ebr8 guest editor Vladislava Gordic under fire in Novi Sad
March - June 1999
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 09:24:33 -0800
Subject: a report from novi sad
this is vladislava gordic from novi sad, yugoslavia. although my town is situated in the province of vojvodina in the north, that is, completely on the other side from kosovo, it was first to be bombed. when NATO launched attacks on March 24th, 8pm my time, their first targets were so called 'military targets' in novi sad - long deserted army barracks. in trying to hit one of the barracks, some missiles caused considerable damage in the nearby primary school 'svetozar markovic toza' - window glasses crashed, windows and doors demolished. luckily, kids left school just a few minutes before this missile fell. cunningly enough, the attacks started at the time of the day when families are gathered to have dinner, watch tv, and relax. there were no sirens to prepare us - for example, i was sitting at my computer checking mail when my building started shaking with detonations. the sky was lit with yellow and orange flame from the explosion nearby.
the attacks were unexpected and sudden, many atomic shelters in apartment buildings and cellars in private houses were locked, most were damp, dilapidated, and unprepared, since nobody expected this to happen. logically enough, people here thought that only kosovo would be bombed. but what we see and hear, the targets are also private houses (one missile fell on a house in a village pranjani near serbian town cacak) and factories manufacturing food and medicine. about ten or maybe more refugees from croatia and bosnia were killed by bombs that fell on kursumlija and prokuplje just because they were accomodated in former military objects - isn't that ironic, as alanis would sing?
NATO prevents humanitarian catastrophe in kosovo by creating a more grave humanitarian condition in serbia and montenegro. now it is our babies that are short of milk, now the whole population of serbia suffers from food and petrol shortages. this is no way to spread democracy.
i am the assistant professor of american and english literature at the university of novi sad. i have visited the states and seen myself that it really is a land of opportunities. i am not one of those people who mocks american dream. still, now that i am so tense after spending two days in a damp shelter with a swollen tooth (not being able to visit my doctor in all this mess), now that i am quite tense and near the end of my tether, i do not want to be harsh, or to use harsh words on anybody. just, please, do not turn american dreams into yugoslav nightmare!
Date: Sat, 27 Mar 1999 06:29:05 -0800
i'm writing this as the morning breaks, the third night of NATO aggression is over. the restless night, which i mainly spent in ups and downs - running to the shelter, then every two hours up to my apartment, where the first thing i grab is not food or water but - the keyboard of my computer... as long as we have electricity, as long as phone lines, my modem (which is quite an oldie) and my swollen tooth permit, i will keep on writing, taking this down. taking this disaster down. remembering a kate bush song from the eighties, which goes 'as people around me grow colder, i turn to my computer...' what is to be said about the coldness of people? it is just that somebody with a big dick and a cold heart decided to become (luke)warm hearted and prevent a humanitarian catastrophy by creating a greater one... it is just that somebody decided to turn this sanctionland in which i live into a bombland. when they first threatened to bomb serbia, last september, people from belgrade made a joke about how the city will become renamed - it will be called BOMB-ay. that is precisely what happened on the night between friday and saturday - belgrade was bombed, the very heart of the city, blazing in flames, the poisonous gasses started leaking out of demolished factories on the outskirts of town. children have been killed, serbian mediaeval monasteries (which are under protection of UNESCO) were hit yesterday. the university campus in nish, a town in southern serbia, has also been bombed. bombs fell on the student dormitory. the museum and schools have been shelled as well.
i'll be back with you, as soon as i can. i'll try to rest for a while, to refresh myself before the next attack starts.
Date: Sat, 27 Mar 1999 10:58:39 -0800
we are fearing the next emergency siren, which will take us back to the shelters. no air conditioning, no furniture. i seem to be catching a cold, to accompany my swollen tooth which is inoperable at the moment. we are fearing further attacks because cnn seems to take for granted rumours of ethnic albanians killed in kosovo. western reporters lament the clouds which prevent carrier planes from being even more destructive. shall we here, traumatized civilians (possibly to be poisoned, since they did their best to hit the chemical factories near belgrade) trust only in bad weather to stop the invasion?
i try to read, but i cannot. my father takes to shelter a book by roald dahl, called 'the stories of unexpected'.
Date: Sat, 27 Mar 1999 14:09:42 -0800
such a peaceful sunny morning, perfectly mute. no sirens, no alarms, a period of temporary recovery to our nerves and brains.
pieces of a NATO rocket were found near tuzla, bosnia. cnn has reported these are the pieces of yugoslav planes. i was horrified when i heard how gunther grass supported the invasion and was calling for land troops in kosovo. croatia asks from NATO financial compensation for its ruined summer season.
i went to a pharmacy this morning, looking for antibiotics and the like. my face is a mess - i stopped using facial wash, i can't find my lotions and creams in all these bags my mother packed in case we have to leave town and flee for the nearby villages. i met some friends, who tried to make jokes about everything. people react in such a different scale - some do not dare leave the damp shelters which mostly resemble solitary confinement cells, and some decisively refuse to go there. panic is worst.
when i manage to fall asleep for half an hour, i talk and shout in my sleep. i do not dare think how my granpa, who is 92, blind, and bedridden, feels like. but he's in the state of 'second childhood and mere oblivion'. maybe that's easier. but no shoes are comfortable these days.
they are announcing serious attacks on novi sad. so, if you do not hear anything from me, do not worry, dead communication does not necessarily mean death, mine or anybody's. i'll take my walkman with me next time to the shelter, and i will listen exclusively to music from NATO countries - portuguese band 'madredeus' and the latest sheryl crow.
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 16:20:20 -0800
at the crack of dawn, two missiles fell on greater novi sad - civilian targets, again. at noon, a first concert of protest against NATO intervention started. thousands of people gathered. this was the first day during the bombardment i dared go downtown - and i did not regret it. the spirit resembles very much the days of the student velvet revolution which happened in 1996: shiny, smiling faces, people wearing paper targets on their clothes or foreheads. slogans, both in english and serbian, are witty, ironic, condensed: 'monica, clench your teeth,' 'clinton, fuck hillary for a change', 'wellcome to budjanovci' (the village where an f-117a was downed) and many, many others. shopwindows are full of slogans and cartoons, grafitti with the obligatory word 'NATO' are everywhere, the letter 'T' is sometimes replaced by a swastika.
later on, i visited a gathering of the writers' association of vojvodina in matica srpska, the oldest serbian cultural institution, which publishes the world's oldest literary periodical, 'letopis matice srpske' (175 years old). my friends and colleagues express their protest, resentment, and bitterness. jovan popov, whose wife has been in labor for days, read his sonnet called 'mars above the maternity ward'. he wrote it on seeing a red spot in the midnight sky from the hospital window. it was mars, the planet of war.
Date: Wed, 07 Apr 1999 12:32:45 -0700
the number of victims in aleksinac, a small mining town and unintended target, grows to 14, maybe more. residental areas of pristina seem to be destroyed, and nobody dares think of the actual numbers of casualties and dead. it becomes insupportable to watch television. it is either death show on serbian television or cynical sneer and false, one-sided concern on foreign channels. somebody writes to me that serb people should watch cnn or sky to get information of future targets, and then evacuate people. well, if there are 150 intended and several unintended targets in all parts of the country, where can you possibly run to? you would end up fleeing from one death site to another, round and round.
now, something close and personal: i had my tooth operated today. actually, a huuuuge cyst taken out. it got much worse because i could not operate it in time. this dental surgery of mine was the good will of my doctor, because all the operations have been cancelled when the strikes began. i'm fine now, ready to return to shelter.
