Nikolina Andova Shopova

Nikolina Andova Shopova

Nikolina Andova Shopova was born on 3 February 1978 in Skopje. She graduated from the Faculty of Philology (Macedonian and South Slavic literature) at the St Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. She has published two books of poetry „The entrance is on the other side“(2013) and „Connect the dots“ (2014). Her first book „The entrance is on the other side“ was awarded with the prestigious award „Bridges of Struga“ in 2013, award of UNESCO and the Struga Poetry Evenings for best debut book, and is published in English language. In 2014 she published the second poetry collection “Connect the dots”, which is also published in Serbian language. In 2016, a selection of her poetry in English, Macedonian and French is published by Éditions Bruno Doucey. Her poems take part in many anthologies of Macedonian poetry. They are translated into many world languages ​​and she is a participant in many poetry festivals across Europe.

In 2019 she received the “Novel of the Year” award, for her first novel “Someone Was Here“, awarded by the Foundation for promotion of cultural values ​​”Slavko Janevski”. She also writes short stories and picture books for children.

„Connect the dots“ (2014). Her first book „The entrance is on the other side“ was awarded with the prestigious award „Bridges of Struga“ in 2013, award of UNESCO and the Struga Poetry Evenings for best debut book, and is published in English language. In 2014 she published the second poetry collection “Connect the dots”, which is also published in Serbian language. In 2016, a selection of her poetry in English, Macedonian and French is published by Éditions Bruno Doucey. Her poems take part in many anthologies of Macedonian poetry. They are translated into many world languages ​​and she is a participant in many poetry festivals across Europe.

In 2019 she received the “Novel of the Year” award, for her first novel “Someone Was Here“, awarded by the Foundation for promotion of cultural values ​​”Slavko Janevski”. She also writes short stories and picture books for children.

Someone Was Here

excerpt

As I opened the peapods to roll the little balls into a plastic dish, I hoped that when I pulled  the pod apart I would find something else, something that would surprise and excite me. Something that according to all the laws of nature shouldn’t be there, and precisely that thing had decided to reveal itself precisely to me. From that entire mountain of green pods waiting to be opened, I would discover just the one that held within it something unusual, something wondrous that had not yet appeared before my eyes, so I raced to open them, digging my fingers into the seams and tearing open the pods. My fingernails were green, and they hurt from the dried bits that wedged underneath them, but I was determined to reach the one I was looking for. My mother was shelling peas opposite me and she watched me bustling, thinking I was interested in counting and rolling the little balls which were strung through the pods like ball earrings. The unopened pods in the bowl were decreasing, as the volume of green balls was growing along with my impatience, and when I rolled out the last pea, I looked in defeat at the floor, hoping I would catch sight of an unopened one. But everything was opened and shelled, and the world became once more dreary, empty, revealed, with no hidden meaning or significance. The riddles and secrets that I sought everywhere around me, even in these small rituals, seemed ever further from me, in some other place, outside my view and grasp and I tried to create them for myself, weaving a mysterious veil around things that were seemingly ordinary and every day. With my fork I created a castle out of the mashed potatoes on my plate because I was obsessed with the scene in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” which ran for a week in the evenings while my father was in the hospital, the one in which Roy makes a mountain out of his mashed potatoes and other strange things after he saw something unusual in the sky. I pretended that I, too, had experienced something similar that I could not explain to myself, but which tormented me, and I inverted a cardboard egg carton and used the inverted holes like а keyboard which I covered with non-existent letters and then used to communicate with my imaginary creatures from another planet. Empty egg cartons had been put out in the shed and the stack of them, which was about as tall as I was, kept growing smaller as I took new ones, because I quickly tore and made holes in the old ones by writing and typing on them. When the pile had been reduced to the height of a small chair, my father died. I was sitting on them the day his body was laid out in its coffin in the living room like some sort of museum exhibit which everyone came to see; some even to touch and stroke it, while my father, for the first time in his life and certainly for the first time in his death, kept silent for so long and had no comment for anyone about anything.   My mother sat in the dining room with her head leaning on my aunt’s hip, they tightly held each other’s hands and they dried their eyes with damp and half-torn paper napkins as they silently peered into space. Whenever my mother glanced at me, she would cry harder and pull me to her lap, but I finally ran off to mingle with the people coming in and to sneak out the door and run to the garden shed. It was twilight but I was used to the dark and the darkness was perhaps the only thing I wasn’t afraid of. I was more afraid of staying at home, of seeing my father lying in his coffin with gauze tied around his head, dressed in the suit he saved for special occasions, and of hearing the sobs that would swell like a powerful wave when new people came in the open door. I was suffocated by the smell of burned coffee and candles mixed with the stale scent of old women and old men, who would pat my head and press themselves to my face whispering something which I didn’t want to hear or understand. I didn’t want to hear the muted but cruel whispering of Auntie Žana, who was sitting not far from my mother, waving and tapping her finger on the dining room table arguing about something with the woman sitting opposite her and spraying spittle on the cookies that had been laid out for his soul.  I had to disappear as quickly as possible, and although the egg carton keyboards poked my behind, I felt an inexplicable combination of sadness, comfort, and freedom then rocked by these emotions, I fell asleep leaning against the peeling wooden rack which held the things that were spoiled and unusable, but which we’ve kept for years just in case they were needed.

            I woke with the thought that my mother was crying and in despair because she couldn’t find me, and I dashed to the front door which was still open. I burst into the living room and my aunt ran up to me asking whether I had rested up, likely thinking that I had been asleep in the bunk bed in the children’s room. I didn’t respond, I just ran towards the bedroom just as our neighbour, a nurse, came out and signalled me with her hand to be quiet because my mother was sleeping. The coffin was in its old place, this time closed like a pod, and I felt the prick under my fingernails. Some of the people had dispersed, it smelled of smoke and staleness, and that moment I knew that home would never again be home.

“Has this child eaten anything?” asked one of the old women and my aunt sat me at the small table in the kitchen, moved the ashtrays and cleared the table of the discarded wrappers of chocolate coffee-candies, and brought me some of the cheese pastries and some foil-wrapped wedges of  processed Zdenka cheese that she was getting ready to bring to the cemetery.

“We lose; our whole life we lose something,” said the man standing by the window smoking. There were only the three of us in the kitchen and I imagined he was addressing my aunt, since he either didn’t notice me or he was pretending I wasn’t there. I didn’t know him, and I thought he was one of my father’s colleagues, because he wasn’t sitting in the living room with the other relatives.

“Folks, friends, you’ll lose your wife, you’ll lose your husband, work, house, property, children…training is what it is, training… So you get accustomed to it, you get accustomed to losing, for when the time comes that you lose your life as well, so you can let it go and not cling to it like a blind man to a stick,” he said curtly and blew the smoke through the window. My aunt opened and closed the oven, checking the cheese rolls so they didn’t burn, and I sensed she wasn’t listening to him, but out of kindness shrugged her shoulders and nodded her head with pursed lips.

“Because, if you don’t let go of life, and your time has come, you’re already dead, and even then…even then…” he considered how to finish the sentence, “even then you’ll have a problem,’ he said quietly, while stubbing out the butt in the ashtray. He said this more for himself, as if he wanted to make the point to himself and to spare us further explanations. With a look I asked my aunt, “who is this?” as he stood with his back turned and looked through the window, my aunt answered me back, also by a look and a gesture.

                                                                   ***

It’s not as if I hadn’t thought of this before, but I was determined not to accept the invitation which I knew would inevitably arrive one day. Vania proposed that the three of us meet: her, me, and the owner of the apartment; we should go out somewhere for a drink because she’s heard about me constantly and said that she wanted to meet me at last. We had already been in her personal space, anyway, and this was an entirely expected and logical course of events.

I got out of it by saying it would be very unpleasant and at the moment I wasn’t ready for such a meeting, because, until recently we had been seeing each other in her apartment. But I added that in the future, after some time had passed, I’d have no problem meeting her, or sitting together somewhere, the three of us, to chat and laugh, and at the end we would pay her bill since she had been so nice to us and had unselfishly let us use her place temporarily. Vania looked at me with approval and smiled contentedly as if she had expected this answer or as if she should have assumed it, knowing my sensitivity and attention to such things. The truth is that I had never intended to become acquainted with her in the context she wanted and anticipated, and maybe I never wanted to meet her at all. I wanted to touch the things she touched every day, to melt in the bodiless embrace of her shirts and coats on the hanger, to drown in the depth of the armchair, where I supposed she most often relaxed, to touch my lips to the dried traces of lipstick on the not-quite clean glass and to place my head on her pillow, which smelled of faint smoke and of hair. I did not really want to touch her hand, I hadn’t wanted to embrace her if she were standing in front of me, kiss her, or catch her scent. I wanted to caress her reflections, just as I enjoyed doing in Natalie’s room, the room Irina did the least to keep clean and tidy, so as not to wipe away her smell, and through this, her presence, which, most likely, only she and I sensed in our nostrils. Natalie’s room was the only one that didn’t smell of cleaning products, and I would go in to stroke the toys she had played with, her small many-coloured dresses, and her other clothes which we hadn’t wanted to give away, the little notebook with a red band in which there were drawings of Irina and me holding hands, with arrows that had  written above them in green coloured pencil – mama, papa. I would curl up like a fetus on her little bed on the blue sheets jammed full of little gold stars and I would lie there for hours, calm and assured that I would not have to say goodbye to it, too. The objects and the material on which I lay would likely outlive me too, and no one would be able to take these things from me. With them I was secure. And for me, that was enough.

