Lirikonfestovo književno omizje 2019: 21 REFLEKSIJ O DISTANCI IN MELANHOLIJI V XXI. ST. (18/21)


Arian Leka
You don’t need a Weather Man, to know which way the wind blows

            This line in the Bob Dylan’s song may have triggered the writing of this note. I see it as relating to the start of mass manipulation of public opinion. Dylan’s song, released in 1965, lead me on a Google search adventure searching for a catalogue of maps from WWI, including an allegorical map that showed eastern Europe in 1917. What drew my attention to this map was the image of a steam roller driven by a huge, white Russian bear. It was drawn in front of the European continent and the bear appeared pretty focused on his job. It’s not the first time we see our enemies as animals. The same old way – since Aesop time – to dehumanize and ridicule our archenemies. But in the same drawing, a French cock was tearing off the ugly mug of the brown bear (symbolizing Germany), a Spanish toreador was fighting against a bull behind the backs of the Portuguese, and an Englishman dressed in a sailor suit was punching the head of the brown bear. Somewhere to the side, a Danish guy watches everything through his monocle, a Dutchman makes faces while smoking his pipe, and a Belgian guy is seen with a napkin around his neck, as if he just left a restaurant or his barbershop. All three of them are wearing military uniforms and seem to be mobilized in contrast to the Swiss guy, who is sitting down, as if he was at a hunting ground. This was supposed to be Europe in 1917: a zoo park in war and panic. And there was only one victim – a mangy, tied-up Austro-Hungarian dog, to whom Serbia had put a bayonet to its ribs, while the Italian hits his head with a gunstock, crushing his nose. Finally, the illustration depicts an excited Romanian cutting the dog’s tail with scissors. The name of this Italian-drawn map is Carta Geografica Figurata del’ Europa and one wonders how it could be a serious depiction if the Balkan people were not represented. The Montenegrin is represented by an ant. The Bulgarian is drawn with a nose as big as Italy’s boot’s heel. The Greek is shown with his wide-open fustanella and his opinga with his back turned to the reader. A Turk remains, with a red fez and a deplorable portrait. Appearing somewhat enigmatic in this illustration, there is also an Albanian wearing a hat that belongs to the medieval or early Renaissance period, which can hardly be understood - is he slowly moving somewhere? This is all the map tells us, but we have seen worse. What? This is like asking me to address (after many years) whether we have anything else to tell in addition to all the hate and hostility. Maps are always coupled with neighbors. And I could not have remembered the question of my poet friend, if she wouldn’t continue, as we were bidding farewell. “I do not feel like a Serbian,” she said. “I totally feel Yugoslavian. Do you understand? Despite the fact that Yugoslavia is no longer on any map, I remain Yugoslavian,” she continued. Looking into my eyes, she added, “I feel something strange, my friend! Something like nostalgia is a light melancholy. For what? Do you know which is the nicest word in Yugoslavian? No? Listen to how its sounds! Du-šš-oo! This is the most meaningful word of our language, yet Yugoslavian is no longer being taught in schools. This word keeps us united regardless of whether we are together or not. It is used by all  nations that emerged from the dismantling of the Federation. Do you understand the importance of this word, prijatelju moj ? Not yet? Hmm! Have a nice flight tomorrow, Dušo! Maybe you also have the word Dušo in Albanian? No? How can one live without Dušo, my Albanian friend?” These were the last words I heard from a poet I met when we were both invited to speak at the same festival. The expression on my friend’s face mirrored the pain of a small, unhappy map that did not match its territory. The Balkans within the old Europe’s map as well. Will there be changes again on their borders? Will their territories be exchanged, as they do with warriors taken hostages? Will they coldly swap them, as the collectors do with their postage stamps? The Old Major Willingdon Beauty of George Orwell’s Animal Farm is back again, the philosopher of change, who reminds us of his wise advice: Whatever has two legs is our enemy. Whatever has four legs, has horns, tails or wings, is our friend. Let’s repeat it all together as a church like choir, as a crowd in the stadium, as militants in the squares of political rallies: All men are our enemies! All animals are our friends! What form does your nostalgia have? What color do you wear your language and cultural melancholy? Are you a melancholic for your language, your culture and the boundaries? What do you miss: the enmity?

