Bilingual poetry reading Ivy writers

discussion et lectures bilingues (en français et en anglais) avec les auteurs :

Lucie Taïeb
Kristin Sanders &
Nina Zivancevic

Le 03 avril 2018 à 19h30
34 bvd bonne nouvelle 75010 Paris
M°ligne 8 Bonne Nouvelle







For my dead lost and forlorn friends

You inhabit
That special hidden nook in my heart
From that unseen and never heard of space– you never depart
I placed you on the top of Pantheon
Where you’ve always dwelled from the beginingless time
Ahoy! Justly or unjustly so
You’ve been my eyes to see the world
My ears who had heard the nicest music of them all
You’ve been my mouth and my voice who spoke poetry all the time…
And to say that I ve always loved you so
Is just another way to say: without you, I’m completely fucked…
And the life goes on, and these words.

I’ve been kinda repeating them every couple of years or so
And Ira and Beba and Maya and Elio and Gera and Philippe and Radovan and Zoran and Luka
And now you- please. sail gently into that light,

you’ll join the best

and the rest will like you



Memory of Recent AVANGARDA, Does it Spell ‘Resistance’?

Memory of Recent AVANGARDA, Does it Spell ‘Resistance’?
It is interesting to notice that wherever I lived, I have always felt as a refugee: an artist in an inner, as much as an outer exile. True, no one has ever forced me to leave my homeland, former Yugoslavia as I had left it out of my own free will that distant 1980. I was neither Nabokov, nor Joseph Brodsky or Soljenitsyn. However, the merciless hand of High Capitalism has also ruled my country, our schools and our artists and intellectuals and all of us have felt its rude consequences even under the reign of Tito. As I’m walking among the sleepy bodies of the Syrian refugees in a Belgrade’s bus station park, trying to address all my human and performative efforts towards the Other, my whole life appears suddenly on a stretcher in front of my eyes, and here comes a question: have I ever left this place where my grandmother founded the Serbian branch of the Red Cross, and where my grandfather was hiding the Bakuninists under his roof, on their way from Russia to the United States? Here, questions such as “Is art still possible?” and “what is its current, ‘disappearing’ form?”, have never occurred to me, nor the questions about the true meaning of resistance or its absence or presence in everyone’s life. The answers to these questions would impose themselves on me quite naturally. Let me dig into some fitting examples of the artistic practices that will help to illustrate my quandary.
In a specific procedure of combining the modeled and “already-made” elements pertinent to his work, a sculptor, Zoran Joksimović combines a porcelain leg, a bath-tub and machine oil to form a sculpture (I Remember) which uses abjectness as a self-reflective act of a traumatic memory exploring its effects in a material and metaphorical image of a fragmented body. (Sretenović, The Journey Through the Pictures and the Phantasms of the 1990s) Was it Hal Foster who, discussing the “abject art” was also discussing the “vulnerability of our borders, the fragility of the spatial distinction between our exterior and the interior, bringing the concept of self into a crisis through the cut of the dismantled body whose chopped off member now independently follows its own ‘game of chess,’ towards its own path of disappearance instead of the subject. However, may we conclude that such a traumatic cut is productive because it evacuates and raises the subject, showing us that the totality is an illusion which does not hold in practice or that confirms its existence only in multiplicity, in a dynamic interaction of the whole and its segments?
I hesitate to say that the whole He-story of the so-called recent Eastern European art could be interpreted as an extended metaphor for the question which we have raised above here, however, some of its most illustrious representatives, the most resilient and the bravest ones, certainly attest to its existence, to the acts of humanity and inhumanity to which this art has responded at the very end of the 20th and the very beginning of this 21st century.
Let me take a look at a certain She-story: Before the Matthew Akers film with Marina Abramović entitled The Artist is Present (2013) there was Balkan Baroque (1999), a film by Pierre Coulibeuf where Marina, as the artist, was not present. As if her body remained in her filmed performance Biography, but her mind was certainly elsewhere, recovering from the political events in her homeland which happened during the 1990s. In the latter film, at a certain point she is laying in her white bed, her head covered with the snow of memories as she is asking a panicky question “And Neša? What is happening with Neša?”2 This profound worry for a fellow-artist, friend, cousin and the big Other, who stayed in the ‘Inner Exile’ reflected the traumatic cut which remained an unhealed wound in the body of the artists who left Tito’s Yugoslavia during the 1980s. Soon after, many of us were forced into the political exile during the Milošević’s “Serbian reign of terror” which stretched during the 1990s when the only sane artistic activities could be brought under the common denominators of political, subversive art and resistance. Many of the artists, writers, performers, film-makers, musicians and composers had transferred their bodies to the new, welcoming countries but their “head,” that is their spirit remained in their homeland, among the bombshells and under the acid rains formed by the broken uranium bombs.
I left Serbia in the beginning of the 1980s but I left my family, thus a part of my body, in Serbia where my nephew, Dragan Živančević, became a co-founder (with Nikola Džafo) of the most virulent resistance art group, LEDArt who performed numerous radical social actions, events and performances against Milošević’s regime in the1990s.3