Date: Wed, 07 Apr 1999 7:46 PM
From: joseph tabbi
the report - more than half of what you've sent me, should be online tomorrow (friday), at the riPOSTe site. i will add to it as more comes in, if you wish. i am also editing a lecture that zoran milutinovic sent me yesterday.
Subject: april 9th
people from novi sad and belgrade started two nights ago with protecting their remaining bridges. human shields will be present night after night. they decided to ride bikes over the bridges tonight. a report of yugoslav ministry of foreign affairs reached me today. it sums up the victims & damage done between march 24th and april 7th.
during that time, there were 1000 air strikes with 430 planes. 800 cruising missiles and 3000 tons of explosive 'landed' on serbia. 300 people were killed in those attack, and 3000 wounded. 6 bridges completely destroyed, 8 damaged. 5 airports damaged. 10 petrol storages were destroyed, which makes thousands hundred people endangered because of gasses released in explosion. 13 hospitals, 150 schools and 10 monasteries either destroyed or irreparably damaged.
if we live this through, at least 500,000 will be left without job because their factories are destroyed. and that means 2 million people without income.
and more intensive attacks are yet to come.
today is orthodox good friday. it rained today, which is a good sign, as folk belief says. let us hope for the best.
news reaching us say that a group of norwegian pilots refused to take part in bombing yugoslavia. a ray of hope.
Subject: april 21st
in a refugee camp near djakovica, ten dead people reported after last night's bombing. the dead are said to be refugees from bosnia and croatia. so, the refugee death toll increases, while british and american news programs rejoice in having bombed 'milosevic's political headquarters'. what actually was done is destruction of a 24-store building where seven tv and radio stations were located, as well as offices of many trade companies. civilians working in media surely died while on their graveyard shift.
the seat of ruling political parties is also there, but is it enough for making this building a valid target?
this attack may not contribute to the 'sightseeing destruction tour' phase of air strikes, which NATO launched a few days ago when bombing the novi sad municipal council building, but rather to the 'deMALLition' phase - that is, demolition of shopping malls and the like. the building destroyed in belgrade mostly resembled to the london's central point (which is said to be ugly and dysfunctional, but nobody has set it on fire yet).
the last bridge of novi sad was severely damaged last night, and turned dysfunctional. novi sad's already severely reduced public transport has petrol for the next seven days only. NATO vandals still on their rage mission. mission will be accomplished when my country is demolished.
Subject: april 22nd
this is what i wrote this morning into my diary:
"today is the day of planet earth, isn't it? it is raining in novi sad, a calm soothing rain, following a peaceful night. i dreamt i was travelling around europe with a group of old schoolmates. we visited belgium, finland and russia. sweet dreams."
however, nothing is calm and no dreams are sweet - four detonations at the lunchtime severely damaged (damaged beyond repair, i've heard) the last remaining bridge of novi sad, at the time when many people (workers repairing water and gas pipes, among them) were on and around it. the gang rape of serbia continues after early this morning milosevic's residence was burnt to ashes by four missiles.
so the alliance goes on with vandalism - that is, VANDALLIANCE continues with splashing blood and gore on the kosovo soap opera, while putting petrol embargo on yugoslavia. insomnia says goodbye to public transport, central heating, maybe even to bread and milk - for how they are to be distributed if there's no petrol? goodbye cars, hello carts. his NATOness takes the surviving populace of my country back to the middle ages.
Subject: april 23rd
everybody has heard the news: the building of the state-run serbian television RTS was destroyed last night, around 2 am. this event, by all means horrifying and unprecedented, was unanimously called 'important' by the western media. NATO prides itself in destroying serbian propaganda.
do not ask me what i think of yugoslav media. do not ask me NOW. the state run media are always instrumentalized, manipulated and subservient (not to say brown-nosing) to the government. in USA and Western Europe they are. in my country not anymore.
those people to whom i've sent novi sad postcards may never get them; if you, rhonda, joe, ken, and many others, do not get the postcard signed with 'insomnia' in three weeks' time, please sue your government. why? because there are reasons to suspect that post clerks are instructed to destroy all mail coming from yugoslavia. and you all know that one of your constitutional rights says that no bitches can fuck around with your personal mail!
(joe tabbi received a postcard dated 6-04-99 from novi sad. - eds.)
Subject: april 24th
a sad, sad jubilee - one month since the NATO aggression started. and time to ask myself and the world: what has changed?
much more than five hundred yugoslavs changed life for death in ruins; the number of kosovo albanians who crossed the yugoslav border in search of veggy-food-and-damp-lodging camps is vaguer than ever; the vandalliance destroyed the seats of the state run serbian television and seven local radio and tv stations, but the tv program is still on the air; vandalliance destroyed the yugoslav president's residence, but he is more alive and more supported than ever. is the alliance missing the point of its war operations, same as it misses at the pinpoint accuracy, or what?
there is one thing that has not been changed - civilian targets are still attacked as before, only with the increasing ferocity. from vacuum cleaners and tobacco factories NATO has passed to bombing trains and civilian convoys.
and, yes, there is another change: seeing how absurd it is to label tv transmitters, kindergartens and monasteries all alike - as 'military targets' - NATO has started calling them 'strategic targets' instead.
that one was wise, i admit.
i see i'm turning cynical, and i don't like it. i do not like this change in my mood and opinion. a month ago, i was shocked and frightened; now i'm angry and embittered. but something has not changed: i still have water, electricity, internet connection and a night-time shelter (which has been used also in the daytime a few times during this week, but it is not worth mentioning). yesterday's alarm was luckily false - our post office building was not destroyed. novi sad sneaked thru last night with 'only eight' missiles fallen on its petrol refinery. a good night score. though the night tonight may be more interesting if the old hag vandalliance decides to mark the jubilee by painting the town red.
but, hey, let me not be unfair: never have i made more email friends in a month's time than in this month of war. never have i received so many words of love, support and consolation in my entire life. never have i been in thoughts of so many people. and never have i believed in the inherent goodness of the human nature this much. evil words of some western media and monstrous actions of NATO are just few poisonous drops in the vast ocean of human goodness which will be washed away, finally. isn't it nice to think so?