***

My mother was convinced that cigarettes had killed my father, although the doctors said that the cancer in his lungs was an illness that could arise from other factors as well. “If I ever see you with a cigarette… .it’ll be too bad for you!” she would warn me, but this sounded both tragic and funny to me because, unlike my father, she couldn’t frighten me with any specific punishment, she was too gentle and tender to think up something, let alone pronounce it or execute. “It’ll be bad for you,” was the most terrible threat she could direct at me, even when I had done something for which I really did need to be punished. I wasn’t accustomed to the freedom I had after my father died, and everything I had longed to do, and which had been forbidden, had not brought me the anticipated happiness and pleasure, and it bored me quickly. I splashed my cheeks and my neck with his aftershave from the small green glass bottle, without afterwards washing and scrubbing my face with soap and water afraid that he would smell me and turn my face red from pain. I opened the brown cardboard files he had carried to work but which I couldn’t touch, I sat until late at night and watched television in his armchair with the remote in my left hand just like he used to do, and I would curse like him if one of the buttons in the remote got stuck or didn’t work.   “Oh mother – where’s it gotten stuck. Ah, there it is!”, he would pull out the grey button with the nail of his pinky finger, which I thought he grew out just for that purpose. Every so often I would peel off the thick brown layer of tape that held together the bottom of the remote, and I would put on new tape, with pride as if I were accomplishing who-knows-what sort of craftsmanship. Before I fell asleep, scenes from the films I had watched until late at night would return to me, not that I fully understood them, but because that’s what he watched. The images of Papillon in solitary confinement when, out of starvation, he caught a cockroach, or the village idiot Michael who dragged his leg across the sand in “Ryan’s daughter” circled my conscience jumbled together with images from the burial and flies on the wall. I tried lying down on the lower bunk of the bunkbed and fell asleep with the light still on, but that didn’t suit me very long, and after only a few evenings I returned to the upper bunk and put out the light early. I stripped the stem of the ferns with only one stroke of my hand, and I knew that my mother would pretend she hadn’t noticed the thin, naked stems sticking out from the greenery. With a felt-tip pen I scrawled things on the thick leaves of the rubber plant , or I’d write my name amid the veins of the large Elephant Ear plant, just because no one stopped me. I splashed through the yard in his rubber flip-flops as tiny stones poked through, and I sprayed the hose high into the trees. Through force of habit I did my lessons and I studied in the kitchen or in the dining room as I had before so I would be noticed, even though there was no one to notice me. My mother was at work all day; she returned tired and was only interested in whether or not I had eaten. She routinely checked whether I had eaten the sandwich she made for me every day to take to school wrapped in the blue-white plastic bags with “milk” written on them, which she kept rolled in an elastic band to have for packing meat for the freezer. She prepared lentils with lots of garlic and little hot sausages and leeks, since that was my father’s favourite. A whole pot would be left over because neither my mother nor I ate garlic, but she stubbornly kept making the same dinner every Sunday, as she had when my father was alive. His coat hung on the hanger behind the door. I asked why she kept washing the coat since no one was wearing it, and she said to me as she was wringing out the sleeves over the washbasin: “Something might have crawled in… a spider, a centipede, everything in the house is damp.” When she dusted, she moved aside the carton still containing a few cigarettes, and then she would put it back beside the vase on the small table.

I waited to find a suitable moment to mention to her what Emil had told me about his aunt, and to convince her that we should buy human masks somewhere so that my father’s spirit wouldn’t inhabit us, or we should buy at least one “bad” one since my father was bad, too. One evening, as she pressed down the orange-coloured toaster with her elbow, I said this to her; she was visibly upset and said she didn’t want to hear about doing these “devil things”. Аnd she scolded me for what I had said about my father, adding that he wasn’t at all a bad person.

“You should know how much good your father did, how many people he helped,” she said with hidden pride. “All right, he did have a temper, both good and bad, like everyone else. Take Žana, everyone considers her a force of evil, she poisons animals in the neighbourhood, not that she isn’t a snake at times, but she gives her soul for people. She made woolen knee socks for the children who live beside her, those poor things who were left without a mother. She brought them dinner, gave them money, as much as she could… But your aunt, you know what she’s like, gentle, kind, but something once got into her head and she said something she shouldn’t have, she did something she shouldn’t have, and now, everyone thinks she’s a wicked person.

Then she added that my father was in heaven and I shouldn’t worry that some sort of spirits were going to inhabit me, and then I recalled how at the burial one of his cousin’s had come up to me and grabbed my chin, looked me right in the face with her red eyes and said to me tearfully: “You are just like your father. The spitting image!” That was the first time anyone had told me I looked like my father and I was afraid that maybe it was too late and that he had already gotten inside me; At such moments I missed Emil most of all; he would surely have understood me and would have known what I should do. And if he didn’t know, he wouldn’t be ashamed to ask someone and then run back with the answer, like he always did. Now I had to sort it out myself, and I was afraid to call the spirits the way Emil and I had done, so I went out to the shed where the old rusty shower nozzles with their tangled hoses were kept along with broken telephones, or just their receivers. I decided to use them to attempt to contact my father to see whether he really was in the sky or inside me, and although I knew this wasn’t the way one called to a spirit, it’s like I wanted to act out pretend courage for myself, like I was doing something that only fearless people would dare to do. As I pulled the box from the top shelf, countless small screws and a crumpled, dried up tube of glue rattled to the floor. I knew that it was my carelessness that had knocked over the small glass jar they spilled from, but still my hand shook as I held the boxy red telephone receiver that had turned dark from storage and dust.

“Vasil…Vasil…” I whispered into it, calling my father by his name for the first time.

“Vase, are you listening to me?” I said, using the nickname my mother called him. I took out the old handheld shower nozzle which looked like a telephone receiver and I repeated the same thing, but all there was on the other side was silence.

After a short time, my mother stopped making lentils with sausages every Monday, the coat behind the door and the box of cigarettes which stood on the small table seemed to have disappeared and only then did I feel that father had truly died.

Translated by Christina E. Kramer

Dinko Kreho

Dinko Kreho

Dinko Kreho writes short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction and literary criticism. He was born in Sarajevo in 1986. After attending primary and secondary education in Bihać, Zagreb, Pariz and Rennes, he graduated in comparative literature and South Slavic literatures at the University of Sarajevo. He lives in Zagreb.

Kreho was a regular contributor to the project AKT (Alternate Literary Interpretations), a member of the editorial board of the bi-monthly for culture and current affairs Zarez, as well as the host of the program Od riječi do riječi (Verbatim) in Booksa Literary Club in Zagreb. He nowadays contributes to the weekly Novosti, as well as to the web magazines booksa.hr and proletter.me; he also translates (mainly from French into Croatian) and practices theatre as a member of the Zagreb-based theatre collective Center for the Theatre of the Oppressed (POKAZ).

He has published the poetry collections Ravno sa pokretne trake (Straight off the Conveyor Belt,2006), Zapažanja o anđelima (Observations on Angels, 2009)and Simptomi (Symptoms, 2019), the feature-length audio drama Bezdrov: A Whistle in the Night (co-authored with Dario Bevanda, 2013), and the non-fiction collection Bio sam mladi pisac (I Was an Emerging Writer, 2019).

Kreho’s poems, short stories and essays have been translated into several languages. For his work he has been awarded a number of literary prizes and awards, in Croatia as well as in the other ex-Yugoslav countries.

            A TREATMENT FOR SCHMIDT

“That’s him, no doubt about it”, said Sonja as soon as she had made her way to Deacon and me. Although it was only late spring, judging by the atmosphere on Slovenska Beach you would have thought it was peak season. We were inhaling the aroma of oils, creams and lotions, and even in the shade, where we were waiting for Sonja, my T-shirt was sticking all the way down my back.

“Ta-da-dam!” Deacon handed us his mobile. When hanging out with people he spends more time googling what is being discussed than participating in the discussion, and every once in a while, when this annoying habit of his turns out to be really useful, he can’t help but gloat. Sonja and I hunched over the screen:

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

THE FLIPSIDE OF BIOPOWER IN THE ERA OF NEW POLARISATIONS

BUDVA, 22-24/5/20xx

The accompanying text mentioned migration, combating terrorism, the new mechanisms of control, Internet mastodons, and ‘the gorgeous view to the historic heart of the city’ from the premises of the refurbished Sutjeska cinema.

“Academic tourism?” I asked.

“And not just any academic tourism”,  replied Deacon. “Check out the organisers, each one better than the next. And he’s their biggest star! I wouldn’t be surprised if he was staying in one of these turbo hotels with a jacuzzi, a waterbed and a bonus Ukrainian girl every night.”

“This is begging for sabotage”, I said. “If anything, we should piss in his sandals.”

“Or read out loud excerpts from that text during his speech… What do you reckon, Red Sonja?”

            We looked at Sonja and fell into silence. As her eyes were travelling from Deacon to me and back, they were speaking louder than words: we knew what was on her mind.

“Guys”, she said softly but resolutely “I think the opportunity has finally presented itself.”

            II

            Sonja put it well: the opportunity did present itself. If, having spent twenty-odd days on an estate near Berane ambitiously dubbed The Anarchy Ranch by its managers, we finally had not decided to drive down to the sea in Deacon’s rickety van, or if we had done it a day later or a day earlier, we would not have run into Schmidt. And if two years before we had not got involved in a project that at first seemed like a bad joke, and if, under the burden of proof, we gradually had not started believing in it, we would not have enjoyed the tactical advantage we had now. The whole thing was too bizarre to occur to Deacon or to me just like that; no wonder it was Sonja, a.k.a. Sonjdokan[1] a.k.a. Red Sonja, who thought of it first.           

The guy we called Schmidt among ourselves was a philosopher of European calibre. By way of various university gigs, engagements, appearances and combinations, he had been popping up at universities from Ankara to Vienna to Moscow for decades – charming, eloquent and provocative, forever debating with the times. Except in the nineties. Even then he was charming and eloquent, but quite in the spirit of the times: as a young and promising thinker, he was developing a theory of war as a socially desirable event, through which the ‘dispossessed’ national culture would once again be its own master. He was close enough to the ideologists of the time, and even to the masters of war themselves, to live a comfortable life – and yet he remained distant enough to safely get the hell out of there when he estimated that the time had come. As a fellow countryman who has built himself a nice CV at universities all over the planet, in the past few years he had been a welcome guest in this part of the world, where he had also enjoyed the favours of some left-wing circles. His former work and friendships were simply not discussed.

            Schmidt was not the worst of his kind – far from it. However, it just so happened that my friends and I – with my eleven years of studying philosophy at university, which I am not proud of – always liked messing with him. He was popping up in all the places that were supposed to be safe from people like him; many of those whose opinions I valued respected, sought out and promoted him. Some of us would occasionally campaign, both on social media and in public debates, and Svebor was once involved in a physical incident at a forum in Ljubljana, and then ‒ nothing. Schmidt enjoyed an immunity that could not be justified even by his undoubtedly extraordinary charisma.

            Yet, it was here that the opportunity presented itself, and Sonja was the first to recognise it and name it. Now that Schmidt had yet again emerged in our lives for no reason whatsoever, we had mastered a potential response for his kind. Now we had The Treatment.

            III

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” called Sonja in a cracked voice. I rose just enough to be able to see the numbers on Deacon’s phone in the pitch-black darkness of the van: 03:59.        

“He’s here”, said Sonja. “Schmidt. Down there, at the seafront.”