In my “Outer Exile,” I was accompanied by a good crowd of fellow-artists who shared my daily dread in the very heart of neoliberalism. As a performance and poetry editor to the legendary East Village Eye (1982-1985) I encountered numerous examples of artistic courage and resistance to the last stages of High Capitalism in its revolting agony. The gallery space had become too small to house the expression of these deeply cutting historic times which made artists turn to the theatrical, thus showing their yearning for the brutal and the real that had paved the ‘street’ which accordingly became a new installational space for the artistic happening, event and action.
Dragan Ilić, Vesna Golubović and their Fashion Moda graffiti people were turning the city into their technological playground; Vesna Victoria, Zoran Grebenarović, myself, we were giving our post-punk performances “out on a limb,” and the flower of the Yugoslav music scene—Drak, the frontman of the Glass Bead Game and Ljuba Djukić of the Electric Orgasm, together with Firči and Beške (of Dirty Green) were giving improvised concerts at the CBGB’s and in various Brooklyn ‘dives’. The private and spiritual (as in Vlasta Volcano’s appropriations of Byzantine icons) had landed on leather jackets and became public property. Much later, in 1991, Volcano abandoned his Suprematist’s yearnings and produced “Shadows” a huge installational sculpture or the most moving testimony to the absence of the Other, exemplified in burnt truck tyres hanging from a ceiling and which evoked dead bodies in absentia, thus making all of us artists metaphorically speaking disappear in a common grave ( Živančević 1994).4
We were all mapped out as the “Aliens,” alien citizens in New York, by a LED ART photographer, Vladimir Radojčić who took photos of 72 artists in exile, all of us with naked torsos whereas the corresponding bodies, naked from the waist to toe, were supplied in Serbia, represented by those artists who remained in the country. We all formed one body, buried in some inner or outer jail. All these actions were executed much earlier before Marina Abramović came to town, and earlier than she showed her installational work and a performance «Cleaning of the House», presented at the Venice Biennale in 1997, in Germano Celan’s pavilion as she had no right to clean the ox’s bones evoking corpses as a former Serbian artist living in Netherlands, and later in New York, therefore a displaced person sharing an artistic non lieu with the rest of us (Živančević, 2010).5
The artist with whom I shared most of the local artistic and social awareness in those heavy times is Victoria Vesna whose art has always inspired a certain melancholy of thinking as its special quality brings us back to ourselves, to the innermost house in us, the dwelling of poetry. She grew up in New York City where she attended different art schools and where she, somewhat like Abramović, has become what we call a multidisciplinary artist. One of her performances that I saw last in New York in the late 1980s was her commentary on Freud, entitled “Sometimes the cigar—is simply just a cigar.” It was an anti-racist, pro-Cuban performance. Victoria has always known how to enter the core of a certain problem by placing it into a certain ethical-political frame. The musician who left the biggest impact on her was a punk artist Alan Vega from “the Suicide” who was pushing to the extreme his idiosyncratic, political and anarchist messages on his synthesizer. Back in New York in 1985, Victoria started doing very radical performances; angry at the general devaluation and commercialisation of art and artists in the East Village, she did a performance which condemned such politics. As the gallery “12 x 12 inches” was charging the artists who would exhibit their work there with 20 dollars per hour, she entitled her performance “12×12 inches = 20 dollars.”
For Victoria Vesna the awareness of space has always been a crucial element in her art as she sees it as a natural outcome of her work. She has always worked simultaneously on paintings and sculpture, but she has continuously been concerned about the showing space that was not just decorum but the matrix of a given project. In her own, natural way she has arrived at “the ambient performance” which she considers a certain category that she developed during the late 1980s. This specific theatrical and visual performance genre has helped her work go beyond the traditional scholarly and academic concepts which tend to burden art in general. Since the 1990s on, Victoria has been exploring a new artistic genre, an interdisciplinary section that borders on science and science fiction that is called “Nanology.” This artwork implies the creation of the multidimensional world, both imaginary and imaginative in the domain of nano technology. In the world of “nano” poetics, the art, science and technology meet in a virtual space and offer us a relational experiment that allows the public to participate and create their own reality out of the exhibited elements. And, although such an experiment is to be encountered in a physical space, the interaction between a spectator and the object changes the place in an imaginative way that invites everyone to create his own ‘Imaginary Museum.’ In her project “Bodies@Incorporated,” Vesna evokes the ethical role of a spectator/participant who ceases to be a simple viewer of an artistic and existentialist process but rather an active agent of change. Her works such as “Blue Morph” and “Water Bowls” represent a sort of existential outcry against the damage and destruction that our planet undergoes as Vesna tries to raise the desperate question, “where do we come from?” followed by the other inevitable one “where do we go from here?” The spectators are invited to watch in silence the bowls being filled with clear water, then with dirty water, then polluted with oil and petrol, then with plastic. Here a visitor is politically invited to join a virtual and futile game of the geographical and national identification – as he is asked to identify himself as an admirer of the Nile, of the Ganges or a fan of the Atlantic Ocean. This raises yet other questions that are extremely pertinent, namely as to which water do we belong to, or if we belonged to a certain water, would we find the same water in our body, the water which qualifies the essence of our being?