Subject: april 25th
oil makes the world go round, it seems. vandalliance is so anxious about cutting its flow to serbia, you'd think ethnic cleansers live on it! just imagine those horrible three-headed & multitasking beasts with wires on their heads called serbs, splashing gore and feeding on oil. they grind poor albanians into powder, or boil them into the ethnic cleansing soap, in order to make the horrible cleansing machine work like perpetuum mobile.
i, insomnia, i am serb. do you see me as an ethnical cleanseress? do you picture me taking my first morning coffee with albanian blood instead of cream and sugar? do you picture me invading albanian homes and raping their men, sucking their blood, cutting off their balls?
ok, ok, i've gone overboard. but tell me - how do you picture me really? a friend from belgrade called today to ask what i was doing. i told him i was preparing lecture notes on post-shakespearean tragedy. next week, the universities are starting with lectures and exams which were disrupted a month ago, and i myself have the obligation to neglect this bloody war for a few hours and plunge back into the curricula. so i told him i worked on post-shakespearean tragedy, and he laught his head off...that was not a healthy laugh, more sort of bitter chuckle. then it dawned on me: this is a post-shakespearean tragedy, all of this. because this what we live in is tragedy of blood and injustice. in shakespeare's dramas, the world falls out of joint, but is always set up straight again. in tragedies after shakespeare injustice is invincible, it rules unpunished, just like in today's world, the world after shakespeare.
enough lamenting, a little update: in spite of last night's renewed massacre of tv transmitters, serbian tv is on the air again. in the greater part of the country, today were two daytime all-alert sirens, one at 3 pm (nato planes served as a dessert after Sunday lunch), the other right now, as i'm writing this (6 pm my time). see you in the all clear interval!:*
Subject: april 26th
if i wanted to leave novi sad and go to belgrade today, i'd have to do it the icarus way - to fly from one bank of danube to another. this morning, at half past one, the last remaining bridge in novi sad was taken down. it resisted missiles and bombs for such a long time, and now it's down in the danube water. the water and gas pipes running over the bridge are broken, and the greatest part of the town will probably be without water for the next two days at least, until repairs are finished.
so, his NATOness takes the water away - electricity still holds on until further notice. maybe it'll go off tonight. anything can be expected from vandals, as you all well know.
maybe the ethnical cleansing stops the very moment you cut off water? could be. let's make all ethnic groups dirty, that's politically correct. equal mud and disease for all - a new NATO slogan.
becoming quite sick of english speaking tv channels, i turned on the italian RAI last night, and watched their 'telegiornale'. the same sickening chant of false humanism there as well. italian psychologists from cremona are doing therapy with little albanian refugees, making them draw what they've seen and experienced. the drawings all show small people and huge planes and helicopters, and that is taken to be the proof of serbian atrocities.
quite by chance, i turned the telly on this morning and found myself in the middle of a serbian tv report on kids from belgrade, and their drawings. guess what? planes on all of them!
jamie shea tried to convince us that albanian kids see NATO planes as salvation, telling that one albanian kid compared the sound of planes to the 'voice of the angels'. if mr jammed sheep saw the drawings by albanian and serbian kids, he would see in them horrible, murky steel birds of prey dropping bombs. definitely not angels.
or maybe angels have changed???
Subject: april 27th
my town - the second largest city in yugoslavia, a.k.a. bombland - has entered its second water-lack day. running water appears only in short intervals, mostly by night, otherwise the populace of some 600,000 people is in the t. s. eliot's wasteland. because of water pressure which is very bad even if there happens to be some water running from your tap, it is worst with those who live above the third floor - they are literally high & dry.
apart from the water-deprivation, i am also on an informational fast. i decided to stay away from telly & radio for at least 24 hours, just to see what it is like to live in an ivory tower world, without the death show and reports on refugees, without warmongers and peacemakers, without yugo protest marches and nato briefings. and it already (after some 17 hours of fasting) looks like the state of a comfortable oblivion, it looks as if you unhook your phone and fall in a deep undisturbed sleep.
fasting thus (or dozing thus), i suddenly remembered...not the briar rose, but the latest book by douglas coupland, 'the girlfriend in a coma'. i read it last june, while in london, and reviewed it for a yugoslav independent magazine 'vreme' after coming back to the then sanctionland, present bombland. the girlfriend from the title spent some 18 years in coma - then she awoke and her boyfriend had to tell her about the things that happened in the meantime. you can imagine how many things you can miss in 18 years time. i remember the two of them - coupland's heroine missed the fall down of the berlin wall and the whole story of lady di's marriage, divorce and garish death. the world has changed so much, even in the places which do not definitely suffer from the 'history overdose'. even a fifteen day coma in yugoslavia would mean a total epistemological shock: had you fallen asleep in the mid march and waken up at the beginning of april, you would have found yourself in a different place - not in yugoslavia but in bombland - on a different planet. on a planet without water and without bridges, without petrol and oil refineries, but packed with deplete uranium, and cluster bombs; on a planet quite devastated and demolished; you would hear a completely different language, unknown words like 'locator', 'detonation', 'collateral damage', 'harrier'...
i think i wanted to see if you can forget about war if you cut yourself off from the world. won't do. war is a real thing, happening in spite of your not willing to perceive it. but even in a self-imposed oblivion, i could not help remembering lady di, who did well in the campaign against land mines. what would she say if she saw the cluster bombs, which are, as somebody wrote in an email, land mines dropped from the sky, of which one was enough to kill five kosovo albanian kids? would she wish that the berlin wall had never fallen down? would anyone? or would it just be a self-deceiving escapism into the world before the coma?
Subject: april 28th
call me credulous, rumour-prone - i guess there's no such compound word in english, but sounds cute, so i'm taking it :) - naive, easily manipulated; call me an excessive optimist or a sheepish believer; call me a person unable to take anything with a grain of salt, BUT...one of my colleagues told me today she had heard that lufthanza starts flying to yugoslavia on may 3rd!
could any of you check this?
i remember how somebody whom i was supposed to meet in belgrade on the very first day of aggression, on wednesday, march 24th, told me: 'if flights by foreign air companies are cancelled, stay where you are...for that means the air strike is on its way' i remember how a chill overcame me when on monday i read the information on cancelled flights on B92 (whose news mailing list i have been missing terribly in the last four weeks - that was the only media i know of capable to balance conflicting information sources; i hate they're off the air). and really, air strike on yugoslavia started in two days....
that is why i am so trigger happy - because i find that rumour another ray of hope. chi vivra, vedra, as italians say. so let's live and see.
Subject: april 29th
i am keeping myself away from all the news deliberately, mostly because it is so painful to watch the debris in surdulica - human suffering somehow cannot harden you; every new 'unintended' target, every new name on the death toll just makes you more vulnerable.
another thing is: it is so annoying to see how the poor victims are treated. i have grown tired of euphemisms designed to hide the truth, designed to justify the crime. an error made by a bomb-supplied pilot cannot be said to be unintended. we never intend to be wrong, but we tend to be more or less fatally careless. a bomb cannot just go astray, since it does not 'go' at all. it is not a cat, is it? it is a killing device (another clumsy definition) thrown by a human hand and don't we know all about grave errors made by the so called human factor...the same goes for conflict. i cannot call this apocalypse - i'm in a conflict. i almost feel offended at calling this war thing 'a conflict'. today, i had to get up early to go to my classes (first after 'the conflict' began). i took a cab, since busses go about one per hour, and i could not afford being late (even 'the conflict' does not change my unbelievable capacity to doze and muse over the first morning coffee interminably). and i chatted with the cab driver, as i always do - yes, we chatted about 'the conflict', what else? but our chat stopped as we approached the faculty. we could see the grayish danube, the clear blue sky and an huge dark cloud. it was spreading fast. i almost choked when i asked him if it came from the refinery. 'yes', the cab-driver said. 'the flame has not been extinguished yet'.
and i glanced at my watch. it was nine o'clock. the refinery was bombed at half past one last night, and the smoke is still spreading...i inhaled deeply. i said i enjoyed the ride - another euphemism. 'enjoy yourself for the next three or four days', the driver said. 'my mates are running out of fuel. in a few days there will not be a single taxi in the street.'
again, i inhaled deeply, although i should not inhale that smoke too deep. i entered the faculty. eighteen students came to my lecture - eighteen out of ninety. the next two hours we spent discussing the post-shakespearean tragedy, which was written in the pre-conflict, pre-euphemistic world.
