Četvrtak, 23 svibnja, 2024

Sidran: One day, people will believe that Tito was a Martian sent by a higher civilization to civilize the savages.

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14.01.2012., Zagreb – Abdulah Sidran, Bosnian-Herzegovinian poet, prose writer, and screenwriter, appeared at the Ljevak Bookstore where he promoted his new book “Redemption of Raw Hide”. Photo: Marko Prpic/PIXSELL

One who, by their human nature, speaks only the truth, has not mastered the craft of lying and was not born as a liar, usually suffers. A million times I cursed myself for speaking the truth. Such a person is incompatible and cannot live comfortably. I probably could have made a different choice, but I didn’t know, and I consciously didn’t want to. I am where I am and I don’t complain. That kind of feeling, that I am leaving this world with clean hands, is more precious to me. And it’s more precious to me than if I had left behind a suitcase full of money. I’m good, I boast about myself wherever I can.


During the 1980s, Sarajevo saw the arrival of cult films: “Do You Remember Dolly Bell?”, “When Father Was Away on Business”, “Kuduz”, and all three films were scripted by Abdulah Sidran.

These films are always the first association with Sidran – an academic, poet, screenwriter, prose writer, and also a master chess candidate.

I didn’t ask him about chess because we kept coming back to Yugoslavia, its dissolution, and it was logical since the interview was conducted before the “Krokodil” festival held beneath the Museum of Yugoslav History.

This June, you performed at the “Krokodil” festival in Belgrade, recently you were a guest at Kolarac, as well as on Radio Belgrade. Did you ever think in the nineties that you would never come back to Belgrade, let alone read your poems live?

Look, when we say Sarajevo, Belgrade, Zagreb … we must know that there is not one Belgrade, because Belgrade has at least five or six, just as there is no one Sarajevo or Zagreb. And I can nod when you criticize Sarajevo, but I know it’s Sarajevo number 6. It was logical to assume that we would wait a long, long time to meet and socialize again. However, what worked as non-political Yugoslavia, as the cultural spirit of Yugoslav literature, survived and, whether you want it or not, every normal person must know that we are within one language. And everyone has the right to give it different names, and normal people don’t see anything unnatural in that, and among normal people as well as people of science, there could never be a dispute on that topic. But when disputes arise in that topic and nails start scratching the faces of others, know that we are no longer in science or language but in the dirtiest kind of politics. In that sense, what were friendly relations did not stop functioning, even when we have some ideological disagreements, we kick them into the corner, evade them, so as not to destroy those 50 years of friendship. I feel very well received in Belgrade, sometimes better than in Sarajevo – because it’s no joke to fill the Kolarac Hall.

In the past, we felt cramped in national literature. Sometimes we felt cramped even in Yugoslav. So if our friend Danilo Kiš had lived another five or six years, he would have been a Nobel laureate. And it’s not fair to say that he is just a Serbian, Montenegrin, Hungarian writer. We fought over where Kiš would stay when he came to Sarajevo. And Kiš, just like what we call the Yugoslav cultural space, survived in all South Slavic cultures despite all efforts to prevent it.

What will Yugoslavia mean to new generations born in the post-Yugoslav region and what could Yugoslavia mean to anyone in the future?

It’s hard to say because it’s a geopolitical question. We should know what will happen with the global power relations. Whether the bipolar division of the world, as it used to be, is being restored, where the balance of fear maintained peace. Today we don’t have a bipolar division, we have a huge Western force belonging to the white civilization, but if you cross the border of Asia, you will see that all your knowledge becomes redundant and useless. No one will be able to deny the fact that the great idea of Yugoslavia – as a community of kindred peoples, was created by journalist John Barnes, who later won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting from Bosnia. I was right. What was never even in its infancy was produced to give the appearance of ethnonational conflicts. – And now I return to your question about Balkan capitalism. In that fog of war that is created, invisible jobs are done where the whole city of Kraljevo, Kragujevac, Bihać … beyond our eyes, becomes someone’s private property. That filthy business of privatization, literally the theft of what your father and grandfather produced, could not be done without creating that fog, commotion, that madness in which ideas of national and religious identities became instruments through which one could easily turn a person into a fool and cannon fodder.

I always ask intellectuals from Bosnia: how is it that all leading intellectuals and the biggest media stars of Bosnia supported the reformists of Ante Marković and the election results showed the opposite? Did you really believe that nationalism could be defeated and that there were indeed more Pink Floyd fans than those who were for war in Bosnia?