In one of my first performances which I gave in the early 1980s, I tried to raise a similar question which underlines the score of every humane artistic investigation: If we are to start cleaning our house and our cage from an overall influx of dirt and destruction, shouldn’t we commence doing it firstly with our planet, globally, and then slowly move into our own backyard (Živančević 1982)? Applying different artistic-philosophical and ecocritical methods which had come to us naturally, as all of us, the artists from so-called “Outer Exiles” and those who stayed in the country, in their Inner Jails, shows that we wanted to produce the worthwhile socially engaged answers to the Serbian despotic governmental orders and requests; the Frankfurt School located them outside of Germany, the Russian auteurs sort of found them in their eternal exiles, but what was happening with “Nesha”? What was happening in our homeland devastated by isolation, socio-economic troubles, and tarned by the ethical amnesia by the end of the 20th century when the wars had become virtual and quasi anonymous? In a situation when the entire social world is filled with an entropy process, that is, “collective disruption of vitality through which the energies of the vital stray into sympathy with the catastrophic, apocalyptic and violent-spectacular” (Sloterdijk, The Art of Philosophy: Wisdom as a Practice), the question of the relay of orientation of the artistic subject became crucially important, for there were no longer any social guarantees of existential safety and of the purposefulness of professional activities. The most vital factors of contemporary art meant that what is usually referred to as “the mainstream” abroad functioned in Serbia as an “alternative” to the hegemonic cultural paradigm, even though its protagonists were mostly academically educated artists, with the exception of a certain number of artists who belonged to the rock and techno sub-culture, alternative social movements, the digital demo scene etc. Also, this parallel field of art represented a part of the not-so-large civil counter-public front, but being socially and politically marginalized (which is also to do with the general status of visual arts in Serbian culture), it was not exposed to repressive measures, as was the case with non- governmental organizations and the independent media, but was largely ignored and subjected to media censorship, that is, journalistic self-censorship.
Finally, numerous exponents of this scene such as Raša Todosijević, Milica Tomić, Association Apsolutno, Uroš Djurić, Tanja Ostojić, Biljana Djurdjević, Balint Szombathy, Zoran Naskovski, LED Art, Magnet, Mileta Prodanović, Mrdjan Bajić, Neša Paripović—to name but a few—at the same time achieved a considerable reputation on the international scene, but this was barely registered by the domestic cultural public, so that it did not in any way contribute to a change in their social status. In other words, the relationship between what Pierre Bourdieu calls “the symbolic capital market,” which establishes a system of purely aesthetic, non-utilitarian exchange between the artist and the recipient, and “the economic capital market,” which commodifies symbolic goods (and provides artists with a social status), was not established at all, and even the very symbolic value of this art was denied by aggressive art market brokers who promoted small-town pictorial sentimentalism and the so-called “kitsch-fantasy” (as exemplified in ‘turbo-folk’ local scene) as the dominant code of the contemporary art production.
The place of art as a locus of symbolic differentiation could be exposed to the advance of the real only in those situations when it was exteriorized in the public space as a place of direct political contestation, thereby losing the prerogative of socio-political irrelevance. What I refer to here is the symptomatic example of the arrest of the artist and political activist Nune Popović (Magnet), who defended himself before the police saying that he was an artist, whereby he unconsciously stated the premise of irrelevance (the “innocence” of an artistic act), demonstrating at the same time the evidence of a personal stake when it came to the artistic tactics of occupying the public space. And though the public sphere, owing to the activities of many groups and individuals (actionist/ ‘Situationist’ tactics of political disturbance or real sabotage by the groups like Led Art and Magnet, distribution of printed matters by Škart group, site-specific projects by Association Apsolutno and others) represented an important domain of political statements of artists, most interventions operated on the level of the symbolic producing subversive signs without the excesses of political disturbance that would constitute a provocation of the imaginary of the regime.