Subject: april 30th
at five thirty this morning, for a change, i did not wake up to the sound of planes, detonation or air-raid siren. what woke me up was the terrible shaking of the walls and my mattress moving to and fro. i jumped up to my feet, ready to run down into the shelter, but the voices heard from the outside urged me to approach the window. and i could not believe my eyes - the tenants were pouring out of the building, running away from it, instead of entering the shelter! then i heard them repeating the word which explained all - the earthquake.
so, on top of this all, we had an earthquake...this life resembles a bad movie, or thomas hardy's novels (check his 'tess d'urbervile'), where bad things happening to the main character mechanically pile up. still, movies and books, either good or bad, can have an abrupt ending that automatically settles everything. i wish the destiny of my country could be solved thus...
this morning, for the change, i did not have to reach danube in order to see the dark suffocating clouds coming from the refinery. i could see them spreading all over the town. these clouds looked menacing, almost ominous. i thought of people from shangay, a small settlement on the outskirts of novi sad, adjacent to the refinery - what cross they have to bear. whoever could, moved away from the refinery's neighbourhood and found lodging with friends or relatives. and these few thousands are just a minuscule part of the whole yugoslav population which is, if not in refuge, than surely in the internal exile - of people 'temporarily' leaving their homes for places only a trifle safer, while bad things pile up.
Subject: may 2nd
those harrowing shots of the burnt bus halved into two near pristina. sixty people dead, whereas nato at first does not completely rule out that it attacked this bridge as 'the target of opportunity'.
when you rule out the monstrous, inhumane tendency to euphemisms in the previous sentence, you read it as: nato kills whomever it meets in its way.
i heard this news for the first time on the bbc world. they played the shot of the burnt remnants for several minutes, and i wondered: just how disastrous this attack really was, if the bbc dedicated to it a considerable portion of time which is otherwise generously donated to the daily routine of kosovo refugees?
the night before last, when sky reported the nail bombing of the 'admiral duncan' pub in soho, my heart sank. i sent an email to my london friend whose husband works in soho. thanks god, both of them were ok. still, i felt bad for all those dead and injured people in the packed pub. not only because i know very well now what it is like to be bombed out of the blue, but also because i strongly disapprove of homophobia and all monstrous practices stemming out of it. all that big talk of human rights everywhere, and suddenly you die because some guys hate gays' guts. for one thing, i, a heterosexual woman, could have been having my pint of beer in that pub - i like going to gay pubs. i could've, if i were in london. but i'm not, i'm denied it by the ec. never mind, better times will come.
but i just want to put one question: does the world really care about human rights? about the right to be a homosexual, a heterosexual, an afroamerican, a woman? a serb?
let's leave serbs aside for a bit. what about albanians? and what about their women? where were all those people who are shedding crocodile tears over poor albanian refugees all these years to see how albanian women are treated? where was the world all those decades in which albanian women were forbidden (as they are still) to go to school, to witness them locked in their homes behind walls 5 feet high, married early and ordered to give birth to one child per year? talibans in afganistan have similar ways of treating their women, but they are still in power and nobody strikes them out of the blue. so, what about the civil and human rights of kosovo albanian women? do not think serb authorities denied education and contraception to them. their husbands, fathers and brothers did it, an oppressive heritage did it. these women, denied profession and contraception, live in dark ages, in the world of a primitive culture which still feeds on the blood feud tradition.
so, if anybody really wanted to help kosovo albanians, the help should have started with these small essentials such as primers & condoms, not with offering a territory.
* * *
yeah, and i forgot another essential human right - the right to breathe. the last night's jubilee, the tenth bombing of novi sad refinery, resulted in the thickest clouds ever. my windows are shut, and the day promises to offer a temperature of 30 C and no wind, so the environmental situation goes worse. i think this was hardest attack on novi sad ever. at least shaking of the walls said so.
* * *
US servicemen released. will yugoslavia be released?
Subject: may 3rd - insomnia unplugged
where was moses when the light went out? in the dark:))))
when the light went out, i remembered this joke, told by amanda wingfield from tennessee williams's 'the glass menagerie'. she was trying desperately to entertain her daughter's one and only gentleman caller, to impress him with her southern hospitality, when the lights suddenly went out because her romantic and impracticable son 'forgot' to pay the gas bill.
and here it is - the world unplugged. last night around ten serbia fell into pitch-darkness. feeling our way through the shelter, we remained in the dark about the cause of the power breakdown for hours. all radio stations went off the air at once.
the morning light revealed endless bread-lines, silent sirens, the thick black smoke coming from the refinery (bombed for the 11th time last night). air smelled of gasoline. people walked dizzily, unsure on their feet. in spite of all, we were having a sunny and clear day, with temp rising up to 26 degree celsius. life goes on, with candles and matches in our pockets, an unplugged life.
* * *
to say that power comes back intermittently is an almost NATOesque euphemism. since last night we were 'plugged in' for an hour or two in the early morning and forty minute in the afternoon. i had enough time to check my mail, but not enough to send few hasty responds. messages coming from my unplugged belgrade friends are amazingly normal. they tell of broken phone-lines and water-pipes in such a matter-of-factly manner.
* * *
i am having my coffee black and cold.
i am rediscovering my typewriter.
Subject: may 4th
last night around ten two awful blasts destroyed the building of novi sad television. its studios, together with the still intact transmitter, are situated across the danube, about a killometer away from my building.
the first blast found me at home. i saw the bright yellow light instantly spread over the sky and instinctively squinted. some ten seconds later, the walls shook violently. i ran down to the shelter, digging my pockets in search of my small lamp, and the second blast found me there. the walls shook and doors squeaked.
when i came back to the flat, reluctantly, i could not fight sleep. so i fell asleep on the mattress, with my gym shoes on and with the lamp in my hand. the ray of light at hand - just in case.
Subject: may 5th
a peaceful night - except for fear.
fear can be comic at times, as well as life-preserving. if you did not fear, you would not be alive, since fear is what alarms you to protect yourself, same as pain signals that something about your body has gone wrong.
i woke up at four thirty (at home and WITHOUT my gym shoes on, which signals that even i can show symptoms of bravery at times :) ) and heard strange noises. a series of flashes coloured the sky yellow. i blinked and blinked, but no blast resounded. faraway brawling could be heard. NATO planes? most likely. so i decided to go to the shelter. at the entrance of the building, there was a family from the neighbourhood, a couple with two sons, all pricking up their ears. 'kids heard planes and urged us to descend' the wife said. i peeked outside and felt the rain pouring down. the air smelled fresh. oh, how fresh! it felt as if somebody scented the atmosphere. pilots sprinkling their aftershave? not likely.
and the mystery was solved, the fear dispelled - these were not planes, just ordinary thunder. and no blasts, just ordinary lightnings. i panicked without reason. but to tell the truth, thunder was perfect in impersonating planes....