“How…”

“I was on my way back from the loo, and there he was! He’s gone down the path, the sand one. He’s alone. I even think he looked at me, the creep… let’s go!”

“Here’s our chance!” I perked up. “We just need to wake him up.”

Deacon, who was always grumpy when he woke up, just snorted.

The circumstances were indeed working in our favour. In fact, our original plan was to stay at my great-aunt’s in Petrovac, but I kept putting off calling her for weeks, and then it turned out that she had gone to Belgrade and rented the flat out to some tourists. So we eventually decided to sleep in the van. This meant that we had the freedom to build our action plan without witnesses. In the afternoon and evening, while two of us were preparing The Treatment, the third was spying on Schmidt: while he was delighting his motley crew of friends on Slovenska Beach, while he was being treated to the octopus in a Dutch oven at Jurić’s, while he was tasting homemade wine on the terrace of the Majestic (Deacon was right, they were not being stingy with Schmidt). Without a consensus on how to grab hold of him, we finally bought some wine and sandwiches, drove to the edge of a grove four or five kilometres outside town and decided to spend the night there (of course, after we had put false number plates on the van). However, it turned out that Schmidt did not sleep after all the action – and that he had chosen our location as a destination for his nocturnal outing.

It was a strange scene: if my head had not been pulsating after Sonja suddenly woke me up, I would have thought I was still asleep. Slowly, almost sleepily, Schmidt was swaying in one place, staring at the open sea stretching into the distance, the moonlight flickering on his silvery beard. We approached slowly: Sonja was holding needles close to her leg, I was holding wireless cathodes, and Deacon was waiting with the central unit in the van. Suddenly, Schmidt turned towards us.

“Well, well!”, he laughed, and we shivered. “Comrades, suspend the hostilities, I surrender!”  He put his hands up. He kept laughing even after we lunged at him.

IV

Comrades from the Austrian underground who taught us the basics of the procedure called it the denazification of the mind. From the very start we thought it was too pompous, obscurantist even, so we spontaneously dubbed it – The Treatment. Whatever evil tongues might say, this is not brainwashing and certainly not torture: The Treatment just enables and by no means forces new ways to experience reality and the self. However, after the subject of The Treatment gets a chance to experience with their own body and mind the repercussions of their own words and actions on other living beings, they simply do not want, of their own free will, to go back to their old ways. This is about sharpening one’s reflection and widening empathy, a one-of-a-kind guided extrospection: The Treatment does not kill emotions and thoughts but opens a pathway to the thousands of other hearts and minds.Although partly based on, let’s say esoteric knowledge, the theoretical basis of the process is materialistic, far from any kind of black magic. Sonja and Tanja simply call it expanded psychology.

After two years of group sessions, brainstorming and testing – none of which, of course, was supposed to leave a digital trace – it was at the Anarchy Ranch that we came up with the final structure and key features of the Treatment, adapted to our climate. But the most difficult part still remained: to determine what it would look like and how it would work when it was tried on a suitable subject. In retrospect, the way Schmidt served himself on a plate obviously stank, but the opportunity was just too good for us to dare think about that.

V

We were prepared for all kinds of outcomes and plot twists, but we did not expect that after such a frenetic and almost sleepless night in the van all four of us would be so full of energy. It is possible that Deacon, Sonja and I were simply high on serotonin having expeditiously planned and successfully carried out The Treatment; as for Schmidt, it could have been a side-effect or a result of The Treatment. In any case, that sunny May morning on the terrace of the Garden, he was glowing like a man reborn. When it was time to pay the bill, Schmidt mimed to us to stay clear.

“It’s the least I can do for you”, he said, handing out quite a substantial tip too.

“Schmidt!” Deacon giggled. “We’ll have to think of a tamer nickname. You’ve been Schmidt to us for such a long time that I sometimes forget your real name!”

“O tempora, o mores!” Schmidt exclaimed, puffing out his chest theatrically.

Hola, profesor!”,  someone shouted over the hubbub. We all turned: a beautiful dark-skinned woman in a navy-blue dress, our age or even younger, was navigating between the sun umbrellas and tables.

I thought I was the only one late, but look, so is our keynote speaker!”she laughed.

Schmidt was about to reply, but before he could do it, we heard another voice behind us:

Perhaps I was waiting for you!”

We nearly fell off our chairs. The voice was definitely Schmidt’s. A fraction of a second later, Schmidt actually appeared in our line of vision: unlike the one sitting with us, his hair was neatly combed and his shirt was ironed. He and the woman met next to our table, hugged and kissed each other cordially.

I just hope they heat up the coffee properly this time”, he said, to which she burst out laughing.

Bewildered, we started miming to ‘our’ Schmidt. He opened his mouth a few times like a fish on dry land.

“Oh no…”, he finally uttered weakly. “They’ve activated the backup…”

He did not seem any less gobsmacked than we were. The second (or was it the first?) Schmidt and his colleague headed towards the exit.

As they were leaving, he threw a quick glance back. But it was long enough for us to make no mistake: he was laughing at us.

*

i always think i’ll meet you

at your funeral. there is no hope there, just

a habit on a stupid loop, the kind of habit

i expect will push you among us.

i forget that solidarity among the dead

is unfaltering, that their communism works.

there is no hope there. but nothing can stop me

from thinking mid-rite that at any given moment

you’ll pop up among us like the moon

and nonchalantly look at your reflection in my ever bigger

calf-like eyes.

AVATARS

to let you slide down the street, a tarmac one, a virtual one,

any one. as a branch of an algorithm that spills out into infinity,

a branch that leads nowhere. to release one’s avatars

to hover with rain, to dissolve in autumn. To imagine that

you’re mapping out the anxiety, mapping out a poem, mapping out a city.

to actually just mess about, to devotedly wear out the soles

until you wear yourself out. until you’re left with as much

as you can bring forth to your friends

when you dawn in their lives, to ferment a little

in their day.

NORTH MACEDONIA

night – flawlessly restored – you cannot prove

it’s not the original – i sabotage

myself – wherever i want to squat – somebody else’s

marks – prearranged landmarks – in the night

of the language – in the language

of the night – done deal – as fixed as

the north as

north macedonia


[1] Sonjdokan – reference to Sandokan, the “Tiger of Malaysia”,  a fictional late 19th-century pirate created by an Italian author Emilio Salgari and portrayed by an Indian film actor, Kabir Bedi, in a TV series based on Salgari’s books which were immensly popular throughout the 1970s in the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia.

Maja Solar

Maja Solar

Maja Solar was born on February 6, 1980 in Zagreb. She holds a doctoral degree in Philosophy from the Faculty of Philosophy of Novi Sad. Her research work revolves around the political theory. Maja is translating from French and English, as well as writing both poetry and prose. She is a member of the „Gerusia“ collective, left-oriented organization, and one of the editors of the journal for theoretical practices „Stvar“. Since 2015, she has been working as a translator for the Serbian edition of „Le Monde Diplomatique“.

Her first poetry collection, Makulalalalatura, was published in 2008, as it was awarded by Cultural Center of the City of Kragujevac in their contest for first time publishers. This manuscript also won Branko’s Award, the first prize in the category of poets under 30, award of the „Đuro Papharhaji“ poetry festival, and it was a runner-up for the Vital’s award. Maja’s second poetry book, written in Hungarian – Jellemzõ, hogy nem természetes (Of course it’s not natural) – was published by Forum in 2015. The third poetry book – Bez začina (Without Spices) – was published in the edition of the Cultural Center of Novi Sad (2017). Her poetry was publlished in anthologies and poetry collections: Nešto je u igri: Zbornik nove Novosadske poezije (Centar za novu književnost Neolit i Kulturni centar Novog Sada, 2008), Iz muzeja šumova, antologija novije srpske poezije (1988-2008) (V.B.Z., Zagreb, 2009), Ulaznica Srbija: Panorama pesništva 21. veka (Drava, Klagenfurt, 2011), VAN, TU: FREE, Izbor iz nove srpske poezije (Cetinje, 2012), RESTART, panorama nove poezije u Srbiji (Dom kulture Studentski grad, Beograd 2014), Antologija nove srpske lirike „Serce i krew“ (Lublin, Poljska, 2015) and Cat Painters: An Anthology of Contemporary Serbian Poetry (Diálogos, New Orleans, 2016).

From 2007 to 2014, she was one of the editors of „Polja“, a literary magazine. She was also a member of the Centre for modern literature „Neolit“, a member of poetic-political theater „Poetske rupe“, an author and participant in the women’s poetic performance group „LILITiranje“, and a participant in a few performance and poetry videoworks. Since 2019, together with Žak Lučić, she has been hosting the poetry podcast „Full Mouth of Poetry“. She currently lives in Novi Sad.

real-socialist photograph

my first photograph

was one of mum and dad

on the moon

mum looking at dad lovingly, dad eyeing me warily

(ever fretful about whether something or other would succeed)

in the background a giant new year tree

shielding them from asteroid shards

flying in a moonish dimension

dad was wearing a plaid shirt the kind I guess

every yugoslav man must’ve had

back then. it could be seen on the DIY pages

for men in the burda magazine

mum was wearing a tracksuit made out of material

which absorbed the strains of endless giving. mum… cut from the cloth

of house-work and emotional labour, in slippers which weren’t à pompons

dad paranoid, mum head over heels

dad afraid that all beauty would perish

mum unafraid, unstoppable, laying tracks to beauty

I was seven and I still hadn’t

developed the ritual of imagining sinking in an earthquake.

it’s a rather useful ritual

whereby one imagines a sudden earthquake so

vividly one can feel the room move

see the shelves, books, walls fall, ceilings crash,

the shell of the tower block cave in. the ritual develops subconsciously.

either you’ve got it or you don’t.