* * *

The Clandestines and Emigrants hidden in Languages

            The sworn enemies of a nation are not sheltered in politics, nor economics. One day, we can realize that they are hidden in the mother tongue harbouring more enemies than anything else. Do you know this? Many foreigners, immigrants and clandestines are hidden in my native language. My mother tongue is like a Trojan horse: it hosts foreign soldiers inside. But, in fact, they are foreign words – borrowed – by our culture, which was wiped by puritan cleansing. Yes, indeed, languages can take and give among them, but cannot fall in love. Love among languages is forbidden. It is banned like wars during the holy months. Maybe Darwin was right when he compared the imperfect pedigree of mankind with the nonpersuasive situation of languages.
           What we miss, we can borrow, especially when it is about words. Sometimes, we hijack them. We use them, but we never consider them “ours”. We add some tails (suffix) and horns (prefix) to those barbaric words, only to make them look like a devil. We persecute them by throwing them into a special vocabulary, as if we put them in a concentration camp, keeping them way of “our pure-chaste-immaculate language”. I was thinking this as soon as I returned to my hotel room. I searched Google for any mystical or hidden meaning of the Word Dušo which, according to my friend, kept together the nations of Yugoslavia separated by the war.
           For us, the Albanians, Yugoslavia is more than a simple memory. The country had disappeared from our friendship map in 1948 when that government tried to devour Albania through currency unification, the customs union, free movement within the common territory, and the merging of our armies. What the heck? I had been totally brainwashed! How on earth did I not realize in time that the Yugoslav project was a predecessor of the European Union project? Hmmm … our noble Europeans who keep the Balkans the way of the union because they don’t respect author’s rights! Apparently, they have stolen the principles of common currency, fundamental rights, and free movement from the Yugoslavs. Those who remember the time of the five-pointed red star and the common slogans Smrt fašizmu - Sloboda narodu / Death to fascism, freedom to the people, are also disappearing along with Yugoslavia.  The memories of July 1946 were fading, when comrade Enver Hoxha, returning from his first visit to Belgrade, instructed his trusty Koçi Xoxe to take measures to organize an impressive manifestation on the main square of Tirana. The people would have to look excited by this historic meeting, shaking the flags of Yugoslavia and Albania, raising billboards with the slogans dedicated to “the agreement between the Albanian people and the peoples of Yugoslavia” and “the brotherhood of the Albanian national army and the Yugoslav heroic army.” Microphones and megaphones would emanate the calls for "Enver -Tito” (not Tito - Enver!). everywhere. Since then, of course, Albania separated from Tito. Everything Yugoslavian and from Yugoslavia, entered Albania in a clandestine way. The essence of cynicism is explained somehow by a cartoon titled “Tito’s favorite drink,” which the German journalist Harry Hamm photographed in 1961 in Shkodra. Even today, the slogan can be clearly understood. We can see Tito's revisionist clan filling up with the liquid dollars of American imperialism. All is left behind. I was just playing with the keyboard and Google, where I wrote three letters of the word: Duš ... In the meantime, Google offered the first option: Do you mean Dušan? Stefan Dušan the Mighty? I was searching for the meaning of a single word: Dušo. That’s it! I entered it again as Duš when Google suggested a second version: Do you mean Dušman? I read its definition on the screen: Düşmen - derived from Ottoman Turkish - Dushmán! My memory suddenly exploded as if it was the head of a warlike drum.  But the Word dušman was not isolated in a single language and culture in the Balkans. That word resisted the zeal of the communists who graciously believed that after the collapse of the Bolshevik and Maoist empires, only Albania would enjoy the privilege of being a stand-alone fort of communism. It also survived the dedication of the puritans who insisted on chasing any trace or presence of foreign words from the divine and pure Albanian language. The communists did not win. Neither did the puritans. The Balkan languages ​​and the Balkans won. I remember an adventure well, which, I think, would make even Don Quixote jealous. Well, the story is about two scholar-linguists from a former communist country. These brainwashed linguists started to clean their language of “foreign words”. Let’s clean it! Especially from Orientalism, and Ottomanism as well, particularly let’s clean it of the words of those who have conquered our Motherland. And in this way initiated the greatest cleansing in world history. Their language had to give back all the words it borrowed from other languages over the time. The scholars invited everyone to this cleaning action: proletarians, intellectuals, farmers, shepherds, pioneers, young people as well as elders. Everyone had to give a contribution, except for sailors and the ex-bourgeoisie, since it was suspected they have imported foreign words or kept them alive through their nostalgia for a world left behind. Their ardent desire for a pure linguistic race and a pure nation of users, made them lose their mother tongue, along with the words which had survived several cultural floods. It is believed that they remained without their language and after a while this nation became dumb. It is believed this is probably a work of fiction, written by an anonymous author to teach people more about love and hate. But it is also believed that meanwhile, a Balkan author is writing this story. A minority of foreign words still live happily in the Balkan collective body, which migrated as nomads within each linguistic territory from the earliest times of communication among cultures, when the perception, the feeling, and the need were together; a condition that Julia Kristeva defines with a single word: khôra. The migratory words had penetrated within the body of these languages, which sheltered the Slavic, Serb and Bulgarian clandestines, as well as Greeks and Latins. It sheltered Illyrians, Arbërs and Albanians, as it had sheltered Persians, Arabs, Turks, Venetians and Italians before. But the word dušman was a persistent one. Not only did it not disappear, but it preserved the same meaning for Albanians as well as Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Croats, Bosniaks, and all who came and went as nomads within this territory. Although more than a century had passed since the independence of the Balkans from Turkey, the word dushman continued to keep the Balkans together more or less like a thread holds together the rosary. My Serbian friend had asked whether we have a Dušo hidden in Albanian, too? What a pity! A ringtone echoed in my ear. I searched on YouTube for a long time until I finally heard the voice of a Shkodra man singing: Luckily Dush-o we are neighbors / When I get bored, I come and stay with you. Two ends of a rope on the neighborhood’s abyss: Dušo - Soul; Dušman - Enemy. Do the Balkans as candidates for the European Union have to understand that the invisible side of the slogan “United in Diversity” means that they should be united not only in European values but also in their age-long hostility, as it was understood, though it is not really true? But Mappa Mundi – the diapers of the worlds, which never failed us, when it came to saving the hostility, will help us again! With a map, we can cover our body. We can even dress up with a map to cover our nudity. Are you sure that the Balkans have a personal body? Yes, they do, but they do not care much about it, as they are the kings of two bodies - to paraphrase Ernst Kantorowicz. But this does not mean that the physical body of the Balkans is underestimated. Not at all! This is due to the fact that in the Balkans, the political body is more appreciated than the physical one. On the contrary to the political map, the political body should remain intact, as if it is the protector of the myths of the state and the multiplier of the political theology, as described by Giorgio Agamben in his Homo Sacer, in which the system exerts control over the collective “naked life” of all individuals.

Arian Leka (Albanija) – književni gost 18. mednarodnega Lirikonfesta Velenje (2019)