What is said here for the artistic praxis and its strategies dominant in the 1990s, the most politically and overtly painful period for Serbia’s recent history, unfortunately applies to the current art activities of today; after the brief reign of Djindjic’s democracy, we find today the same ultra-nationalist and right-oriented government forces at work. As the result of such a situation, the very question whether the recent subversive avant-garde practices have taught anything of the emancipatory value both the social art practitioners and their public, remains still unanswered. The tendency of every society to close its doors to the so-called progress tends not to be a small negligible tendency of the contemporary world fed on austerity and greed for power. I am inclined to continue my own poetry performances as many other artists who feel that they have no place to settle but in their perpetuum mobile, just to go. Many of us have felt already, for decades, that we have been refugees in an art field of our own respective territories—the neoliberal world of high capitalism has been the one where the art sites host only the merchant, or a benevolent but powerful curator who has the last word in the “art game.” In such a situation, the issue of the real, geographical territory became secondary to many of us. However, many marginalized artists, be it the Eastern Europeans, the Americans, or the Palestinians, simply continue to create worlds of their own. In such a situation, I am wondering if we truly need to emphasize the term “resistance.” Does it need a new definition as a comprehensive term or have we been redefining it and coining it as we go along?
1. Here I am using the Serbo-Croatian term for the word ‘Avant Garde’ which also encompasses all the terms of the taxonomy or paradigms for recent and contemporary artists’ activities in that part of so-called Eastern Europe.
2. Neša Paripović, one of the most radical conceptual artists in Serbia who also started the New Avant Garde movement with Marina Abramović, Zoran Popović, Georgij Urkom, Raša Todosijević and Evgenija Demnievska in the Student Cultural Center in Belgrade during the 1970s, was also Marina’s first husband.
3. See Led Art, Documents of times 1993-2003, Multimedijalni centar LED ART, Novi Sad (Now under the auspices of Art Klinika) and Samizdat B92, Beograd 2004. The
7 Postcolonial Text Vol 12, No 3 & 4 (2017)
publication saw the light of day under Zoran Djindjić’s democrat government but as the political situation has been gradually deteriorating under the present government many citizens deem the experience of the LED Art collective still extremely pertinent as they hope that it continues to develop.
4. In the last issue of the legendary Belgrade magazine devoted to the visual media which I co-edited with Jerko Denegri I tried to map out parts of the then contemporary avant-garde East Village scene including the interviews and testimonies of the East European artists inhabiting the lieu.
5. In this short study I discuss the work of the exiled women artists from former Yugoslavia as the pillars of our new and contemporary avant-garde movements. These are Ljubinka Jovanovic, Kosara Bokšan, Marina Abramović, Evgenija Demnievska, Kirila Faeh, Vesna Victoria, Vesna Bajalska, Ljubica Mrkalj, Olivera Mejcen, Selena Vicković and Jelena Mišković.
Works Cited
The Artist is Present. Directed by Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre, performances by Marina Abramovic, Ulay and Klaus Biesenbach, Show of Force, 2013.
Balkan Baroque. Directed by Pierre Coulibeuf, performances by Marina Abramovic, Michel Butor and Paolo Canevari, Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA), 1999.
Sretenović, Dejan. The Journey Through the Pictures and the Phantasms of the 1990s, in: On Normality, Art in Serbia 1989-2001, Muzej Savremene Umetnosti, 2005.
Sloterdijk, Peter, The Art of Philosophy: Wisdom as a Practice, Trans. Karen Margolis. Columbia UP, 2012. Živančević, Nina, East Village (1980-1990), A Decade of Postmodern and Industrial Rococo. Moment, 1994.
Živančević, Nina (with Michaels, Abbe and Lerner, Eric): Our Ego of the Flowers, (homage to Jean Genet), Jo Papp’s Theater, NYC, 1982.
Živančević, Nina, Onze Femmes Artistes, Slaves et Nomades, Non Lieu, 2010.

