Read. Think. Write.
On the days when summer rationed sunshine carefully between winds and rains, library provides a welcome shelter. Its world ordered into easily followed compartments according to genre, letters of alphabet, age of audience, size of font, or hearing abilities. All nicely stacked, labelled and displayed.
Tucked inside an obscure corner is the section labelled ‘foreign’. In this section order is somewhat different; everything is neatly classified according to the place of its origin. Only in relation to its origin foreign is named.
Silent figures hunched over intricate looking characters of various publications. Some look like lace pressed tightly inside the pages, elaborate curves, loops and vines. I peek over the shoulder of a tall black woman; she is reading an Arabic text. I imagine her walking barefoot on the banks of river Jubba, smiling.
Bespectacled man with short legs and stern look on his face has large newspaper open in front of him. They occupy most of the desk. He runs his finger (I note the bonniness of it) over the passages of vertically written characters. They look like rows of soldiers lined for the parade.
I move towards the section reserved for foreign movies. French and Italian dominate. I run my fingers over the cover of ‘Postino’, one of my favourites. There are few Czechs’ and some old Russians’. Sandwiched between them there is a tiny space with few of Emir Kusturica’s movies. The yellow label informs me those are ‘Serb-Croatian movies’.
I ripped the label off the shelf, took the movies out and carry them with me to an unoccupied chair by the window.
Voice inside my head would like to know why I ripped the label off the shelf. I tell it to shut up!
I stroke the hard covers of DVD’s and turn them around. Blurbs written in English explain few basic facts about Emir Kusturica; born in Sarajevo in 1954 to Murat Kusturica, a journalist and Senka Numakadic, a secretary. He was the only child of a secular family, growing up in Sarajevo. His father’s friendship with famous film director Hajrudin Krvavac, ensured that 17 year old Emir got his first small part in one of Krvavac’s partisan films. He later studied Film in Prague and directed TV movies in (then) Yugoslavia. His first feature film ‘Do You Remember Dolly Bell’ won the prestigious Silver Lion for Best First Work at that year Venice Film Festival. His second feature film ‘When Father Was Away on Business’ earned a Palme d’Or at Cannes, five of (then) Yugoslavia’s movie awards, and was nominated for an American Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
Scenes from Dolly Bell play in front me, and that cinema with broken chair we first watched it in. Remember I cried and was embarrassed for it. Time of the Gypsies was different. The whole street watched it. Daily.
There is a DVD of ‘Underground’. Made in 1995, earned Emir his second Palme d’Or at Cannes, highly controversial. I have not seen it. I do not wish to. So I only remember Dolly Bell. And that cinema with the broken chair.
The voice returns. It sneers at me, waiting. For an explanation. It was an act of vandalism it tells me. This is a public library of a civilized western country where material is properly classified and labelled. With the places of origins clearly identifiable.
Anger is slowly uncoiling itself from the depth of my insides. Just shut the fuck up!
I see … you are all the same. Hearts of fire. No wonder civilized western world uses you as an easy reference whenever exotic, passionate and slightly savage images are called for; in easy novels where plots are set against mysterious landscapes of the country that once was. Second rate movies where ragged looking characters are either killing each other’s all the time, or making love, or both. Smoking, drinking and singing in between.
Music is good, always good, Goran Bregovic has seen to that. Another one of old YU boys. Born in 1950, in Sarajevo to a Croatian father, (an officer in the old Yugoslavian army), and a Serbian mother. Making music since he was 16; in Kodeksi, Bjelo Dugme, (White Button), then movies … The Time of the Gypsies was his first movie.
Exporting uniqueness to the world nowadays. All carefully packaged inside our old Gypsy’s songs. Calls his band; ‘Weddings and Funerals Orchestra.’ Exactly.
Still the best. I know you sometimes listen secretly until dawn. And cry.
Remember when we found Goran’s name in the novel of that guy you seem to like very much nowadays … what was the name? Ah, Aleph that was it. When travelling on trans-Siberian railway … nice touch; little bit of Balkan alongside Siberia; it does not come much more exotic than that. It keeps the audience entertained. Only Goran’s name was misspelled. You got disappointed when you saw that, didn’t you. Like you always do when they got it wrong, and they mostly do. But you expected better from him didn’t you. One of your favourites. That is your problem; you always want them perfect. Heroes to admire. This is why they always fall. Only dead remain. They can do no wrong.
But I digress … you still have not answered my questions. Why did you rip the label off that shelf? What would you have written on it? Where those movies come from? What is their place of origin?
I rise from the chair, walk to the toilet and spit the bile into the bowl. The cubical is empty. My hands tremble under the facet. I splash some water over my face and return to my chair. It is all in my head. I can shut it up. I must shut it up.