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Way Ahead of Politics: Literary Bridge between Belgrade and Pristina/ Daleko ispred politike: Književni most između Beograda i Prištine

With a thirty-year delay, on 25th August 2015 the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Kosovo signed four agreements in Brussels, as part of the Brussels negotiations on normalization of the relationship between Belgrade and Pristina.

Namely, the following agreements were signed – on Association of Serbian municipalities in Kosovo, on telecommunications, on power supply systems, as well as on the bridge over Ibar in the divided town of Mitrovica. The bridge is a border rather than a link, representing communication breakdown between Albanian and Serbian communities in Kosovo. We have yet to see if these agreements will bridge the existing gap, but a much more stable bridge between Serbia and Kosovo had already been built some time ago, before political negotiations became part of the Brussels agenda.

The fabrication of negative stereotypes between Serbs and Albanians has a long history. In Serbia, it dates back to 1844 and Ilija Garašanin’s “confidential“ document which shaped both Serbian domestic and foreign policies in the 19th century, through to Vasa Čubrilović’s memorandum in 1944 for resolving “The Problem of Minorities in the New Yugoslavia“, all the way to the Serbian Academy of Arts and Science’s Memorandum in 1986. It’s worth mentioning that the author of 19th century programme was the then Minister of Internal Affairs, and that the Memorandum from the late 20th century was the work of academics and social scientists. Given that the very essence of the two documents – in the ideological terms – is almost identical, it should be questioned how it is possible that the Serbian intellectuals in the 80s were thinking pretty much in the same vein like the Minister of Police – or in many aspects even more negatively – 150 years earlier.

The book Serbs and Albanians Through the Centuries by Petrit Imami, among other things, meticuluosly takes account of the cultural exchange between the two nations. Translation of the works by Serbian writers started immediately after the Second World War. Radovan Zogović was the first author published in Albanian (Poems of Ali Binak) in the literary magazine Novi život/New Life. The first translated books from Serbian were children’s books (1950). The first translated novel from an already established author was Impure Blood by Borisav Stanković in 1953, and from contemporary writers it was Far Away is the Sun by Dobrica Ćosić in 1954, the year when Ćosić received the NIN Award. Books by Branislav Nušić, Ivo Andrić, Meša Selimović and others were translated shortly after. On the other hand, Albanian writers were represented for the first time in Serbian language in the anthology from 1951 Kosmet writes and rhymes. In 1962 a selection of poetry Poems, bitter and proud by Albanian poets was translated into Serbian by Esad Mekuli. The last more comprehensive selections of literature from Kosovo written in Albanian were published in the 70s: Rain in a Legend – contemporary Albanian poetry in Kosovo, selected by the great poet Ali Podrimje from Kosovo and published in 1972, and Trees – selection of stories by Albanians in Yugoslavia, selected by Hasan Mekuli (1977).

However, after the mass prostests of Kosovo Albanians in Pristina in 1981, the interest dramatically declined on both sides not only for the literary production, but for the cultural production “on the other side“ in general. During the 80s, one of the rare Albanian writers still published in Serbia was Vehbi Kikaj. His children’s book White Palace was included in the primary school literature curriculum. The last edition of this book was published in 1989. From that moment up untill Slobodan Milošević’s regime was overthrown, only two more books by Kosovo Albanians had been translated into Serbian. Both are poetry collections – one is Call me by your name by Flora Brovina (2000), the poet who was imprisoned in 1999, and the other is Freedom of Horror by Dzevdet Bajraj (2000). In the 1990s all cultural exchange between Belgrade and Pristina was halted. In line with Slobodan Milošević’s repressive policies in Kosovo, not a single book was translated from Albanian during the 1990s. However, there was one book that was translated from Serbian into Albanian: the diary of the Milošević’s wife, Mirjana Marković’s Night and Day (1996), whose translation and distribution was financed directly by the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In such impossible circumstances, only the Center for Cultural Decontamination managed to organise and host an exibition of contemporary artists from Kosovo in 1997.