Nina Živančević

Postcolonial Text, Vol 12, No 3 & 4 (2017)

Artwork by Evgenija Demnievska IN TIME 06; IN TIME 07



From conference K. A. T. Umetnost u obrazovanju: interakcije; Muzej savremene umetnosti Novi Sad, novembar 2017.

I started this conference with an excerpt from Jean Luc Godard’s film La Chinoise which discusses, among other things the problem of chopping off the idea of culture from its formal aspect which is its movement or action, culture in movement, which directly also implies teaching of culture and its presentation to people, to the masses. In Godard’s film two characters have a short dialogue on a train; one of them, the male figure declares that he would like to enable people to see the world the way it really is; he would not only like to enable them to see the world as such, but he would also like to make them able to act and react in such a world, in other words, he would like to enable the masses to contribute to the building, enlarging and improving the better world, which is , in a nutshell, the purpose of any form of school education. Godard’s character is situated in 1968 and he says right away that he would like to get away from his university job, that is, from the old notion of a university job where there is one omniscient teacher and the others are simply the “recipients” of knowledge. During their conversation the student and her philosophy teacher both conclude that there is something essentially wrong with the French university and that “something” is clearly the very system of education itself. (1:09:30, La Chinoise). The girl says that is is disgusted by the university courses as they are always presented in the manner of and following the rules of the ruling class. Thus the entire culture is seen exclusively through the eye-lense of the upper class and as such it is m ade to serve just that particular class. She suggests then to her professor to perform a terrorist action of setting the university on fire; they would bomb ank kill everyone in there, both students and teachers so that they would build a new university, some brave new world. There are few universities in the world which endorsed this Godard’s anarcho-Maoist vision of thefuture education , but quite a few had figured out that a lot of things should be changed both in education and in culture. The year was 1967 going to 1968.
However, quite recently someone hasd asked me to define culture. And to emphasize the difference between culture and savage behavioral practice. Of course, it is always hard to give answers to such complicated and vast questions, but I tried to give an answer, ad hoc. I said that anything which enlarges our
spirit, develops it and improves it, whatever opens up and widens our horizon
IS culture, and whatever makes us stupid, pushes us toward the mental straight
jacket and into the prison or an enclosure- is savage behavior and a barbaric act.
This statement could find its first and foremost application in arts; in the
institutions where people teach arts or where the arts figure as regular courses in
the yearly curriculum.
Everything that enlarges our horizons and introduces us into the very heart of
ARS-ARTIS, into its special realms/pockets, be it music, visual arts or
literature,every emancipatory movement towards ARTIS enlarges and educates
us, and all other movements are not able to do it. In fact, the problem that arises
here is that the art is TECHNE, something which we can teach to others but we
cannot teach it in the same way that we teach other scientific disciplines.
What we can teach to a group of non-initiated beginners or people interested in
an art is just history of that particular artistic discipline. We can interpret a
horizontal history of a given art, a certain geography of that history, as history
was also divided into different geographical regions- thus we can teach
“Spanish literature”, “Italian music” or some other field enhenced by the
vertical, chronological determining of that particular art (eg.we teach the Italian
Renaissance music, or Spanish Baroque literature). However, we do have
certain pretensions at informing the students of certain artistic practices which
were registered as such in certain regions in a given epoch or historic period.
What remains mostly imprinted in their mind is our effort to transmit the
knowledge which we believe corresponded to a particular epoch ; the process of
such transmission increases their artistic sensibility. Or, should I say- that is the
only work here- the teacher’s effort to heighten his students’ sensibility by
makeing them aware of the possibilities of a certain artistic practice, as we can
never be sure that our transmission would leave any other trace or result
At the Conservatory of Music- if you play samples of the Baroque music to
your students hoping that they would grasp the essence of the Baroque periodthis
practise seems the only valid one to pursue there, as, in fact, we can never
teach them how to compose a piece such as Paganini’s Cappricio. You cannot
even teach them how to perform Cappricios in the same way that their author
played them or the author’s contemporaries. The thing that they can grasp after a
long listening practise of the Baroque scores is that the Baroque scores are
always for a half tone or the entire tone lower than the scores composed in the
era of Impressionism. You can also invoke in the listeners an affection for that
music period or the awareness of the abandonment of certain compositional
norms in the Baroque compositions which follows an extensive listening
practise of Baroque music. You can also awaken their interest in Oriental scores
which are performed in the lower tonality system, in B minor, as we hear it with
Debussy or Bela Bartok. However, even if the students learn how to perform
these authors quite well, we cannot always expect their masterful interpretation
to attain the technical perfection and something that goes beyond it, an element
which soars above and beyond the technique and which people perhaps too
easily identify with “high art”.
Now I remember the day when I was preparing a poetry workshop for young
New York’s poets in mid 1980s. I asked a senior collegue, Charles Bernstein, to
give me his advice how to teach ARS POETICA to the students in the
workshop, he simply answered “You cannot really teach anyone the art of
writing; give your students the list of poets and writers who you liked to read
when you were of their age.” That was the best advice which I got from a
collegue in the domain of Art education but the advice was based on insisting
on the historic evidence of the written works of art. By insisting on the
historically oriented lists of the works of art, the beginner was able to discern
his own qualities from his insufficiences in the very act of writing (creative act
of any sort). The beginner was becoming aware not only of his own limitations
but also of his own abilities, of the necessity to imploy patience, this quality
being the foremost prerequisite to any artistic discipline. A German saying says
“Repetition (applied patience) makes the Master”, and aside from this, one can
attest the presence of extreme patience and militant discipline in all different
practises in arts, say like in the visual practises of our very own Marina
I moved all along in this discussion. I contemplated the option of a possibility
vs. impossibility of teaching arts a while ago; but today I know that is, I am
quite sure that one cannot teach art, just like that, ad hoc. Hic Rhodes his salta!
Or, as a renowened late poet Rasha Livada indicated in one of his glorious
poems “the teacher should never transmit the entire instructions to his student ,
that is- if he likes him.” Here, what he really meant was not only that he
believed in the total autonomy and ability of a human being to move on his
own, but also that a great quantity of any “transmittable”ARS-ARTIS material
is always veiled in a great Kabbalah-like initiation and secret thus it appears
more appropriate for the student to make an input and fathom the secret here by
using his proper strength. In a certain way, the teacher is there to announce the
secret and to indicate the possible paths of moving towards it, but his role
certainly does not consist of digesting the essence of the secret, handing it out
on a plate to his disciples. However, we are not talking about the matheme
formulas here, the “secrets” are beyond the formulas which we can learn by
heart. In fact, a greater part of that secret is left to an ocassional operation, a
guess or a serendipity which John Cage nicely named as chance operation.
I would like to emphasize the fact that for some good thirty-five years of
university teaching I have always avoided an opportunity to teach arts in their
creative learning outfit placed in an investigatory action. It is interesting to
notice that at the times when I was living in the so called West, that just in those
times these creative learning practices were coming into day and becoming
quite fashionable. As a former member of the Living Theater, I chose rather
teach the possible histories of Avant-garde theater(s), those European and the
American ones at the radical french university Paris 8, but I also tried some less
“avant-garde” universities where one could expect to hear teacher transmit the
legacy of Deleuze or Foucault rather than someone teach the straigth history of
the literary and theater avant-gardes.