Subject: may 9th
i learned today from one of my dear email friends that Clinton showered decorations and medals on the three recently returned 'internees'. they received Purple Heart - the decoration for being wounded in battle by enemy fire. so, it seems that the three servicemen got home unscathed but not unmedaled, unlike many american soldiers who were drafted in the first world war.
this reminded me of a story by earnest hemingway, 'in another country,' where the main hero, a wounded american soldier, got an italian medal in the first world war just because he was a foreigner accidentally wounded. read the story sometimes, like many of hemingway's war stories it is very telling.
there is something very peculiar about american soldiers GOING to war. in this century at least, they have been only going to war. there was no war COMING to them. for americans, war is a place - more a theatre of death than a slice of the real life. for europe, war has mostly been a condition, a situation in life. america goes to war in order to release its nervous energy. europe fights tooth and nail to capture its life within its breast.
and today, americans do not even go to war. they just supervise a remote-controlled 'conflict'. they do not fight - they STRIKE. last night, they struck post-offices and administrative buildings around serbia, whereas they kept their hands off from belgrade, afraid of new possible mistakes.
clinton visited the rubbles of oclahoma, and said he was deeply moved when he saw people rummaging through the rubbles in search of their marriage and driving licences. funny, it had not occurred to him that many victims of his clever cluster bombs do the same here, in yugoslavia, without getting the single word of regret, without being pittied by him.
Subject: may 12th
i dreamed i had a small dark gray kitten. it purred under my computer. i was absorbed in washing and brushing it a little before i woke up. i have often dreamed of cats this year. either they lie on my blanket why i sleep, or walk around my flat and i talk to them in spanish. all kinds of cat situations happen in my dreams. but this little dark gray kitten was just underneath my computer, calm and unassuming, very peaceful and demanding nothing. it was so silent and weak that i somehow felt obliged to take care of it.
i got up, contemplated my first morning coffee - i take my coffee looooong, you know - and went to my faculty on foot. i passed by a few cigarette queues, a few somber faces and several gay doggies. the wind was blowing, it was one of those cool spring days which smell of rain. i met a friend who complained about his computer, a brand new pentium which crashed because of the unstable voltage. 'everybody tells me i would be better off with an oldie of a computer', he complained. 'they endure this power situation much better.' i chuckled and told him he was absolutely right - my PC bought in 1994 and not updated since then is perfectly obedient. it just resets from time to time out of the blue, but i hope the two of us will weather this all.
then i came to my faculty, and the written exam in american literature started. some fifteen students came, and i friendly urged them to write their essays in the shortest time possible. better to finish earlier than to be interrupted by sirens. two of them were an hour late because the busses were late. every student has his own adventurous story - they travel for hours because trains get stuck on the railroad or busses run short of gas; many of them have to travel the longer way because roads are damaged and bridges destroyed. one of them who lives in novi sad told me how a bomb fell very near her building: the building broke in two, walls cracked and the water from her aquarium spilt! imagine that.
while they were writing their essays, i was reading a nietzsche i grabbed this morning in passing - his booklet on presocratic philosophers. you would not believe how absorbed i was.
now a pile of essays on lost generation and emily dickinson wait to be graded.
Subject: may 13th
the seventh week of war ended in a breath-taking and bare-footed manner: at four fifteen this morning, a chain of terrible blasts woke me up. my mother jumped on her feet, checked on my brother who was sleeping in the next room and ran out of the flat 'like a bullet', as a serbian phrase goes. 'bring me some shoes!' she called from the hall. i grabbed my jacket and my gym shoes which were lying right beside my mattress, and ran after her. but wait - some shoes?? so i started fingering around (maybe there is a better word for trying to find 'some shoes' for your mother in the pitch darkness while you're still half asleep and utterly confused by the roar outside, but i cannot think of any) and found nothing better than a pair of my dad's leather slippers size eleven. so i took them with me. anything shoelike would do at that moment!
i cannot remember how i made those three stories (and a half) down to the shelter with my hands full of shoes. the next thing i recall was the giggle. all the tenants in the shelter, still warm and dizzy from sleep, laughed their heads off when they saw the two of us barefooted. mum and me laughed too. 'i took my shoes off only two hours ago', she said, and the giggle intensified. it happens - after two or three peaceful, blastless, nights in a row you become nonchalant and take your shoes off like a peacetime fool.
after coming back from the shelter - it was half past five - i opened my mailbox, and found an alarming message on how the US Government ordered Loral Orion company to shut down its satellite feeds for Internet customers in Yugoslavia. there we are. the overall putting out. first NATO wanted to block the flow of state-run news, and thus force yugoslavs to fall for the alliance. now, NATO wants to erase 11 million of us from the public mind. it wants to take our faces and voices from us, it wants to stop us from telling the story of the tragedy.
is yugoslavia going to become a country without its narrative - without the narrative equalling its very existence?
A LETTER TO HYPNOS
dear day sleeper,
remember that hot day two years ago when we met in belgrade? first we had coffee, then chardonnay, then lunch, and babbled till midnight. that was the time when I needed one hour and twenty minutes bus ride to reach belgrade, and busses from novi sad ran every twenty minutes. that was the time restaurants worked round the clock. that was the time you could buy cigarettes just around the corner (you are such a chain smoker - the only smoker I know who always carries three packs of cigarettes with him!). that was the time all window panes in belgrade were whole and most of them clean. that was the time I had a bad internet connection, so some of your emails traveled four days or did not reach me at all. that was the time power and water were not off. that was the time B92 was on the air and opposition press on the street newsstands. that was the time I could buy batteries for my walkman in any shop.
TODAY - exactly two years later - I'd need half a day to reach belgrade (first cross the danube in a boat, then wait endlessly for the rare, if not only, bus which may be cancelled the last minute because of no fuel), and who knows how much time to get back: going to belgrade and coming back to novi sad in the very same day is almost a mission impossible, although they are only 80 kilometers away.
today, we can still have lunch in a restaurant (with many ifs: if we can afford it; if they have power to cook meat and coffee; if they serve food during the all-alert), but not dinner - restaurants close at 7 pm, same as discotheques and night clubs.
today you have to queue for hours to buy two packs of low quality and high tar cigarettes. today not only window panes are broken but buildings of strategic, infrastructural and historical interest are turned to mere rubbles which become graves of yugoslav kids and chinese journalists.
now I have better internet connection, but it is either threatened to be cut off, or it offers to my masochistic self the frightening news of ground troops, death tolls, renewed air attacks; today, I receive all your taut and condensed messages in time, but all they say is 'take care', 'stay safe', 'this will be over soon' - they express fear and concern, not tenderness.
today, we live intermittently, from one blast to another, between two graphic webs, in air raid sirens interludes; power is on and off, same as water, and your phone went dead for several weeks. the b92 is shut down, most opposition press off the streets. and batteries for walkmans are low quality if there are any to be bought.
and if this enormous change came in the course of two years, it would be easier to understand, almost logical and, in any case, we would more easily adapt to it. but the change happened in month and a half. a yugoslav economist wrote in german magazine 'stern' that yugoslavia will need ten years to reach the standard of living it had on march 24th 1999 before 8 pm.