A “new wave” of literary translations had to wait until 2011, when the Belgrade’s publication Beton and Qendra Multimedia in Pristina collaborated on two anthologies – From Pristina, with love (selection of contemporary literature in Kosovo) and From Belgrade, with love (contemporary short story in Serbia). International Literature festival POLIP (https://polipfestival.wordpress.com) was founded in Pristina in 2012, where the authors from the two anthologies met for the first time. Also, writers’ residence programmes in Pristina and Belgrade started bringing together two literary scenes, something that was unthinkable until recently. The collection of poems Beasts Love the Fatherland by Arben Idrizi, Albanian poet from Kosovo, was published in 2013 by Beton in the TonB series. Idrizi’s poetic voice is one of the most authentic on Kosovo’s contemporary literary scene. He writes poetry in the aftermath of the 1999 conflict – about transition and the horrendous shadows of the war. As a contributor to Pristina’s newspaper Express, Idrizi caused uproar in 2013 with his sharp critique of Kosovo’s recent past. At the same time when Idrizi’s book was published in Belgrade, Miloš Živanović’s exquisite poetry collection Poetry of Dogs (translated into Albanian) was out in Kosovo. The two poets participated in POLIP and their joint interview was published in newspapers, both in Pristina and Belgrade.

By publishing the anthology of contemporary plays One Flew Over the Kosovo Theatre (LINKS, Belgrade) and the memoir Kosovo and the Demise of Yugoslavia by Shkelzen Maliqi, the leading intellectual in Kosovo, the process of peace-building and understanding has been continued between the two, until recently, separated worlds. This year’s Romeo and Juliet, the Serbian-Albanian theatre collaboration and coproduction of Radionica integracije/Integration Workshop from Belgrade and Qendra Multimedia from Pristina, had its premiere in Belgrade and it was then shown in Pristina too. (http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/apr/05/romeo-and-juliet-kosovo-war-shakespeare-serbia) This theatre collaboration may be seen as an event made possible by the literary bridge that was established in the recent years between Belgrade and Pristina.

Translated by Svetlana Rakocevic

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Sa zakašnjenjem od trideset godina, premijeri Srbije i Kosova su u Briselu, 25. avgusta, potpisali četiri sporazuma u okviru šireg briselskog procesa pregovora o normalizaciji odnosa između Beograda I Prištine. Naime, potpisani su sledeći sporazumi: o Asocijaciji srpskih opština na Kosovu, o telekomunikacijama, energetici kao i o mostu na Ibru u podeljenom gradu Mitrovici, koji je odavno blokiran i predstavlja granicu u komunikaciji između albanske i srpske zajednice na Kosovu. Ostaje da se vidi koliko će ovi sporazumi uspeti da premoste barijere, no jedan drugi, mnogo postojaniji most između Srbije i Kosova je već izgrađen, mnogo ranije nego što su politički pregovori uopšte postali deo briselske agende.

Duga je istorija izgradnje negativnih stereotipa između Srba i Albanaca. U Srbiji ona datira od programskog dokumenta Ilije Garašanina (1844), “tajnog” spisa koji je definisao stubove spoljašnje i nacionalne politike Srbije u XIX veku, preko elaborata Vase Čubrilovića iz 1944. za rešavanje “Manjinskih problema u novoj Jugoslaviji”, sve do Memoranduma Srpske akademije nauka umetnosti (1986). Zanimljivo je da je autor devetnaestovekovnog programa bio ministar unutrašnjih dela a da je program pisan krajem XX veka delo akademika i naučnika. S obzirom na to da je duh tih dokumenata, u ideološkom smislu, gotovo identičan, postavlja se pitanje kako je moguće da su srpski intelektualci osamdesetih godina mislili na isti način kao i ministar policije – u mnogim segmentima i gore – vek i po pre njih.