it’s a useful ritual, an earthquake can’t catch you by surprise

at seven I still hadn’t discovered that talent, but now

I know the excitement I felt in the brief

time-space of a click

was tantamount to an amorous socialist earthquake

in which I sunk, elated,

into a moon crater

(Translated by Mirza Purić)

wednesday children

death grew from inside a mulberry tree

broke through the bark

onto the bicycle path

then entered my breakfast

and headaches which you, small elephant,  

cope with using your trunk really well

you spiced up your arms around my waist

you made wednesday giggle

but i now saw her, death

because i was running

death came even earlier

when the oregano stopped breathing

and you continued to whisper that I am your little bird

that i am all the birds in all the world the taxonomies

especially the swallows

as you kissed me

as though I were candied fruit

through the kiosks of laughter

death swayed into a hair color dyeing brush

parceling out hair so the greys could be covered

you—the part behind me, which I cannot see,

me the part reflected in the window

but not even there did i see death

because i was running

so it sprouted from your

radiant face

when you had the scent of a small child

when we were we

maybe that is why our two bodies have become too much

death boiled over

in a dream in which you were eaten by a crocodile

she hugged you with all her might

reminding us of a popular series from our childhood

when you wash dishes death made winter mornings glow

and heat up fingers with soap suds

you sit by the tv screen

knock on the wall

as an i love you reminder

aromatic death

in your always half-open mouth

with your high gums

while we dance our happy dance in half-darkness

you, who will not be upset by any natural disasters

you, because of whom i always dive into a fainting love spell

and desires

death has leaked out from dark knots

long jumped

but i did not see

because i ran persistently

because i looked at you continually

where she is not

where the sea is

and continued to run

as if it were wednesday each day

towards love

Translated by Biljana D. Obradović

THE ECONOMY OF CLASS SUFFERING. OR HOW IT PISSES ME OFF WHEN A CAPITALIST IS SAID TO SUFFER, TOO.

v.šš. doesn’t buy any more fruit

meat is a luxury found on the table every three,

or even four days,

the meat of the poorest quality.

she and her eight translucent sisters wither doing the dishes.

making the inventive new meals out of leftovers of cheap aliments and

reaped traumas of the day

e.klj. ran out of costly shampoo

that mildly dyes her hair and makes it lush

she suffers because she got used to this special shampoo

and her special luxury anti-wrinkle creams

with indispensable spf factor 66 of course

e.klj. has a lean sister and pyramidal

brother, thank god they are all rich

đ.đđ. shares his room with another four and a half. he doesn’t have peace quiet a chair a table or a book, just stacked bunk beds and piles of butts in the glasses. their father sometimes sleeps in the room, drunken, emitting vapors of garlic and brandy, thrown out of bed by mom.

when his eldest brother feels hot he opens the window. no matter whether others are cold. every day the residents of this residential unit play emotional ping-pong until petrified by weariness, usually during the sixth stanza of the comic operetta

đ.đđ. might not get enough money for his studies because, you see, ideology claims he is not exceptional

j.kpr. wakes up when he wants, studies when and how much he wants.

it is tough because he is thirty-two and lives at his parents’ place.

it is simply not the time yet for him to leave. it is hard to live on one’s own work on one’s own study on one’s own manage one’s own food. otherwise, mom does the cooking. the most colourful meals in the whole world.

he has no siblings, he stares at the gigantic dough of music and smokes weed to roll out of his misery

r.str. has never ever been to the seaside. she can’t swim, apart from stroking her arms in a plastic basin that her homeless parents once bought at the marketplace. r.str. has porcelain skin so she might be better off without going to the seaside and exposing herself to the sun, she hasn’t got the money for a high spf factor cream anyway. r.str. suffers for she has never had a boyfriend nor sex nor a real kiss with a tongue, if you don’t count the smooch in year five of primary school at a birthday party

in a round of ‘Spin the bottle’

kss.s. suffers for she has to repay a student loan.

that is hard and she will have to renounce her stormy shopping sessions in zara. will have to reduce shopping to once per week, and if she rationalises well, that could come up to twice per week. luckily enough her family rents two flats in a two-hundred-and-plus-square-metre home so she will manage somehow.

kss.s. has congruent tits and drinks kukicha and bancha tea.

kč.žlj. has just lost a mortgaged flat in which a washing machine used to rumble a couple of times a day. in which heavy curtains were washed together with heavy memories. for kč.žlj. is his underage siblings’ guardian, they are eleven together with six dogs. where will the brothers and sisters go now, where will kč.žlj. go, how will he do the laundry and simmer nettle with eggs… kč.žlj. drinks ‘jelen’ beer from a 2l plastic bottle.

s.sjj. calls herself a leftist activist.

she listens to electronica and dresses accordingly. she writes project proposals and owns a flat on the sixty-seventh floor,

with a view of the synagogue. she always complains to have no money.

but she has huge problems. mental ones.

she is cheating on her boyfriend and he is cheating on her, for polygamy is an essential ingredient in the soup of hiding everything from everyone where everybody thinks they are emotionally liberated

because they live in couples and keep secret of whom they fuck aside.

s.sjj. visits an army of psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychodrama sessions, workshops, and whatnot,

attending to complicated pathologies of those

who can afford the services.

hlj.čnj. knows that psychology is not the cause of suffering, the society is. he got a job in the syndicate, even though the syndicates are the cumbersome tentacles of the state apparatus, but hlj.čnj. doesn’t want to give in. he frequents all the meetings and demonstrations. he blows his whistle going at it hammer and tongs. he is an actor and acting cannot make him a living so he acts he is living.

pl.tl. is going noodles because he doesn’t know how he will manage to pay for the gas heating in his three-hundred-and-twenty-eight-square-metre villa. the heating is really costly because the gas has its geopolitical capitalist flows that are mysterious to the people and scrumptious for the companies.

pl.tl. is very concerned about the huge number on the bill, which made a wrinkle on his forehead.

krr.crr. works overtime, unpaid, sometimes during weekends as well, in a small shop in liman. her hair has grown thinner at the age of twenty-seven, she never complains about unpaid hours, because she is happy to have a job at all.

she is mostly angry and rude, even though her employer is convinced that the turnover would be much bigger if she were to invest in herself more, if she were to smile more, communicate more. and if she were to take care of that… that… that hair, for who has ever seen a woman going bald!

drm.šs. is an attorney and she works like a yoked mare all day long, there is always more work in the office, sometimes she takes a workload with her, she goes home to have dinner and an evening tv session, an evening sex with her husband. her work is always there with her and she is proud to be so industrious. she hasn’t got children yet, she will once they have made more money and have sold the forty-six-square-metre flat, when they have bought a house as twice as big, where they will dine their workloads again. one should make some space for work. dmr.šs. welcomes new labour law reform and the extension of the retirement age, she spits on all the slackers in the world. she and her husband spend the summer holidays in corsica, sometimes sardinia, the winter holidays in hysteria. drm.šs. is mostly content, if she is not she meditates and tells herself the affirmations of louise hay. she sometimes plans a date with her husband because the handbooks advise refreshing your relationships,

relationships need to be spiced up

gf.mnd. lives in a roma settlement and has never finished primary school. because he had to work in the morning and in the afternoon he would either fall asleep in class or at home. he did the military service while it was still compulsory and he mostly holds some nice memories. apart from those couple of days then the army police found his and cile’s heroin and syringes for which they kicked them for a few long temporal paces and transferred them into the mountain. he did not mind, he got used to cold cramped spaces without wc. he does not know what spices are.

ht.wwv. suffers because she could not afford the blueberries this morning, one should eat blueberries every day because they are rich with antioxidants. luckily enough, she still has some wild oregano essential oil and a collagen anti-age lux facial mask so she can peacefully watch dr. oz’s advice on a low-calorie tv screen transmitting her torment

Translated by Ivana Anđelković

soterology

this morning from five thirty

I wouldn’t have woken up were I not redeemed

by green tea

once I tried to save a swine

from the butcher

I went up to the man and woman

and explained to them  I am a vegan

explained what that means

how much bad karma

they will accumulate because of the exchange of energy

I explained to them the process of entropy and negentropy

I wrote down Schrödinger’s equation for them

prayed for them

looked at their birth charts

saw moon knots in the eighth house

and again begged them not to do it

cried

screamed

the swine screeched

I sent a text to the police on my cell

but they didn’t come to save it

I plunged into despair

blood was splattered all over

I boiled

I fermented

I was bewildered

I peed in my pants from fear

I sweated in my red sweater

I spat out my molars which had fallen out

I was full of rage

full of fire

so took a knife

and pierced the SWINE

screamed

opened my mouth wide

gulped down the recently deadened meat 

!!!!!! saved saved saved saved saved !!!!!!

(without the help of Great God/ Almighty) 

 Translated by Biljana D. Obradović with the author

Petar Andonovski

Petar Andonovski

Petar Andonovski was born in 1987, in Kumanovo, North Macedonia. He studies general and comparative literature at the Faculty of Philology, at the University of Cyril and Methodius in Skopje. He has published the following books: Mental Space (poetry, 2008), Eyes the Color of Shoes (novel, 2013), The Body One Must Live In (novel 2015), Fear of Barbarians (novel, 2018).

In 2015 his novel The Body One Must Live In won the national award for Novel of the Year. Fear of Barbarians received the 2020 European Union Prize for Literature.

Infidelity

(an excerpt from a novel)

                                                                1.                                                                  

At the beginning of the summer, I was supposed to spend two weeks in the hospital. The last day of the first week, Vlado came and said I was going out earlier. When we got into his car, he took out from the glove compartment before me a white envelope. My name and his were written on it. I was still unable to move my right arm because of the injury. He opened it. He took out two plane tickets from the envelope and put them on my knees.

Had I not fallen off the terrace, what happened later would most probably never have happened. The night the accident happened, Vlado was throwing a party on the occasion of twenty years of his acting career. I was against that party from the very beginning. Vlado did not have a single important role in his career. He always got supporting, meaningless roles. Once he was offered a role in a film. Out of the two hours that the film lasted, he appeared in whole ten seconds. He gathered then all of his friends to celebrate. Vlado loves parties. He uses every occasion to be among people. He enjoys their attention. That’s why he is an actor, most likely. I spent my whole life in the library. First in the reading room, then as a librarian. Reading and writing pieces of criticism was all that gave me pleasure. I was like a shadow to Vlado. I accompanied him everywhere, but no one noticed me. That’s what it was like that night as well. Apart from all of his colleagues and friends, he also invited at the party everyone from the music scene as well as political figures. Vlado loved to hang out with politicians. He is one of those people who are close to every governing structure. People from the opposition can frequently be seen at his parties. He considered that he should always be in good relations with them because when they come to power, you can become their minion more easily. Although I considered this hypocritical, I never told him that. I didn’t have much of an attitude about anything. Not even about the books that I was writing criticism on. I know Vlado considered this to be hypocritical, but never told me that.

That night, at the party, Ivan was present as well. Vlado and I hadn’t mentioned him for more than twenty years. When we saw him on TV, we’d immediately change the channel. Or when one of our friends mentioned him, Vlado would immediately change the subject.

I avoided him all night, as I have all these years. I greeted him and left, just as he left twenty years ago. Without explanation. I felt bitterness at his presence and anger that Vlado didn’t tell me that he was also invited.