Of course, I believed it. Surveys showed that Ante Marković’s reformists were triumphantly winning. One evening, Radovan Karadžić, who was our colleague writer, came panicking to the Writers’ Association to ask us: “Who ordered that survey?” He was in a panic. Some unpleasant situations arose, so I intervened, as the president of the Writers’ Association, to end the discussion peacefully. There are people who still believe that those elections were not regular. They believe that the League of Communists, which was renamed the Social Democratic Party before the agreed wars, handed over power on a platter. To me, the President of the Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the late Zlatan Karavdić, when I saw him talking to the president of a local SDA organization, which seemed strange to me, openly said: “I have only one task – to ensure that the transfer of power goes smoothly.” Anyone who remembers those times will find many elements that show that the then government did not seriously fight to keep that power. Ante Marković was overthrown by an agreement between Milošević and Tuđman, so it is clear that the decision to dissolve Yugoslavia was made in the 1980s, shortly after Tito’s death. The mood of the people could have been as the poll showed, but it is known that elections are not won by voters but by counters. We are left with sorrow because it is completely certain that a transition could have been made in an honest way. There were models known by which it is done, but the prevailing option in our case was one that easily fit into it, and perhaps was part of it, and that is the need to revise what the truths about the Second World War are. That revision of history is also part of the projects. Plunder is the primary goal, and along with it goes historical revision. Western countries do not allow this kind of historical revisionism in their environments. Why did they allow it here is a very complicated question.

Could you have suspected in peacetime that Radovan Karadžić was not a Pink Floyd fan?

He played the gusle. He was proud that he knew how to play the gusle. He didn’t have much of a natural ear. But gusle don’t require great hearing.

Pink Floyd is already more complex?

Abdulah Sidran: Pink Floyd is a phenomenon. Studies should be written about them. I considered them the Beethoven of the 20th century. It was the peak of an era, and I thought it couldn’t go further.

Where would “When Father Was Away on Business” be today? Where would be today’s “Goli Otok” for a Balkan person in transition?

The inhabitants of the new Goli Otok would have to be those who ideologically designed the hell in which we now live. And that hell did not arise spontaneously. You must know that 10 to 15 years before the war, books were published in millions of copies claiming that this or that nation in Yugoslavia was harmed, that this state was a “prison of nations,” and so on. For me and my generation, the idea of brotherhood and unity was not a lie. We felt it intensely and lived in accordance with it, without any need to think about it. Ideas are miraculous. Imagine 45 years ago a world proletarian movement managed to defeat fascist formations, create a state, and everyone had to believe that the idea of fascism was dead.

But, after 45 years, that idea of fascism, which we thought was dead, lives like an awakened dragon, stronger than ever. It couldn’t have been spontaneous; it had to be very carefully produced. And it was produced in the cabinets of nationalist, chauvinistic so-called intellectuals who convinced politicians of the correctness of their ideas. Then it goes to the media and then to action. So, there are the inhabitants of the fictitious prison for criminals who ruined us and took our lives. And it will never be too late to restore an institution like the Russell Tribunal, to which Vladimir Dedijer belonged. A tribunal of European intellectuals that does not arrest and detain but conducts procedures to establish scientific and historical truth and pronounces someone guilty. There are no arrests, but there is a process of moral and political condemnation. People in Bosnia get angry with me when I say that I always feel uncomfortable and terrible when I see our leaders hugging and talking about the need to reconcile peoples. I argue that these peoples never quarreled. It wasn’t a childish fight in kindergarten where we need to reconcile Filip and Muharem. The peoples were indoctrinated cannon fodder. There were those who attacked and those who defended. No one from Bosnia attacked any city or village in Serbia! We must talk about changing state policies, not about reconciling peoples. Why is blame shifted onto the shoulders of the mindless mass called the people? Have you ever read news that fans of Beethoven fought against fans of Mozart in front of the National Theater? No, but you have when it comes to fans of football clubs.

They are all one people. Therefore, one must be very careful in using that term. We must not abuse it; it is an obvious manipulation. Look, they are kissing, the peoples are longing for each other. You poison the people and lead them astray. Surely, the inhabitant of the new fictional Goli Otok is also the journalist who brought a child’s skull to the TV Newsroom, knowing that it is not what he claimed it to be. They are the ones who produced hatred and drove the peoples to madness.

How does the world look to you?

Orwell wrote the book “1984” in 1948 and just permuted the numbers. Remember how we were horrified reading that fiction, imagining the dehumanized world that would come in three decades and something. Today, half the planet would sign up to have such a world compared to the one we have today. All our social formations that arose after the agreed destruction of Yugoslavia have more characteristics of a slave system than some others. Here, perhaps because of our servile tendencies, there are terribly many elements of slavery. At the same time, for a century, Americans and European intellectuals have been making a terrible mistake by concluding every conversation about freedom with a speech about freedom of the press. Freedom of the press would be somewhere in 37th place among basic human freedoms.

What are you accused of?

One side accuses me of being Alija’s puppet, yet at the same time, this SDA option puts me into retirement with 250 marks, into a housing loan of 155,000 marks. I paid it off, and I curse it. They accused me of being a Yugoslav nostalgist, a communist, but I am actually a victim of all regimes, and that is my flag. Someone who by his human nature speaks only the truth, has not mastered the craft of lying, and was not born a liar, mostly suffers. Countless times I cursed myself because I spoke the truth. Such a person is incompatible and cannot live comfortably. I probably could have made a different choice, but I didn’t know, and I didn’t consciously want to. I am where I am, and I don’t regret it. This kind of feeling, that I leave this world with clean hands, is more precious to me. And it’s more precious to me than if I had left behind a suitcase full of money. I’m good, I praise myself wherever I go.

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