Knjiga Petrita Imamija Srbi i Albanci kroz vekove pedantno beleži, između ostalog, i bilans kulturne razmene između ova dva naroda. Prevod srpskih autora na Kosovu započeo je neposredno nakon Drugog svetskog rata. Najpre je preveden Radovan Zogović (Pjesme Ali Binaka), doduše u časopisu Novi život. Prve prevedene knjige sa srpskog bila su dela iz književnosti za decu (1950). Prvi prevedeni roman od starijih pisaca bila je Nečista krv Borisava Stankovića (1953), a od savremenih Daleko je sunce Dobrice Ćosića i to 1954, u godini dobijanja NIN-ove nagrade. Potom slede prevodi knjiga Branislava Nušića, Ive Andrića, Meše Selimovića i drugih. S druge strane, albanski pisci su prvi put predstavljeni na srpskom jeziku u zborniku Kosmet piše i peva (1951). U Beogradu je 1962. objavljen izbor albanske poezije u prevodu Esada Mekulija pod naslovom Pesme gorke i ponosne. Poslednji opsežniji izbori iz albanske književnosti sa Kosova objavljeni su sedamdesetih godina, i to: Kiša u jednoj legendi – najnovija albanska lirika na Kosovu u izboru veklikog kosovskog pesnika Ali Podrimje (1972) i Stabla – izbor pripovedaka Albanaca u Jugoslaviji, u izboru Hasana Mekulija (1977). Međutim, nakon demonstracija Albanaca u Prištini 1981, drastično je opalo uzajamno interesovanje za književnost i kulturu uopšte. Tokom osamdesetih, jedan od retkih albanskih pisaca koji se i dalje štampa u Srbiji je Vehbi Kikaj čija je knjiga za decu Beli dvori bila uvrštena u lektiru. Poslednje izdanje ove knjige bilo je 1989. Od tada do pada režima Slobodana Miloševića, samo su još dve knjige kosovskih Albanaca prevedene na srpski. Radi se o dvema pesničkim zbirkama: uhapšene pesnikinje Flore Brovine, Nazovi me svojim imenom (2000), u prevodu Nailje Maljaj Imami, i Sloboda užasa Dževdeta Bajraja (2000). U poslednjoj deceniji XX veka prekinute su sve kulturne razmene između Prištine i Beograda. Osim jedne. U skladu sa represivnom politikom Miloševićevog režima na Kosovu, devedesetih godina nijedna knjiga nije prevedena sa albanskog, ali je zato samo jedna sa srpskog prevedena na albanski: bio je to dnevnik njegove supruge Mirjane Marković Noć i dan (1996) za čiji prevod i plasman se pobrinulo ministarstvo spoljnih poslova Srbije. U takvim nemogućim uslovima, jedino je beogradski Centar za kulturnu dekontaminaciju uspeo da organiziju izložbu savremenih kosovskih umetnika (1997).

Novi talas prevoda literature morao je da sačeka tek 2011. kada su se u produkciji beogradskog podlistka Beton i prištinske Qendre Multimedije pojavile dve paralelne antologije: Iz Prištine s ljubavlju (Izbor iz savremene književnosti Kosova) i Iz Beograda s ljubavlju (Savremena priča iz Srbije). Pokrenut je književni festival POLIP u Prištini (https://polipfestival.wordpress.com), na kome su se prvi put sreli autori i autorke iz obe antologije, a u međuvremenu su i rezidencijalni programi za pisce (Priština, Beograd) počeli da ostvaruju do juče nemoguće kontakte između ove dve književne scene. U izdanju beogradskog Betona, u ediciji TonB je 2013. objavljena zbirka pesama mlađeg albanskog pesnika s Kosova, Arbena Idrizija, pod naslovom Zveri vole otadžbinu. Radi se o najautentičnijem pesničkom glasu savremene kosovske scene, čoveku koji posle rata peva o tranziciji i tragičnim senkama ratne prošlosti. Kao kolumnista prištinskog Expressa, Idrizi je 2013. svojim kritičkim stavovima o nedavnoj prošlosti izazvao pravu buru na kosovskoj sceni. Istovremeno sa pojavom njegove knjige u Beogradu, na Kosovu je izašao prevod izvanredne pesničke zbirke Miloša Živanovića pod naslovom Lirika pasa. Ova dvojica pesnika su učestvovala na prištinskom POLIP-u, a njihov uporedni intervju je objavljen u prištinskim i beogradskim medijima.

Objavljivanje antologije savremene kosovske drame pod naslovom Let iznad kosovskog pozorišta u izdanju beogradskog LINKS-a, kao i memoarske knjige poznatog kosovskog intelektualca Škeljzena Malićija pod naslovom Kosovo i raspad Jugoslavije predstavlja nastavak ovog procesa uspostavljanja mira i razumevanja između do juče podeljenih svetova. Kao dalekosežni uticaj književnih razmena, ove godine je u produkciji beogradske Radionice integracije i prištinske Qendre multimedije realizovan srpsko-albanski pozorišni projekat Romeo i Julija (http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/apr/05/romeo-and-juliet-kosovo-war-shakespeare-serbia) , koji je najpre imao premijeru u Beogradu a potom u Prištini.

Saša Ilic

Saša Ilic, born 1972, is a Serbian writer. He lives in Beograd and is member of the editorial board of BETON (literary supplement of the daily newspaper Danas).

Saša Ilic, 1972 geboren, ist ein serbischer Schriftsteller. Er lebt in Belgrad und ist Chefredaktionsmitglied von BETON (Beilage der Tageszeitung Danas).

Saša Ilic, born 1972, is a Serbian writer. He lives in Beograd and is member of the editorial board of BETON (literary supplement of the daily newspaper Danas).

Saša Ilic, 1972 geboren, ist ein serbischer Schriftsteller. Er lebt in Belgrad und ist Chefredaktionsmitglied von BETON (Beilage der Tageszeitung Danas).

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