Preparing for my first trip to the Balkans in 1992 as the siege of Sarajevo was beginning, I consumed what little Yugoslav and Balkan literature was available at the time. It gave me a decided advantage over journalists. At the end of the war I was able to immerse myself more fully in in literature from the former-Yugoslavia. One of those was perhaps the most overlooked. under appreciated and misunderstood writers, at least outside of what once constituted Yugoslavia; the late Mesa Selimovich (Pronounced: Mesha Selimovich).
This piece isn’t really about Selimovich (26 April 1910 – 11 July 1982), who wrote seminal and iconic world like Dervish and Death, and The Fortress. Although you can now stun and impress Balkan friends by knowing his name. it is a lesson to all true writers who aspire in transcending to literature, just as the would-be artist aspires to become a master painter like Picasso, Titian or whomever. But here is the key, it is impossible to properly be on the side of Kings and despots, presidents, dictators and oligarchs, because theirs eschews all that the writer must stand for-justice and ultimate freedom of expression, which are antithetical to power. To do so is to engage in the censorship of systems and society. Be outside all of those.
The writer, whether overt and consciously, or intuitively and purposefully, is by definition subversive. Anything less is a betrayal or worse, a capitulation. Dervish and Death was, in part a postscript regarding his brother’s execution while they were both partisans during the Second World War. The Fortress, while set during the Ottoman Occupation, was an indictment of life during the post-war Communist period. each writer must find their own period and speak real and eternal human truths. It is far less about being partisan; liking this administration, hating that one. The test and filter must me how it exalts that which binds every soul regardless of race, national origin, religion and politics, though those are certainty ample stagecraft and kindling for the pyre of light and passion and love upon which your story is crafted.
This, by the way, is what I think of while walking the dog, and as an outsider, I am always happy for his feedback…