang.
Defiance is the strategy and seduction the secret of slang as old as the world. The inaccessibility and exclusivity of that language of derelicts, junkies and criminals, or, outside the establishment, of rebellious alternative groups, gives slang the attractive mysticism of secret societies (masons, rosenkreutzers, sects, the Mafia). Perhaps Eve’s apple in hebrew ”slang” meant something different from an innocent and sweet-smelling fruit? Perhaps the time has come for men to lure women from paradise into this asphalt world with a beer standing in for the glass tree of knowledge of good and evil?
That spirit of seduction is love. Because what else is love than the eternal fuel of generational resurrection? When the older generation becomes weary, and when the heavy burdensome question of the meaning of the future (which is no longer a challenge, but a curse of mortality) falls onto experienced spiritual shoulders, on the political periphery, a new strength is born in the bodies of the youth. How naive and beautiful they are. Where do they get that irresistible audacity? Will fate bring these yellow-billed barbarians into the foundations of the world and the repository of civilisation? Won’t they be the wild tribe that can once more destroy the already destroyed Rome?
Futile worry is just an excuse, the impotence of the powerful who have gone out of fashion to retire their own respectable image. We have seen how the youthful write and what they ”make” out of love in scenes of terrifying life. Hyper-potent, they will push away the bushes and discover the secret of the cave of creation even without Ali-baba’s permission. The people should not worry about the future which such youth can even imagine.
Translated by Ulvija Tanović
Diwan 2002. Sva prava zadržana.
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