I found a shelter in a dark corner of the terrace. The whole city was below me. I stood leaning on a willow whose branches fell over the lights of the city. Apart from a waiter who was passing by with a tray of drinks, no one else approached me. Not even Vlado. That night I was drinking alcohol for the first time after a long while. I wanted it to be over soon. I took from the tray whatever came to my hand. I drank fast until I felt nausea in my stomach. I turned to the fence and started throwing up. And then the darkness just swallowed me. I had a feeling that I was falling on the city. I felt a strong hit on my head. My right arm was tingling. I tried to move my body, but I couldn’t move. At one moment, I no longer felt anything.

I regained my consciousness in the hospital. Fortunately for me, there was another, larger terrace under the one I was standing on, which was from the lower hall. Vlado was standing next to me and looked at me with concern. Ivan was standing behind him. When I saw him, I closed my eyes. I had a feeling that I still wanted to throw up. I didn’t want him to see me in such a state. I wanted to say something, but I was afraid to open my mouth lest I throw up. And then I sank into darkness again.

Vlado wanted us to give ourselves another chance and go together on a trip. That trip was supposed to bring us closer, and therefore decided not to invite any friends with us, as he used to do every summer.

Then, in the beginning of the summer, a few days after I got out of the hospital, we set off on a trip. Him and I. Alone. On the island of C.

                                                                2.

Vlado wanted us to spend time alone as much as possible. We didn’t go to the small beach that belonged to the hotel in which we stayed. He considered it would be best to spend the time on a wild beach at the end of the city, far away from any human presence. Vlado rented a car so we wouldn’t have to walk every day. I had the feeling that he prepared this trip for months. He had planned each step we took. He knew what restaurants we should eat in, which beach we should go to, where we should rent a car from. That was unusual for him. All his summers so far were planned by his friends who went with us. He’d always have a pretext that he was very busy, that I’m not good at organizing, and that it would be best for others to plan our trip.

At the wild beach where we went, there were no people, so we didn’t have to use bathing suits. While our naked bodies were laying one next to the other, the only thing we felt was shame. We have been sleeping in separate beds for ten years now. Vlado always comes back too late. Often drunk. He loves to tell how many people came to take a picture of him, how many women and men hit on him. I pretended I was sleeping, but that didn’t stop him from talking. When he comes in, he turns the lights on throughout the whole apartment. When he enters the bedroom he always shouts loudly “goooood eeeeevening”, and then throws his shoes through the room. Often after he undresses, he lays on the bed naked and immediately falls asleep. And I get up to turn off the lights, and then can’t fall asleep for a long time. When I tell him the next morning that I don’t like that behaviour, he starts laughing and asks “did I do that”, “what did I say then”.

Until one evening I started sleeping in the guest room which I only used when Vlado’s parents were visiting us. I listened to him speaking all night, thinking that I was next to him. The following morning during breakfast he asked why I got up so early. He hadn’t even noticed that I was not sleeping by him. I continued sleeping in the guest room the following evenings. And he continued speaking as though I was next to him. He never asked why we no longer slept in the same bed.

When I lay down naked by him on the beach, I felt deep disturbance. How long our bodies have not been next to each other. I felt shame such as when you undress in front of someone for the first time, and you are supposed to spend the evening with him. I didn’t even think about passion, it simply did not belong to us any more. Unlike me, he was tranquil. He undressed calmly and lay down first. When he saw I was still standing, he looked at me in surprise and said “what are you waiting for, undress yourself and lay down”. After I lay down, I couldn’t endure it for long. With an excuse that I was uncomfortable in the sand, I wandered along the sea coast. I collected pebbles or went into the water and swam to a rock, then sat on it and didn’t go back for hours. When I returned, he looked at me confused as if he didn’t even notice I was gone.

I spent the first few days hoping that he’d get bored and he’d wish us to go to the beach by the hotel. We spent the days in the same way. In the morning, after we finished breakfast we went to the beach. He mostly solved crossword puzzles or took a nap. We spent the evenings in one of the taverns. First we had dinner, then we walked along the port until we wanted to go to sleep.

                                                                 3.

For the first ten days since arrived on C., our relationship not only failed to change, but even that little communication that used to have was lost in the past days. He, as I, most probably thought that this trip was a mistake.

The eleventh day after breakfast Vlado said that on that day we’d go on the beach near the hotel. He didn’t surprise me at all. He went alone in order to find place on the deck chairs, and I returned to the room to get the necessary things. I shortly hesitated before the pile of books that I brought with us, and which were not even touched, just as our relationship. Among them was Ivan’s new novel. I knew I wouldn’t read it in Vlado’s presence. I read his books at work. I usually did that during the break, when everyone went out, I locked myself and read. I never read them at home, not even when Vlado was on a business trip. The last drawers of the table I work at is where I keep his books. I never write pieces of criticism about them. You can’t be objective about a person who means a lot to you in life. I reluctantly took a book which was on top of the file and put it in the bag.

Vlado was standing by a bar, hugging two children, and a woman was taking a photo of them. He was smiling. He smiles only when you praise him. His hair was messy, his white shirt unbuttoned on his chest, and he had a pipe although he doesn’t smoke. When he tells of something important, or at least he thinks it’s important, as he mostly does, he puts the pipe in his mouth, half closes one eye and looks somewhere far away with the other. In this way, even when he says something meaningless, he leaves the impression on others that he is saying something profound. And when he wants to express a certain point, he opens the eye, and looks at everyone separately with eyes wide open, and after observing everyone, he comes to the point. Then everyone is nodding, and he contently says “and now, let’s have another glass of wine”.

When he saw me standing on the side, he let the children go and called me to join them. These are Nita India and Mila India, he pointed at the two girls who were twins. Nita India stretched her hand in order to greet me, and then quickly withdraw it, looking at her sister. Mila India was looking at me as though she didn’t notice me, and a few seconds later she also gave me her hand. She held me tight and wouldn’t let go. Although they were the same, there was something that made them different. I was looking at her curiously while everyone was looking at me. The mother pulled her toward herself, and then she let go of my hand. Vlado decided to put an end to the awkward situation and waving in the air the hand in which he was holding the pipe, he said “and this… and this…” and he took the mother’s hand and said “this is their beautiful mother Ilinka Indira”. Ilinka Indira smiled with false shyness and looked at him seductively. “She and her husband are from Macedonia, they have lived on the island for several years now.” – Vlado said. I was silent. I didn’t want any new acquaintances. Least of all did I want Macedonians on the island who would recognize Vlado and run after him all the time. “Look, look, doesn’t Ilinka Indira look like the widow of Zorba the Greek. Look how much she looks like Irene Papas.” Whenever he gave complements to women, that’s what he said. Indira Ilinka joined her hands and bowed to him.

She really did look like Irene Papas. She had natural dark tan, but there was something infinitely false in the salvar she was wearing, in the green eyes that I was certain were lenses, all the way to the chain bangle on the ankle of her right leg, which jangled every time she moved.

Indira Ilinka looked at the Sun and, surprised, shouted “Oooo… ten o’clock already. It’s time for me to go. But we’ll meet tonight as agreed in At three blue boats. Then she turned to me and with her hands joined together she bowed. Then she turned to Vlado and, while she was bowing, winked at him. Nita India waved at us, and Mila India was looking at us baffled, as if she sees us for the first time.

I was angry at Vlado all day long. I wanted to tell him so many things, but I didn’t have the courage to do so. I wanted to tell him that the greatest mistake was that, on the day he invited me to move to his place, when Ivan left our lives forever, I accepted and decided to stay there forever. As well as the day in the car when I should have told him I didn’t want to go with him on any trip.

The crowd and the music on the beach created additional anxiety in me. He lay all day on the deck chair. Occasionally he’d lift himself a bit and look around to see if anyone was watching him. He didn’t mention Indira Ilinka or the children at all.

                                                                    4.

Vlado got a job in the theatre several months after I moved to his place. At that time, I was working for a year at the University Library. In the beginning, I was providing for him. He was greatly troubled that he had to depend on me financially. He was always very proud, and therefore often reiterated that it was natural for the artists to be without money. After he started working, he never mentioned that. Even once when a journalist asked him how long we had lived together, he said that in the beginning of our relationship I hadn’t had a job and I had lived in a rented flat, so he had proposed that I moved in his place. “Nothing romantic,” he added in order to avoid additional questions. He knew I’d never tell it wasn’t like that.

He was never a favourite among the colleagues and directors. Ever since the first year he started working in the theatre, Vlado rarely gets parts, and when he does, it is usually a supporting role. He was always saying that they didn’t give him any significant roles because of vanity and jealousy. That’s how he passed the first ten years of his career. And then, one night there was a great change. In a TV show, a well-known journalist called the theatre where Vlado works to ask for his phone number. The journalist wanted to invite in the show another actor who is also a famous comedian, and who also happens to be called Vlado. When Vlado appeared in the show that evening, it was too late to correct the mistake. The journalist saw him for the first time in his life. In order to avoid the fact that he wasn’t prepared for the interview, he told him to imitate someone. Vlado felt this was an excellent opportunity to do something in his career. That night he imitated a politician who was considered to be untouchable. The show became very popular. The journalist suggested that he imitates a politician in every show. Then they started inviting him to the theatres in other towns. Even the politician himself mentioned in an interview that he was imitated so well that he couldn’t get angry. And then came the film in which he briefly appears, and Vlado used his popularity to attract the attention with those ten seconds. His popularity reached such a level that people were laughing even when he didn’t say anything funny.

Translated by: Kalina Maleska

Flogerta Krypi

Flogerta Krypi

Flogerta Krypi is born in a small village of Tirana, in 14 July 1993. She is the first born of a family with five kids. Her father is a police officer and her mother a dressmaker. When she was seven years old her family moved in Tirana, where she got educated. Her connection with literature started since she was a kid. She wrote her first poem eleven years old and never stopped writing, even though she has finished her studies in Finance Accounting.

She is the Executive Director of the NGO “I choose to change the world”, which has organized many literature projects. She found two book clubs, “New Pen”, who supports new writers in Albania and “The Republic of Books”, where she gives reviews for books she reads. She can speak fluently English, German, Spanish, Italian and some Turkish.

She started with publishing in a small publishing house a collection of poems “Waiting for you” which she wrote during nine years and after a year she published her first novel “The tracks of the nameless shadow”. The novel got positive reviews from the critics and was well accepted among readers. In a few months she published her second novel “A promise in the last kiss”, a romance. In 2015 she published the sequel of her first novel “A promise carved into the sky”.