However, for the final exam in the department of Theatrology I would persuade
my students to be extremely creative and include into their presentation of the
Avant-garde’s historical material their very own take on it. I insisted that for
their oral finals they perform an expression of their own, their personal
impression of an Avant-garde(s) by interpreting on their own the most
impressive moments which they treasured thus mastered in my course on the
Historic and the historical avant-gardes. I did not want them to recount the
stories about Antonin Artaud that we hear in special seminars devoted to his art
or the stories on Tadeuzs Kantor as I did not want- borrowing Kantor’s
expression here- to create a “dead class” neiother in theater nor in everyday life
which is the best stage indeed for any given creative action. As I was not
teaching them a specific scenic movement or acting techniques, I was retelling
them my own stage experience summerizing the historical body of theater. I
would physically illustrate my stories by performing certain examples from the
history of the avant-garde theater, thus showing them certain techniques which
would not necessarily be shown in their books. For instance, I would describe
the movements of Meyerhold’s training in Biomechanics then I would show
them how it went in practise which was something that the members of the
Living were transmitting through physical training from one generation to
another. The results accomplished at Paris 8 university were truly ipreszsive as I
often had the impression that the students were able to grasp the most subtle
meaning of my instructions just by watching me perform in their class; it
seemed to me that they were absorbing the very nuance of my Living theater
experience through basic transmissions easily and lightly “as if breathing in the
air”. I take that one has to teach writing in a similar manner- both unobtrusive
and subtle; some of these experiences in writing I had discussed in the preface
to my selected poems entitled “The Art of Catching a Boomerang” published by
Povelja in 2013.
I have realized that I have really meandered and went into a direction somewhat
different from our common theme which is “Art in Education”; my presentation
has slid into a different zone which could bear a title “The Art of Educating an
Individual” or the art of directing a potential , young artist towards his creation
in the most unobtrusive, quiet and almost invisible manner. There is so much to
say about Pedagogy in arts, as this type of pedagogy draws qualities from both
Art and science, thus it is different from other types, but it will suffice to say
that this could be discussed on some other ocassion. When I mentioned earlier
the art of teaching Art, I mentioned the bright examples of artists such as Nicolo
Paganini and Marina Abramovic, however, the idea or my wish was more
oriented towards mentioning some other names , less known to the general
public and these belong to the students sitting at their desks in classrooms and
who are certainly as important to me as the bright exemples who illustrate my
course. As I was preparing my teachings about a certain art and the artists who
perform it, I was constantly aware of the founding elements of any course or
cursus and these include the active participation in class of the students sitting
in front of me and the ability to stir their active awareness, then to keep their
presence awake- to name here only these fundamental factors which are basic
to any course. The teacher who takes on a heavy task of teaching students
classes in art, has to make them truly curious and concerned for the existence of
the given art field. We all witnessed the fact that after an initial interest that a
student has shown for a certain art- and the possession of that interest made
him/her sign in for that course to begin with- there comes a moment, a time
when we, their educators have to make a certain wizzardry of keeping that
interest alive throughout the course. In order to keep a student as an interested,
lively human participant in his class, a teacher himself/herself has to become an
artist of a sort, as his pedagogical approach, bordering on artistry and often on
real acrobacy, has to keep the disciples intellectually and spiritually awake
throughout the three-month long semester.
Whenever I call my students’ names at the beginning of my class at la Sorbonne
– and this experience lasts some good 10 minutes, I notice that this is probably
the most important part of our teaching hour, as it is exactly the time when you
either grab student’s attention so necessary for the rest of the course- or you
don’t. And when I had noticed that a student’s attention radically drops even
there if his name is not pronounced correctly, I realized that teaching any
subject in the academic cursus is an art in itself, art much higher than any art –
related subject that it has to treat. I became aware of the fact that the lecturer, no
matter what subject he’s trying to communicate to the others, has to approach
his listeners with the qualities of an artist; in fact, he has to become much of an
artist himself, or an acrobat. He has to walk that tight rope over an abbyss of
ignorance and prejudice, thus he has to be , perhaps less of a specialist/expert
who knows his subject the best and more of a communicator to transmit his
knowledge to younger collegues. An educator has to be more than just a
specialist and a high scientist – ideally, he should be a teacher-artist or an artist
of a taught matter and such experts are very few in all the schools throughout
the world. There is a long tradition at the university to not employ a teacher who
is at the same time a creative person, an artist, and this experience is especially
domesticated in the reagons of our “MittelEurope”. Here is the word of an art
historian, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Budapest “what
characterizes the citizens of Mitteleurope is the permanent fear of anything new,
if there’s a creative movement forward, it backs off quickly and gives way to the
negative criticism favoring the annulment of the conceived project”. Rarely we
fully realize something which could be called a radical and thorough change in
our lands in the Balkans-however, what we often find here are the various
tactics of so called temporalization, which are, in fact Paralel Strategies
dragging along the so called deep restructuralization. New projects often get
devalorized , long before they are even presented and partially realized; they get
disqualified often for certain unknown, meaningless and personal reasons.
Perhaps this costant impossibility to realize their projects quickly is the moving
force that pushes artists, writers, philosophers musicians and poets develop their
aesthetic, political and social projects in small and intimate circles and not as
the part of the National Education program. The talated ones create their own
“private-public space “ and often live in their ‘inner exiles”. I partly discussed
the problem as well, in my study on “Eleven Women-Artists, Slavs and
Nomads” when I discussed the early Marina Abramovic’s Conceptual group in
Belgrade including Evgenia Demnievska, Nesha Paripovic, Zoran Popovic,
Rasha Todosijevic and Georgy Urkom. However, it’s never enough to discuss a
problem, examine it in a new light especially this one related to a psychological
block and so called self-shooting in the back, a phenomenon that the peoples
from Mitteleurope really got accustomed to; it really dates from feudal times
when “one new one’s place of a slave bogged down by his own destiny” and it
had to do with the unfair hierarchical system which did not allow people’s
mentality to freely develop for almost 500 years, but it Spain under the Arabs
this cultural hesitance lasted for almost 7 centuries. These cultural barriers are
being erased very slowly as we see some of them entirely disappear in the
beginning of the 21 century, however, one should give both the artists and their
instructors a bit of time to develop their learning practises and the projects that
need to be developed among them.