on that day my monthly paycheck was less than $200 and three months late. will I need ten years to reach that dismal cipher again? will we need ten years to meet casually in belgrade, have our chardonnay, coffee and lunch, and babble until the midnight bus starts for novi sad? life in yugoslavia was not all violets before the war - nineties have been an awful slope of standard leading downward - but now it is all weeds. parched weeds.
we agreed, you and I, to use telepathy when all connections are cut off.
no nato can take it away from us, can it? it would have to kill us first.
love always, insomnia
PS sleep tight and dream of me!:*
Subject: may 16th - insomnia unplugged
last night, we had air RAIN sirens - it was raining heavily, of which we were reminded around ten, when the sirens started howling. no attacks on novi sad last night, just a few faraway blasts around four this morning. NATO attacks focused on kosovo. so what if another eighty nine civilians from a convoy near the village korisa are collaterally sent to heaven - NATO persists, while the reason for its remote-uncontrolled bloodshed becomes more and more obscure.
i cannot think of reasons anymore, i am just aware that closing my country into a sealed nutshell is taking place. for albanians and nonalbanians alike - we are all becoming prisoners in the wasteland.
'the prisoners in the wasteland' is not just another bizzare insomnia-coined phrase. it is just a feeble reflexion of the unimaginable condition we're in.
yesterday, my london friend emailed me to say that she received my letter sent to her a week ago. (a glimpse of joy - so i CAN send a letter to the world! it CAN reach the recipient!) however, the letter she had posted to me about the same time returned, accompanied with a letter from royal mail, saying:
Please find enclosed an item of mail that you recently posted to an address in Yugoslavia.
As a consequence of the war taking place in the Balkans we have not been able to obtain transport for mail destined to the countries which currently make up Yugoslavia. Under the circumstances we have had to suspend services to addresses in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo until further notice.
I very much regret that it has been necessary to return your item, please accept my apologies on behalf of Royal Mail for any disappointment and inconvenience this has caused.
so, the postal service suspension, rumoured about from the very beginning, was not a hoax, at least in UK. do not think i expected it to be a hoax: it is just the immense shock of getting a proof that the suspension actually works. nothing is so strong as the shuddering when the cold steel bars of the prison window are felt under your fingers.
Subject: may 17th
BBC world showed last night the nets of italian fishermen full of NATO bombs. the nets were thrown in the adriatic somewhere near venice. one of the caught bombs exploded, and some fishermen got injured.
today, a postcard from nish arrived at my faculty. it was sent by the staff from the english department in nish. we all looked at it in amazement as if it came from a faraway exotic place. the definition of the word 'exotic' changes for us - exotic, a synonym for both 'foreign' and 'fascinating', becomes the synonym of the unreachable.
nish is so far away, whereas yesterday italy seemed to me so close. i watched reports from the perugia-assisi protest peace march, and i was overwhelmed with happiness when i recognized the very spot from where the march started! it started from the arch on the piazza fortebraccio, near universita per stranieri, in perugia. i spent my summer there, some twelve years ago. i also visited assisi then. i remember travelling there by train with a spanish friend (her name was isla, spanish for 'island'). when we arrived at assisi, a wonderful town on the hill, we bought a city map. it was huge, and we thought that the city must be big. but it turned out that the distances seeming so long on the map were small in reality. we spent a wonderful afternoon there, eating cakes and visiting churches. i remember how seeing the body of santa chiara in a glass case made me wonder if she was a wax figure or a mummy. i do not know even today.
Subject: may 19th
i found out today, quite by chance, that the embargo imposed by EC, which includes prohibition of selling 'services and technologies' to yugoslavia, also forbids any kind of services and technologies that would help yugoslavia in mending the war damage! in short, thus EC countries companies are forbidden to build new bridges in yugoslavia, to mend its highways and railroads, to build new homes for people who are left homeless, to repair the damaged fuel stores, to repair school buildings.
* * *
one novi sad musician said: "if i knew that novi sad bridges were to blame for death of at least one albanian kid from kosovo, i would pull them down myself.' i agree with these words completely. i cannot approve of atrocities done to anyone - the criminals of all nations and kinds should be sued. i cannot approve of making distinctions between 'nations of thugs' and 'nations of angels' either - there is nothing like collective virtue or collective guilt, only individuals can be virtuous or guilty. i cannot approve of one-sided care and concern - i cannot trust a politician who visits refugee camps in albania and macedonia if he closes his eyes to the rubbles of nish, surdulica, aleksinac, belgrade, novi sad.
Subject: may 20th
the night sky was perfectly clear; every star was in its place and clearly visible, even the biggest of them, even the shiny one which appears, disappears and reappears, shifts and moves throughout the night sky. my mother calls it a 'spy star'. I am absolutely hopeless about weapons and military equipment; I am also hopeless about spy movies - one summer week a few years ago, which my brother spent in watching all james bond movies, I was unable to concentrate on any of them and regularly fell asleep whenever the real action in the movie began; I like conspiracy theories only in pynchon's novels - but I cannot resist thinking that the spy star really must be a-spying.
the clear night sky usually equals all night roar & blasts. last night was not an exception. I slept only in short intervals because the roar of the planes, the sound of detonations and the shaking of the ground were awfully unsettling. I got up unscathed but exhausted, only to hear that a night of horrors was behind us: many small villages, civilian targets and infrastructure buildings hit, as usual. this time kosovo was not scheduled - it was the other province's turn, the turn of vojvodina, as well as of belgrade and its outskirts.
abhorring details pile up. I resist to remembering them. still, some persist: hospital 'dragisa misovic' in belgrade was hit by three missiles. most damaged was its maternity ward, in which two women were having cesarean cut at the time of the air attack. three patients in neurology ward were reported dead, whereas women in labor were severely cut on their faces by the shattered glass. what a monstrous irony - while having a cesarean, your face gets cut instead.
and the spy star keeps watching us. an evil, killing, cutting eye.
Subject: may 21st
the nights are beautiful and missiles cross the summer sky. for a long time, perhaps since time began, the eyes of our tribe, these poor trachoma-inflamed eyes of ours, have been gazing at the sky: but especially since new celestial bodies began to cross the starry vault above our vilage: jet planes with white trails, flying saucers, rockets, and now these guided missiles, so high and fast you can't see or hear them, but in the sparkle of the southern cross, if you look very hard, you can pick up a sort of shiver, a tremor, at which the most expert of us say: 'there, a missile passing at twenty thousand kilometres an hour; a little slower, if i'm not mistaken, than the one that went by last Thursday.'
i too, sitting at the entrance to my hut, look up at the stars and at the rockets appearing and disappearing, i think of the explosions poisoning the fish in the sea, and of the courtesies those people who decide the explosions exchange with each other between one missile and the next. i'd like to understand more: certainly the will of the gods is made manifest in these signs, certainly they foretell the ruin or the fortune of our tribe...
* * *
the words above are quoted from a beautiful story written by my favourite italian writer, italo calvino. the story is called 'the tribe with its eyes on the sky'. i put this little 'calvinism' in my diary as another white pebble in the daily stream of my notes, for no reason at all. let us not comment on anything. the world may lack peace and harmony, but beauty is always around. it does not go away when missiles come.