After facing a lot of problems because of denouncing corruption she decided to move in Germany, when she currently living. For three years she never stopped writing and in the Book Fair 2018 after an agreement with Argeta Publishing House she published her new book with two short novels called “Everything around nothing”. Her work got awarded from the Association of Publishers in Albania, when she took the Encouragement Price for New Writers with the motivation “For her originality in the description of humanity”. Now she is working with her next book “Arthropods”, a book with three short novels; the spider, The Hospital 256, a post office for death.

In January 2020 she was chosen “Person of the year” for 2019 in Albania from Radio Travel for her project of donating books to primary and high schools. She has reconstructed eleven school libraries since 2015 with her personal funds. 

The Spider – PREFACE

When I decided to rent this house, the landlord explained to me that the contract included the room where I would live, the toilet, the balcony, my bedroom, and a spider. I listened in silence and made no comment. I am a financial officer. I know that when I am negotiating economic matters, as a client I should speak as little as possible and ask only about the risks that the agreement may involve. Each comment gives the other party an opportunity to have more arguments for selling their product. So, the fact that he specified the existence of the spider left me wondering whether I should ask for more. I had never heard of such an element, and just as I was about to question his importance in the contract we were to sign, he hastily added:

-You don’t have to worry about the spider. He comes tomorrow.  He stays only three months, from June to late August, because of the heat and then he leaves. He usually stays in the shower cabin or in the bathtub, so move him with style when you have to use any of the two.

I was about to if he was poisonous, but while I was considering his argument, I did not find the question necessary. All in all, he specified the duration, the reason, the cause, and the place of stay. He might be poisonous, but this does not mean that he would bite me. Every deal has its downsides, and if they come to happen – my bad luck.

-He is silent. With that, he ended the discussion on the spider and went straight to the question whether I would take the house because there were other people asking for it. I didn’t make it long. I said I liked the apartment; it was close to my work and the price was reasonable for the space and the conditions it provided. The agreement was concluded with a signature from both sides, a security payment in case of any incurred damage, and the handing out of the keys. I moved in the next day, the same day as the spider. It was the first of June and since that day my life changed radically. Such days are forewarned by the signs that existence itself gives you, but I have never been given to these things. They seemed excessive and sometimes as excuses that people used to feel good about their failed lives. 

The only thing that struck me was how I would spend my days with the spider. Generally, I am e loner. I have tried several types of cohabitation and none have worked so far. Perhaps due to the fact that I’m a woman full of dichotomies when it comes to sharing my world with others. I feel misunderstood, unread and above all unappreciated for what I represent. I don’t know if this is because I was born ugly, but to be honest I have always felt comfortable. What I mean is that women like me are naturally ugly, others are artificially beautiful, so at this point, inferiority to them doesn’t exist. I feel bad if I’m less intelligent than those around me, but the last thing that impresses me is my appearance. Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t so curious about my new cohabitant, but I resented him without even meeting him. He will not be paying anything for sharing the apartment with me, although to be honest, living in a shower cabin is not that interesting.

The first day I didn’t even meet him. I just sorted out my stuff and went to bed. I love water, but I take a shower only once in forty-eight hours. I go to the bathroom once in the morning and once in the evening for my needs. Our first official meeting took place on the third day of my moving in. I saw him standing on the shower head by the bathtub. That day I did not intend to take a bath, so I did not speak to him at all and went straight to the shower. After I took a shower, I noticed that the spider was in the same place. I didn’t bother to say good night. I just turned off the bathroom light and laid down. I usually fell asleep with wet hair and woke up with a bunch of curls. This was one of few things I complained about. If I had a normal hair, I would probably be less ugly.

My life had taken a normal course. Probably because I was far from anyone I knew, and I knew no one would turn their head to see me. No one was going to talk to me, and I really liked that. That’s how I’ve always been. I even didn’t talk a lot to the two men I had lived with. Daily life comments about work and perhaps some planned trips for the weekend would usually suffice.

It’s not that I don’t like to talk, but I often think that my words are gone with the wind.  I have never met anyone who really wants to hear my thoughts from beginning to end. Perhaps because all my conversations revolve around books, death and loneliness. I am hopeless when it comes to other topics. I don’t even dare to talk to myself often because I don’t want others to think I’m crazy. No one would hire such a person.

When I took a second shower at my new home, I was forced to ask the spider to move because he was already in the cabin. I told him he could stay in the bathtub, I rarely used it really, so he wouldn’t bother me there. He remained silent. I don’t think he even took my warning seriously. The moment I stepped into the cabin and turned on the tap, he got scared and climbed through the glass to get out. He went to the bathtub, the same place as the first time. As the water poured on me, I saw that he was moving something with his feet. He was playing with a thin chain which was hung to the stopper used to drain the bathtub. I laughed to myself.

-Move, I said. Don’t worry about me. You don’t bother me.

He raised his antennas and moved his head once again. Then he started to play with the stopper again. I didn’t understand why.

When I went to sleep, I had a strange dream. It was as if the spider was sleeping next to me. He had wrapped his pillow in white powder and had fallen asleep. It didn’t look like a dream. It looked like some memory, from a life that didn’t belong to me, but I was in it.

When I woke up, I looked around, everything was in place, like the night before. I went to the bathroom and the spider was standing there. He had wrapped the black stopper around him and was sitting on it, as if he were sleeping. I brushed my teeth and let him rest. He laughed. Who knows what he was dreaming about! I could tell by the way he stood on the stopper. I noticed his ankle joints, antennae and his eyes. Unlike me I think he felt accepted, calm and appreciated in his dream. The serenity of peace gave such an impression. I left him alone. In our day and age, sleeping peacefully is a luxury that few people have.

-Everything fine?   – I asked him while I was getting ready to leave for work.

-I’m thinking, the spider replied coldly.

-About what?

-I was thinking about ugly women.

-Have you met any lately? – I said turning to him.

-Ugly women are everywhere and I’m not just talking about their appearance. No. They are ugly in every way, in the way they look, the way they dress. They are beings without a portrait. Their souls are filled with jealousy, wickedness, and ignorance. They are empty. You can see in their eyes the absence of a heart, or blood flowing in their veins. Women who produce hatred. You can feel it in the air around them. Everything is vague, scary. You don’t feel like touching them. It is as if you’re getting in touch with cancer itself. They don’t know how to do anything. They don’t know how to work. They have no sense of humor, they laugh for no reason, going after other people just to not feel alone.

The spider stopped talking and looked at her cohabitant. F.K. turned to him as if wanting to continue the interrupted dialogue.

-You are right. They have no personality, or joy in their souls. They would sleep with any man, no matter if he was fat, ugly, criminal, because they are aware that a man with reason would not dare to touch them. They would do anything to feel desired. Women who have no self-respect. No. They would ruin families, because for them this word does not make sense. If any of them has children, you could see how much they hate them. They blame them for the cruelty of their lives. Is it because they were born that everything went to hell? But there are moments when they repent. These are rare moments and that is because they fear they will be alone forever.

The spider listened silently and added.

-You are right. They are everywhere. Sometimes they are in front of you. If you ever meet such a woman, get out of there. There is nothing more horrible than being with a woman that no one wants.

F.K smiled. She finished dressing up and left without saying goodbye to the spider. His words remained in her mind throughout the day. She worked very little that day because she was looking around to see if she would find such a woman or a man. Of course, the other side is not be excluded. But the ugly men were even worse. Because a woman would put a little make up and look decent, an ugly man would be just that. Insecurity, lack of self-confidence appeared in every inch of their being and this made their reality even more disgusting. So, there are ugly people in this world. They are everywhere, sometimes you can be one of them.

A mailbox for death – PREFACE

Ever since F.K. came to life and became aware of her existence, her father informed her that she should not rejoice too much in the idea of breathing. There was nothing beautiful or interesting in this whole process, for one simple reason. She would die. No one knew when or how, but it was certain that death would come to take her to its bosom. There was no need to be sad, because it was a tax imposed the moment one is conceived in this world. Such a fate was billed to every living thing in this world, including F.K.

Such words would frighten any child or at least cause them anxiety about the future, but it did not bring any change in her life. She behaved as if death would never come to her or to the people around her. To some extent she considered it a lie told loudly by adults, to scare children before they go to sleep. Of course, this was not a normal behavior for a parent. What kind of father is he whose first conversation with his daughter is about death?

F.K would surely answer “one of the types of fathers to be found in the universe”. Taking her word for granted, so as not to create any prejudice about the man who brought her to life, we can say that F.K’s father was a man who lived every day as if it were his last and did not worry about anything. He led a completely illogical life, accompanied by a pronounced dose of irony about people who were very concerned about work, paying taxes, or the importance of raising a child.

Their whole life together went awful, but apart from the neighbors’ calling the police every time he broke anything, no one else bothered. They wouldn’t actually bother were it not for the sake of the little girl. They came to Utai when F.K was only four years old. The running away of his wife did not impress anyone. And who wouldn’t want to run away from such a man?

The father and daughter life went on at the same pace until one day the least expected happened. Death came to her father and took him away, while F.K was left alone, in a half-ruined house, where every drop of rain got in as if there was no roof. That day something changed inside her. Death took a form, a portrait, a dark reflection, for which she could not find an explanation. She was fourteen years old. Her mother abandoned her at birth. Nobody liked her. No child her age in the neighborhood approached her. At school she had very poor results and as a result, she led her whole life with a man who thought that every day was his last day, but it is not that he would go out to seek death. He stayed at home waiting for it. He did some small work here and there, enough to have something to drink and nothing else. No one cooked in their house. They did not know what it meant to have an organized life, and worst of all they did not bathe because they had been cut off from water supply for a long time.

F.K grew up alone, at the mercy of the people around her, who spared a slice of bread and a plate of food for her. At times, she would express her gratitude by helping them with something they needed, but it’s not that this thing brought them any positive feelings. It was just some kind of tax one had to pay. She hated school, not because she had any specific assignments or readings. She just couldn’t stand her teachers. Most seemed unprepared and she always ridiculed them. For this, she would get poor results, but while her father didn’t care, why should she? She was a child brought to life with no specific purpose. She breathed until the day death came to take her. This was enough for her and she never asked for more. What happened between the breathing and its end was an insignificant process that sooner or later would be given a name by everyone. Some called it life, others called it opportunities to discover yourself and as for F.K it was just a big spider web which would be torn at some point.

