We need a “culture of remembrance”, not a “culture of cleansing everything that is foreign”. A culture of remembrance also means reconciling with the past. It is through reconciliation that one can revive and make a worthy post-Yugoslav cultural space.
In the already cult book “Culture of Lie”, the Croatian writer Dubravka Ugresic in the essay “Everything was music” talks about how the former Yugoslav nations clean their cultural spaces from what is supposed to be foreign and arrange their small cultural households. But, in these thirty years since that common state no longer exists, have the nationalists managed to completely “confiscate the memory” (D. Ugresic’s term)? – No! The culture of remembrance is a lived experience of one generation and no one can “confiscate” it at the expense of establishing another. There is something called generational memory, that is, we share the same views, values, beliefs with our generation. The Yugoslav cultural space is part of the identity of all those generations who grew up and lived in that cultural space.
In the last two months, two sad occasions have united the Yugo-people again. They were not united by the economy that we always refer to as the strongest trump card when Yugoslavia is mentioned; even Tito himself could not unite them, but then, culture did. Culture is a space in which the personal identity is formed, as well as the collective one, i.e. the identity of the nation. Culture is an important part of identity, especially for small countries and nations. It is culture that connects nations, not politics. The deaths of Mira Furlan and Gjorge Balasevic revived those once common cultural spaces. Both Furlan and Balasevic (and Ugresic herself, whom I referred to at the beginning, and not by chance), were Yugoslavia. They were the ones who created that cultural space on which the identity of a nation that no longer exists was built. That is why their departure affected an entire generation that grew up and lived with their films and music. A generation whose memories are built on that culture. The culture of remembrance is not only national, it is also generational. With the departure of the people who were part of that cultural identity, it is as if we are losing our own identity.
The future of the post-Yugoslav space, or the “region”, as it is called today, is precisely in the merging of culture. I am not talking about the trash culture of reality shows and “Zvezde Granda”, but the one we inherited from the generations of Balasevic and Furlan. That is why we need a “culture of remembrance”, not a “culture of cleansing everything that is foreign”. A culture of remembrance also means reconciling with the past. It is through reconciliation that one can revive and make a worthy post-Yugoslav cultural space.
I will end as I started, with a paraphrased quote from the movie “Stefica Cvek in the Jaws of Life” based on the novel of the same name by Dubravka Ugresic, starring Mira Furlan: “Cultural memory is not soap that could be spent.”
Petar Andonovski is a Macedonian writer. He is the author of four novels. He is the winner of the European Prize for Literature.