Subject: may 22nd
due to the last night SWW (serbian wide web), we are unplugged again. this time, it was not just these hypercool graphitti bombs developing into the ultrastrange and supersticky cobweb - a major powerplant was also bombed and severely damaged, maybe beyond repairing. so, we had another innovation in the NATO powercut strategy, the BBR approach - bomb beyond repair.
what also happened to be a new strategy is bombing prisons. maybe a part of this SCHW (so called humanitarian war) includes the extermination of convicts? if so, the strategy should be seriously considered by all developed countries in the world. the KC strategy - kill convicts!
i didn't get much sleep last night because of the PR phase - planes roar(ed). i felt as if in the middle of an air craft promenade! most unpleasant, as a brit would put it, and most frightening, as HSI (hyperscared insomnia) would put it.
when the morning came, seeing that i am wrapped in the SWW and that i am BBRed, and therefore denied access to my ardently beloved mailbox and much despised TV set, i sank deep into the RMP phase - reading marcel proust. call it escapism, but my DNA feels refreshed!
so, if i am to drown in the sea of war despair, let it be with the help of twelve volumes of marcel proust instead of a bag of rocks.
the other day, i heard a BBC world reporter saying that serbs were WW (war weary). do not believe it. we are just WD (war devastated), WK (war killed), WI (war impoverished), WD (war destroyed), but definitely not WW. NEP - no euphemisms, please!
Subject: may 23
my version of a poem by W. C. Williams:
this is just to say
the power is off
life goes on
Subject: may 24th
what a beautiful day. i had a wonderful stroll: went to my faculty, kissed a few friends in passing, had an icecream (punch, vanilla, chocolate). i am still holding on tight to my bosom friend, marcel proust.
the coming night will make me somber: tonight, a few minutes before eight, another sad anniversary, two months since the bombing started. a month ago, i wrote i still had power, water and internet; now, they are coming and going randomly.
last night people in shelter started comparing our situation to the siege of sarajevo. i freak out at these comparisons, but i don't tell them why. i used to send packages to my friends and relatives in sarajevo for the whole time of the war there - hiding coffee and cigarettes in bags of beans, because they were not allowed to be sent. for several months i had refugees from sarajevo in my room, in my bed. no sarajevan called in the two months time to ask how i was, but i know they think of me all the time. and i freak out, because the only thing i can confide in is telepathy.
this rope of sand on which i walk gets thinner...
Subject: may 25th
yesterday, in the daytime, the novi sad oil refinery was bombed for the first time after some fourteen days. the smoke, like a piece of black silk, was hanging in the sky, as if it did not move at all.
this morning, i walked the streets with my ears full of portuguese music. but i did not get absorbed in my favourite album of 'madredeus'. i was looking around, at the town without electric power that looks like a withered flower. in both cases you see what it is, and you also see that what you see is dead.
i entered the shopping mall, and it was pitch dark, save for candles that shyly flickered in the shopwindows. i was looking for the batteries, not for my walkman, but for my 'casio' watch, which suddenly went dead yesterday afternoon. i had to ask at a dozen of shops before i found what i needed. same happened with the injections i had to buy for my father - dozen misses, and the thirteenth time it's bingo.
i saw a gypsy woman who washed her son's face with the blueberry juice! and an old lady stopped me to ask if i heard 'anything'. i took my earphones off and said that i heard no sirens. 'i did not mean sirens', she said. 'i heard something'. i smiled to her and said that i heard nothing. and nothing it was, presumably.
Subject: may 26th
yesterday, in the afternoon, i decided to take a walk along the danube. the day was hot; kids were toddling around, their grandmas dragging along, pubs were packed with young people. a model summer day. i passed by the bridge which was second to be taken down - the late 'bridge of freedom'. funny, but nato had created almost an artistic installation by destoying it. actually, the bridge was not destroyed: it was broken, like a bar of 'kitkat'. the bombs have created two slopes, so now it seems as if the bridge naturally descends into the water. it looks as if there was one toboggan on the each river bank. funny, and morbidly artistic.
i passed by the divers' club, by numerous boats dipped in sand, and used a shortcut, leading between two fancy student dorms, to get back home sooner. it was hot, and i hoped for a shower. however, i hurried in vain, no shower was available yesterday.
some time after midnight, two bombs dipped into the bank of the danube, paving my yesterday's path.
Subject: may 27
oral examination in english literature was for me a unique opportunity to find out that geoffrey chaucer wrote his poems in latin, italian and french, or that 'coy mistress' means 'beautiful landlady'. students are doing their best, but so much of their energy is obviously wasted on finding ways to come to novi sad in the quickest and safest way. studying for exams, as any kind of mental work, becomes next to impossible. i almost started apologizing to a student who failed when i heard that she had travelled from a town in eastern serbia some two hundred killometers from novi sad. still, a student that recently came from pristina did excellently. which now sounds almost as breaking rules.
later on, i dialed a belgrade friend, and he started explaining how a piece of a missile fell very near a restaurant we once dined in. i remember well the day we had that dinner, the things we talked about, even the cab driver who drove us there and the kind of pizza i ordered, but i could not remember what the restaurant looked like. not a smallest clue i had! but i pretended i remembered the place, to cut the long story short.
such a beautiful, sunny summer day, and we do that bomb talk. wouldn't it be better to keep pretending that life is ordinary and normal? it seems that we prefer to include bombs in the vision of the normal life. we are now bombed by default anyway.
Subject: may 28
another deceivingly peaceful hot summerlike day, after a semi-peaceful cool night: blasts here, there, everywhere. nothing new on earth, nothing new in serbia: stockpiling goes on, power outage renewed, death toll going sky high, destruction spreads like a virus.
we held the diploma examination today. sounds more absurd than anything. the faculty was out of power the whole morning, but it didn't affect us. actually, it did affect me, because i had to wait for hours to get a sloterdijk's book from the library stocks. later i remembered i also needed nietzsche's 'the birth of tragedy', but the friendly and helpful librarian advised me to come on Monday to pick the book. ok, Monday then.
coming back home, i was overwhelmed with a strange feeling - in my hands, i carried a serbian translation of sloterdijk's link to review of s's Spheres study on nietzsche; on my feet, i had shoes bought in USA; i was wearing a pullover bought in portugal (a present from my friend joao) and pants bought in london; my neck was sprinkled with dior's 'dune', the perfume purchased at the amsterdam airport. it seemed that the only serbian thing about me was the translation!
thus perhaps i am a stranger in this city? hardly. because in my purse i had my passport, the utmost proof of my citizenship. if i had to fill a form asking about my citizenship, i'd put 'hopelessly yugoslav'. my outfit - as well as the books i read, the literatures i teach, the languages i speak - does not mean a thing. my passport beats all. it shows that i can wander off only in my thoughts. the only true words stamped on it would say 'destination nowhere'.