Ward 256 – PREFACE

The universe is a web of energy scattered in infinite directions without any purpose of existence in itself. From every spot thousands of threads surge looking for power to fill the void. Their infinity creates tangles, and the tangle gave birth to the only species that can survive in this quagmire, the arthropods. Species divided into two simple categories, predator and prey. At least that’s how it’s always been. But what if the prey decides not to be part of the web anymore? Will the system be able to keep only predators in it? What if the predator is also a prey? What if the pray is also a predator?

This is a simple story of arthropods looking to discover their identity. To understand this occurrence, you only need the following information. Don’t feel bad about anything you read. The curse is mutual, so it is not right for me and others like me to be the only ones to know this information. I apologize in advance for the dissolution of this web. It is not in my mental capacity to control this information. Perhaps it won’t be in your capacity either. So long!

General information

Planet: Arthropods

Location: Country of Truth

Year: 2026

Population: 250.006 inhabitants

Composition of the parliament: Twenty-seven Geniusships

Parliamentary elections: Every four years

Head of State: His Godship

Participation in the last elections: 250.005 inhabitants

Age at birth: Four years old

Right to vote: From birth

The most serious crime: Suicide

State Hospital: Insignificant remnants after The Great War

Border line: Iron curtain

Neighborhood: The insignificant

Division of population strata:

1. His Godship                                 

2. Geniusship                                                         7. Murderers of Faith

3. Bankship                                                             6. Dependence of Thought

4. The Janitor                                               5. The Uncountable

5. The Head Nurse                                              4. The Unnamed      

6. The Director                                             3. The Sensed

7. The Guard                                                 2. The Historians    

8. The Blessed People                                        1. Ward 256  

HOSPITAL DIRECTOR

It was the first day of autumn when an unusual notice came to my office, which terrified us all. It was shorter than all the other notices, but I believe it was due to its compromising nature. For the first time since the opening of the “Hospital of the Insignificant”, in “Ward 256” there had been no patients. I was shocked when I read it. I don’t know what terrified me more. The fact that in our country there were still crazy people of this category or that we would have to deal with such a dangerous man.

What scared me the most in the letter sent was the lack of information about the patient. It read briefly:

The citizen named “Patient 256” to be sent to “Ward 256″‘. It is important that the transfer of this individual is made only by the most trusted people of the hospital director. She will be fed three times a day, will drink water five times a day and can only go to toilet twice. She is not to be brought out in the afternoon to mix with others. She is more different than the different”.

I reread the letter, but my fears grew even more. All the while I was thinking that the patient, we were waiting for was a man. All those belonging to this category were men. When I read the notice, I was frightened even more by the idea that for the first time this ward would open for a woman.  Not that other wards were not previously opened for women, but usually they ended up in other wards associated with their role in society.

I stopped thinking. I wasn’t paid to think. I was paid to carry out the orders from above. I called the head nurse, the guard and the janitor of Ward 256, who is the hospital’s first employee. I briefly informed them that for the first time after The Great War, a patient would come to our hospital in the forbidden ward. For a moment none of them made any specific reaction although I felt some kind of liquid desire to know more. After I gave them proper instructions, I was asked to keep this between us because our country had entrusted us with a madman of this nature, unlike everyone else, and we had to study this as a good opportunity to find answers. They left without asking questions, waiting for the day of her arrival.

****

From the day the notice came I knew it would be a nuisance for us. I just didn’t understand at the time what they meant by “she is different from the different”. Different patients had different diagnoses, but I could not imagine why our country had sent her to this ward. I gave up the questions. I did not deal with this issue at all and waited for her to come and find out what was wrong with her.

THE HEAD NURSE

When the director of the hospital gave us the news that the first patient was coming to my favorite ward that day since after The Great War, I felt good. We all know this is a special sector in our hospital, but no one knows why. It is assumed that “different” patients will be hospitalized here, but I do not know what could be different from what I had seen. The hospital is divided into seven main wards according to their importance.

The first ward is the “Murderers of Faith. These are all patients who have lost faith in our country. Losing faith in its power and claiming that there is something greater than us on this earth is the most pathetic thing one can ever think, let alone say it out loud. This is the “Country of Truth” which lifted the iron curtain. It protects us from the war and the horrible life that others have outside our borders. It protects us from all evil. It follows that those who have lost faith in our country do not believe in themselves. People who do not believe that their power is directly related to that of their country are weak people. The link that needs to be eliminated from society in order not to infect others with their empty and meaningless thoughts. This is the most populated ward, to be honest. Despite the perfect genes of our nation, after the war some of the women and men of other countries had stayed here leaving us their genetically flawed cells. Unfortunately, these genes ended up in the fertilization plant and these are the results.

The second ward is called “Dependence of Thought“. This ward is about as populated as the previous one, but here are all those patients who are genetically flawed. They depend on their thoughts and believe that thanks to these thoughts we can build a more perfect world. They even consider themselves more intelligent than the rest of the country and often claim that if anyone had listened to them, this hospital would no longer exist.

The third ward where I started my career hosts “The Unnamed“. They don’t have a specific character. Although the number of patients in this ward is relatively small, it is very difficult to cope with them. They have a problem that I still don’t know how to solve. They see things that the rest of us can’t see. So they say, because of course we know there is no such thing. They believe that there is a series of sounds that intertwine with one another and create divine music. And these are very close to us. This is their madness. Of course, I know that the only music that exists is what we hear every day when we sing the anthem of our country.

The fourth ward hosts the “The Uncountable”.The patients in this ward are even crazier. They believe that in this world numbers have a function and there are more numbers than the number one thousand. We all know that this is the last number on earth, but they fight like crazy to prove they’re right. They claim that we do not know how to count, that is why we do not understand them. The words they repeat the most are:

There are 999 units in our country with 250 inhabitants each, and the last unit with 256 inhabitants. This means that there are numbers greater than one thousand, and of course the last unit is the most special because it has six more inhabitants. These are us. Don’t you understand?” They even say with conviction that there is a science in the world called “mathematics” and that it is the most perfect thing in the world, even more perfect than us. Meaningless logic. I deal very little with these. They are very aggressive and we don’t take them out.

In the fifth ward there are only five patients.  Very soon only four will remain because one of them is very old. They are called the “The Sensed.” The unit of measurement of their existence is feeling. They have different feelings from us. We can feel mostly cold, fear, anxiety, irritability and nervousness, but other feelings are also part of our program. According to them, there are other feelings in the world. Things like love, friendship, respect and gratitude. We used to laugh because these feelings do not exist and do not make sense according to the logic of any of us. They get food on iron plates. One day they will say that even iron has feelings. They are mad. They also have another uncontrollable genetic problem. They can dream. They said that when they talk, they often see visions with open eyes. They see dreams. They even predict the future.

The sixth ward hosts the “Historians“. These are the funniest of all. They believe that our country has had a different political approach in the past. They believed that we have another version of history that no one has told us and even we are part of this history. They say that world is still out there, but we are not allowed to look at it. According to them, our ancestors were people many times smarter than us, but most of them died during “The Great War”. This is how they call it. In our history it is just a war. In our perfect educational system, we have the history book of our nation, the most powerful nation in the world. It was written by our country and no one is smart enough to discuss “state affairs.”

The last ward, the seventh one, which is being populated for the first time since the War, is the most undeciphered of all. Unlike all the wards that have names, this one has a number – “Ward 256“. It is separated from all the other wards and no one enters except the janitor and the guard, who are not able to give many details about the ward. It’s just a room with a toilet. There is no yard, trees, belongings or bed. It is all painted black, even the window glass of the ceiling. It is a perfect seven-meter cuboid room with only a small toilet compartment. Unlike all other wards, which have one thing in common. They are not allowed to see their feces. For this reason, this process takes place only during the time set by the country and in our presence.

I have never seen the seventh ward. These are the details that the doctor who designed the room explained to me. He was the Minister of Health in our country and happens to be my father as well. This is the specific reason why I was chosen as the caretaker of “Ward 256“. Only perfect families like us can save our almighty country from being different. They are genetic mutations which unfortunately remained here after the war. And yet we managed to isolate them the day we opened the “Insignificant” hospital, the thousandth unit of our state.

Translated by Qerim Ondozi

Vladimir Arsenić

Vladimir Arsenić

Vladimir Arsenić (1972) was awarded M. A. in Comparative Literature by the University of Tel Aviv and M.A. in Literary Theory by the University of Belgrade. He is a staff  writer of the Serbian web portal xxzmagazin.com and the Croatian web portal booksa.hr. He has published articles in portals, journals and magazines such as Beton, Quorum, pescanik.net, proletter.me and versopolis.com. He has acted as a mentor within the project Criticize this! In collaboration with Srđan Srdić he conducts Hila creative writing workshop, and co-owns publishing house Partizanska knjiga. He is a regular contributor to the literary festival Cum grano salis in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina and is a member of the Bosnian PEN Center. His texts have been translated into English, Albanian and Slovenian. He translates from English and Hebrew. He is a member of the editorial board of the literary magazine Ulaznica issued in Zrenjanin, Serbia. In 2019. his first book of collected essay on Montenegrian literature The Ethics of Narration has been published. He is a Tottenham Hotspur FC fan. 

Dasa Drndic and the post-truth politics

It is self obvious fact that we are living in post-truth world. The very notion designates that the truth is in a way unobtainable, that it is somehow beyond our reach, and not only because it is hidden, or mysterious, but by a simple fact that there are instances which are very much concerned with putting the factual truth out of our sight. Factual truth, the one that can be crosschecked through evidence, and put under scrutiny of proofs is nowadays very often changed with the post-truth, the emotional one with which the power and the community are blackmailing its subordinates and/or memebers. For instance, if you are a Serbian citizen it would be expected of you not to talk about the genocide, but about mass murder and organized crimes of large proportions that had happened in the region of Srebrenica in July of 1995., in spite of the International Court of Justice ruling from 2007. This appeal is emotional in several reasons. Firstly, because one wouldn’t like to connect ones homeland with most disgusting crimes. Secondly, by doing so one would endanger Serbian prosperity because the state would have to pay compensation. Finally, the role of the government would be investigated, and that would not be nice for everyone was involved one way or the other, actively or passively. So unless you are very interested in facing the past and finding out what really happened and one can do that rather easy, you will accept the official interpretation of the truth, the one served through the official media in Serbia, the emotional one, the post-truth that stands instead the factual truth.