Otpoceli smo ovo izlaganje jednim iseckom iz poznatog Godarovog filma, Kineskinja, koji upravo govori, izmedju ostalih dtvari, o problemu odsecanja kulture od njenog pojavnog vida, akcije, koja je u izvesnom obliku i predavanje te kulture, javno predstavljanje umetnosti masama.u okviru kratkog dijaloga u vozu, muski lik izjavljuje da bi zeleo da osposobi narod da primi svet , da ga dozivi onakav kakav jeste i ne samo da ga vidi onakvim kakav on jeste vec i da se osposobi da reaguje u tom svetu da sam licno doprinese izdradnji sveta, sto je u skracenom obliku, cilj svakog obrazovanja.On kaze da bi zeleo da se udalji od univerziteta, od ustajalog pojma univerziteta kao mesta gde su svi samo primaoci znanja.U svom razgovoru ovaj par, studentkinja i njen profesor filosofije, zakljucuju da nesto strasno nije u redu sa francuskim univerzitetom a to « nesto » zove se sistem obrazovanja (1 :09 : 30, La Chinoise) ; devojka kaze da je zgadjena predavanjima, da se ona uvek izvode po zakonima i receptima odredjene klase, da je cela kultura vidjena okom jedne klase da pripada stoga odredjenoj klasi.Ona zatim predlaze profesoru teroristicki cin paljenja univerziteta, bombardovanja i ubijanja sviju postojecih, studenata i profesora, da bi  otpoceo novi univerzitet, hrabri novi svet. Malo je univerziteta u svetu koji su prihvatili ovu godarovsku anarhisticno-maoisticku viziju obrazovne buducnosti, ali mnogi jesu shvatili da u obrazovanju i kulturi dosta toga treba menjati, godina je bila 1967-8.