Subject: may 30
yesterday afternoon, i had a drink with M., a friend of mine, an actor. we went to a coffee shop called 'broz'. the name rings a very special bell, because 'broz' was the family name of late yugoslav president better known as tito. that was the guy who ruled the former yugoslavia since the end of the second world war until his death in 1980. he was half croat, half slovenian, but that is not quite sure, since there are no trusty biographical data about him - the date of his birth, as well as the place of his birth, is unknown, his life and whereabouts shrouded with mystery. it may well be that, like in the case of shakespeare's life, people feel the urge to spin fantastic stories just because so little is known.
anyway, that funny little seemingly pro-west communist leader remains an elusive symbol, now that a coffee shop is named after him. today, i am inclined to believe that tito was the first example of what jean baudrillard was to name 'simulacrum'. the guy really embodied 'the truth which conceals its being non-existent' - which is my paraphrase of the definition of simulacrum.
i met him when i was ten years old. i was ordered to wish him a cordial welcome into a small town where i used to live in the seventies, and hand him a bunch of flowers. i remember his wavy hair dyed auburn and the scent of a wonderful aftershave. otherwise, he reminded me of a wax figure. a small peck is enough to see if the person in front of you is real or not.
today, the man is dead, but the coffee shop takes up his name, as if it was a trademark. is it maybe postmodern? i found it quite tacky, because the owner of this place even had the red star, the symbol of communism, painted on jars and glasses.
there was the power outage, so i had my Nescafe cold, served in a tall glass with a small red star on it. heavens! if you survive communism, the door to the stone age opens...
still, the 'broz' place was not half as absurd as the fact that me, M. and dozens of people there had the most casual chat on all kinds of trivial things. the girls were made up, guys clean shaven. one of numerous paradoxes of living in yugoslavia.
today, at five pm, we had the third all-alert siren since this morning, followed with a cluster of blasts. the whole country has been carefully bombed around the clock. i am a bit uneasy about the coming night. postmodernism, postcommunism, and what's next? the big bang?
Subject: may 31
power outage again! i hate discussing this issue, but it comes back on the agenda regularly. this time, i'm afraid the nato's doing is irrepairable.
hello, stone age. hello, carts. hello, coal, wood and matches. back to robinson crusoe civilization. call me friday.
Subject: june 1
there are so many pieces of reality which are not covered by these notes of mine. no mention of 20 people killed in a nursery home in surdulica, of 11 killed in the downtown of novi pazar, or 11 dead on the bridge in varvarin (all in 24 hours); no mention of clusters of targets around serbia; no mention of refugee camps; no mention of foreign reporters attacked by nato and severely wounded; i even did not care to mention that my father yesterday could not do his therapy at the urology clinic because of the power outage; and i did not tell you how my best friend was shocked that his city was bombed for the first time in these 70 days. so many slices of life uncovered. you cannot paint the whole picture. not if you are introspective, if you are news deprived (for the last few days, due to the power outage, i cannot watch cable tv and mostly remain in the dark about new developments on cnn, sky, and the like), if you turn a half closed eye to reality. looking at the world through eyes half closed you see it all blurry. such is the women's mind. i have developed a small theory of male and female planet. male planet is a cubist one - its outlines are sharp and definite, as men see things more clearly; female planet is an impressionist one - the colours and shapes blend, becoming almost indistinctive, as women see things as if everything was wrapped in a haze.
a nice little stereotype?
who knows. for today, as i was heading on to a supermarket where i was hoping to join an oil line, i passed by a shop and saw a most wonderful and strange thing. a woman was trying on straw hats. she was quite plump, in her forties, very chubby and badly made up. her long hair was raven black, and she was wearing a long yellow dress. she was trying on straw hats with flowers on them, and she could not decide between two of those which seemed almost identical.
i stood there looking at her. i was enchanted by such a superb specimen from the impressionist planet. for her, the hat is important, and that is the way it should be. i went on, and reached the supermarket too late, the oil was sold out. but i bet she managed to decide on the hat.
Subject: june 2
My mother got a carton of oil from her panicky cousin, who was lucky enough to drop in the oil line just in time. The two of them set off to a nearby village to visit their parents. Soon after their departure, the sirens started screaming in novi sad. The planes began roaring as if they were only five feet off the ground. I was so fed up with the alert, second in few hours' time, that i decided to finish an article of mine i was proof reading, come what may. I squinted at the sound of two explosions which seemed as if within the reach of my hand - squinted, but did not move. My father, who was making coffee, behaved as if nothing happened. My brother was ten blocks away, playing football with his mates. Soon planes were gone and everything was quiet.
Everything but the panicky cousin, who heard that novi sad was in the state of chaos. Chaos was the word she used. Naturally, the panicky cousin told my mother right away about the novi sad chaos. 'OFF TO THE SHELTER!' my mother screamed into the earphone after i picked it up. 'novi sad is in chaos'. I tried to calm her down, and i succeeded. Still, she remained restless throughout the day. No wonder - words are too powerful sometimes.
in a situation like this, you have to resist the power of words no less than your fears. nato's aim is the constant suspension of tranquillity anyway. so let us not assist with big words and big fears.
Subject: june 3
so, they say the bombing is to be stopped on sunday. am i happy? i don't know. i feel weird. of course i wish this thing to stop, i have wished it all along, but i see that nato will go on with different strategies of humiliating, which cannot make me happy.
in any case, some inexplicable innocence of my mind is lost forever. if they mean business, the sunday's will be the last entry. i will close my diary then, hoping, really hoping, i will not have to turn back to splashing its pages with sadness, depression and the worst thing - fear.
an epilogue of sorts
the epilogue to the diary has been delayed for many reasons - my sudden inner revulsion, the extremely ambiguous course of events in the last week, the inexplicable fear that writing down an epilogue may bring bad luck to the peace process. but the greatest reason for my temporary laying the pen aside was a sort of melancholy that came over me. melancholy is said to be 'mourning without an object', so it seems to be the most appropriate feeling about the war without battles, the castigation without the guilt which is to be castigated, the victory that is claimed by both sides (if there were any sides in this 'conflict' at all). if this was a war, then it was a war without cause, without goal, without sense. this was the war without war. with this 'thing' done to yugoslavia (and even that is problematic - was it yugoslavia that suffered, or just 'serbs', as cnn would want us to believe?), we enter the new age of ontological confusion, to say the least. baudrillard will explain much better the fact that signs and notions lost their sense and essence, even their face value, if he would want to explain it at all. i bet he is confused, too.
so, why melancholy? because hamlet, the prince of denmark, is the only one who would know how to handle this peace. he would welcome the feelings of helplessness, inner confusion and utmost reluctance. the world is out of joint, and the good will of one good man is not enough to set it straight. maybe hamlet would be confused, too: the world's out of joint too much. besides, he is fictitious.
melancholy is also another name for excess. melancholy is just exageration. so i would rather cast off the cloak of melancholy and go on living sadder but wiser. apart from risk and uncertainty, so many things await for me - there is a hard winter to come, the lack of power and food to face with, the whole period of adjustment to the postwar world (which is going to be different, in all its corners), the rebuilding most of all. i have so many things to rebuild - my beliefs, my emotions, my inner peace, my values, my friendships, my love affairs, my wishes, my fears, my expectations and hopes.
still, i know one thing - no matter how cold the winter will be, i will not burn my books. the only way to make our world coherent lies in writing. so we should not miss the chance to find the reason to live. when world becomes empty of reasons, books are there to remind you of all these old-fashioned ideals and feeling some world creatures have cleanly forgot.
the diary closes. the life goes on.
Faculty of Literature, Novi Sad