Serbia is not unique example. Quite the contrary, the whole world is drowned in post-truth poltics and that is yesterdays news. But what is the role of the literature in these circumstances since the truthfulness of art according to Aristotle’s Poetics is universal, and not particular. To quote: „But they differ in this, that the one speaks of things which have happened, and the other of such as might have happened. Hence, poetry is more philosophic, and more deserving of attention, than history. For poetry speaks more of universals, but history of particulars.“ Let me argue that it could be exactly the field in which we might look for reinvention of the role of literature in todays society, in which the media are corrupted and particularized and vulgarized, and the social networks are taking over the space of public debate which is, in turn, becoming exactly like them, according to old McLuhan’s teaching – medium is the message. It is very personal, very non argumented, and very emotionally intense – one could not expect anything else from Twitter or Facebook. The factual truth, on the other hand, should not be like that – it should be objective,  proved, measured, and calm.

The field of literature is changing. Or to be precise it has changed forever right after the invention of internet. The times are fast and furious, they can not stand anything that takes time. And literature does take. A lot. But that is why there is a chance to be calm and objective, and measured, and proved. One can put into literature things that once should have been in media. Of course not in the same way, not by turning fiction or poetry into newspapers, or opinion pieces, but exactly by being truthful. I know it sounds silly, but let me give you an example.

One of the most acclaimed Croatian authors abroad is Daša Drndić. Her novels have been translated into more than 20 languages and received very positive critical response all over Europe and in the States. But she have not won any important literary award in her homeland. She had been shortlisted several times but that os all. One may ask why, and the only truth is that she is writing about things that are not very pleasent for the ears of those in power. She is writing without any restraint about the rise of clericalism, nationalism, very harsh and rude capitalism, in other words about the things that are occuring in Croatia and elsewhere in the Balkans and Europe. She is not dealing with any emotional truth as one would expect from the point of view of literature, and not with, or not only with the things that might have happened, but with very specific and precise truths about some of the crimes that had happened during the nazi or ustaša regime. That simply means that her novels are well documented and subjected to research that led to the construction of the plot. For her books are novels in the strict sense of the word, they are fictious, the protagonists are not historical characters, but the scenery and historical circumstances are thoroughly researched. Daša Drndić has readership and no one can deny her success, but the establishment is silent because they are concened with the post-truth poltics. She and the likes are not welcomed in todays Croatia in which, as in Serbia, the role of partisan movement in the Second world war is questioned, murderers and war criminals are restored, and factual truth about our past and present is very often blurred and changed with the emotional one.

Daša Drndić’s work is just an example for what I am proposing here – a slight change of roles. Because they usurped the media, we should turn back to literature, to art as conveyors, among other things, of factual truth. It is not as fast as the internet, radio, TV channels or even newspapers, but there is another advantage, it lasts forever.

Translated by the author, edited by Ana Schnabl.

Natasha Sardzoska

Natasha Sardzoska

Natasha Sardzoska (Skopje, 1979), poet, writer, essayist, literary translator, interpreter (FR, IT, ES, EN, PT, CA), anthropologist, has lived in many European cities, among which Milan, Lisbon, Paris, Brussels, Stuttgart. She holds a PhD in anthropology from the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris and University of Bergamo. She is Affiliated researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies South East Europe in Rijeka in Croatia and Assistant professor at the Institute for Anthropology and Ethnology in Skopje.

She has published the poetry books Blue Room, Skin, He pulled me with invisible string, Living Water, Coccyx, essays, short novels and stories. She has published poetry books in the USA, Italy, Kosovo and her poems are translated in more than 15 languages in various international anthologies and literary reviews. She has translated more than 50 authors from Italian, French, Portuguese, Catalan and Spanish languages, among which: Pasolini, Saramago, Carnerio, Montale, Boyunga, Margarit, Sanguineti, and others. She has won the prize from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy for best translation of the book Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. She attended the literary and translation residency in the Institute Ramon Llull in Barcelona.

Her poetry readings are with performative and interactive character, combining vocal experiments, music and dance. She has performed at many international poetry festivals and literary venues: Ars Poetica Festival in the National Gallery of Bratislava: International Poetry Festival in Genova in the Palazzo Ducale; in the Museum Revoltella in Trieste; at the Macedonian Cultural Center in Sofia; at the Academy of Arts in Berlin within the Poetry Festival of Berlin; at the Sha’ar International Poetry Festival in Tel Aviv performing with sax, contrabass and contemporary dance in Yaffa Arab-Hebrew theatre; as well as many literary readings across many cities in the Balkans (Belgrade, Plav, Tirana, Rijeka, Struga etc.)

In Skopje with the French Institute she organized the poetic soirée Les rivages de l’exil for the francophone poetry on exile; with the Italian Embassy in Skopje the Italian poetic-musical evening Il vino è la poesia della terra where she has performed poems in Italian language; and the poetry reading For a World Without Walls in collaboration with the International Poetry Festival of Medellin. Her poem Doll on Strings has been published in English and Spanish in the International Poetry Anthology against child abuse. She is part of the European poetry platform Versopolis.

Her poetry intertwines sensuality, reminiscence of the flesh, exposes inner pain, exile, homelessness and reveals spiritual freshness. Her poetic memory has performative character capturing the dramaturgy of the chamber space of the human existence.

Useful links:

https://www.versopolis-poetry.com/poet/145/natasha-sardzoska

https://natashasardzoska.wordpress.com/author/natashasardzoska/

https://liberoamerica.com/2019/12/28natasha-sarzoska-quise-salvar-lo-que-se-podia-salvar-del-naugrafio-y-ver-lo-que-podia-vivir-de-los-restos-que-sobrevivieron/

TREE OF WINTER

Cold fire in the forest

Rough rinds on the edge of this window

I see, I burst shivering without thinking

in a burning interzone

That restores me and glows and wriggles my bones my womb

And yelps without my name without your recognition

A fish from a northern sea

You give me

Grasp of wheat and you spit a bit of wine in my mouth

You are my race, my unease

turgid seeds

uprooted dry layers

LACE AROUND YOUR EYES

Four men in you I saw

And when you came in I felt you were searching for me

And everybody shut up and the world around fall apart

And all movement turned slow and blind

The clock was beating with the sound of a home

Green leafs and red female tongues were burning

Hungry for your thirst you pulled up my head

With a silk string you pulled me proud to you

All those women that made you lonely reached me

Grasping my feet

But my hamstrings and cartilage were bursting into pieces

And my ankles were calling you voiceless

I do not understand why this night washes me away as wine

From where you are yowling elegantly and softly

You eject a wolf cry weaved with opal

You hit me with your tongue through your open leg

I am not afraid that I will not have you

Nor do I go away from your exit gate

I have thrown on your eyes a veil weaved with my hair

So you can see me better in the middle of a burning forest

A nomad lost in the void of his own sea

I pronounce mutely your name

I call inclement your skin

I caress you slowly in my mouth

Beauty deeper than all sensual thoughts art you

Dark knight bewildering white horses

Soft node leather rein translated into rhythm

You are coming from distant cities powerful

You are swelling down the boulevards deaf for any other luxurious inquietude

You are expelling sparkles underneath your leather shoes

While you are boiling steaming in the coffee cups of my silver mornings a

A balcony red wine raw meat and livid sunset you sip in me

birds beak

liquid breath

broken lace

satin hours

whirlwind pine trees

irritated tigers

glowing

in my womb

DOLL ON STRINGS 

Walking down the blacktop

While wild rabbits are screaming in boiling water

Slaughtered

Conspiracies

Words

Unrevealed

And at each step I take I inhale blood

fragile leaves in a Japanese garden are caressing my lips

while I am laying down in the gush of blood and thousands of bewildered flowers

flowing in my hair

You and I

Tokyo and Home

Incalculable steps of the flesh

And again those animals are screaming as if they were the forgotten pot of boiling

water

And I wash your feet so you can lie down underneath my skin

To become a city like any other city that we walked

And we did not know

And we did not know each other

And we did not know

When all those energies were fermenting in us as in bewildered rabbits

slaughtered but alive in the vertiginous water

The tongues of the dead kites to tell us to tell you

I am here

I follow you from each airport pathway and I know when I hear your name

It is music with unknown rhythm

And nobody knows that music

But I tremble from your gaze and I lost my voice when you came to me

And my skin was becoming darker after each bewildered step that you were taking

towards my chests

Growing nipples burning lips in winter

I knew we were one same city one same shadow one same rain and same skin

And the night before I met you I was crying like a child because all crazy plans crashed

down

And before you came in the Japanese garden

In me I could hear screaming all the slaughtered animals

And I was growing shamelessly mute

With open legs underneath you

As a layer of fertile wheat in your overwhelming whispering

humble and perverted

you arise above the eradicated overcoats of the purple passion

ONE SAME CITY 

Something begin to grow and beat

Unclear and innocent

While we were drinking wine with strange girls

I could hear you smiling in the rhythm of an African candombe

When they serve you with a glass of wine

I weave myself around one moment imprisoned in confused kernels

I spit seeds

I stay awake at every dawn to feel your beats

Heartbeats

How can one fear to grasp the night and then to throw it away?

The violet flowers with morning dew and the mad recalcitrance were not enough?

Leave I cannot

I come to you without knowing if this path has an end

But I know wild berries are flowing in my blood

And I weave a spider’s nest with black spit

A layer of tiny boats

is your promise to me

when you are not here

you are present as never

and your silence is hurting

louder than a cup of black tea breaking through the white wall

you are in my kernels a fish bone valves interstices in between my teeth

black sperm on someone else high heels

night porter that knows all my secrets

strange angel that does not talk but says it all

that on this soil someone else’s blood is boiling

RAW MEAT 

I close the venetian blinds

And the closet full with socks so sad miserable and weak

Reflections of this and each and every city

Where we are not but we could

We could, but in this world there should be a balance

Blood and vein that explode

And all those violins should promise peace

Indeed?

And you will take a bow

And your head will bend down

As if you were sucking blood from a finger

As if you were soaking up

As if you were pulling out a nail from alive meat

IN THE RHYTHM OF HIS HEART 

I got air stuck in my throat at each alarm signal

because you strangled me.

You came into my dream secretly

You twisted my spatial dimensions

You pulled me as a servant to your decision

You thread me in your leg

You stamp a burn-mark against evil thoughts

You discovered me in the middle of the screaming mouths and evil eyes

You slip me up as a woolen sock in the middle of war times

I was shambling around your neck like a goat on a hill

Very lonely chewing wild grass cracking my teeth

And I am holding on my vision and my breath in one fixed point every time I see you

sweating

You are splashing around vertiginous cognitions

And so I stopped counting down the illusions

And as an act of rebellion I decided to miss all my flights

To wait, to grow my hair pale, to darken my skin

To impel myself as a hyena on your sex

Finally alone

Translated by the author, edited by Sinead McMorrow