Nedavno me je, pak, neko pitao  « Šta je to kultura?“, zamolio da definišem razliku izmedju kulture i nekulture. Naravno, na  teška i razudjena pitanja komplikovano je odgovoriti, ali tada sam rekla da sve ono što širi naš duh i horizont, što nas unapredjuje i gradi, otvara vidike, da je TO kultura, a ono što nas sputava, oglupljuje, baca u unutrašnji mrak i zatvor, da je to nekultura. Pa tako i sa umetnošću i podučavanjem umetnosti i njenom mestu u obrazovanju.

Rekli bismo- sve što nam proširuje vidike i što nas uvodi u samo srce ARS-ARTISA, u njene posebne svetove, bilo da je to muzika, vizuelne umetnosti ili književnost, svako kretanje ka ARTISU nas obogaćuje i obrazuje, a sve ostalo…Naime, postavlja se tu problem da je umetnost TECHNE, nešto što teško možemo podučavati kao što podučavamo odredjene naučne discipline. Ono što možemo ipak podučavati grupu neiniciranih početnika, lica zainteresovana za neku umetnost jeste samo istorija te dotične umetnosti, možemo im interpretirati horizontalnu istoriju odredjene umetnosti, onu geografsku, podeljenu u geografske regione- kao „književnost Španije“, muziku Italije“ i slično…naravno, ispresecano vertikalnom, hronološkom istorijom te umetnosti- na primer, predajemo renesansnu muziku Italije, ili baroknu književnost Španije. Ono što se tada dogadja kod prisutnih koji vas slušaju i u duhu beleže umetničke prakse odredjenih regiona kroz epohalne jedinice ili vremenske periode jeste da ti učesnici ili učesnice vaše klase jedino i isključivo pooštravaju svoju osetljivost, njihov  sopstveni umetnički senzibilitet. Ako im puštate na muzičkoj akademiji, na primer, primere barokne muzike, vi ih ne možete naučiti da komponuju recimo Paganinijev Kapričo. Ne možete ih čak ni naučiti kako da ga odsviraju na način na koji ga je izvodio autor ili njegovi savremenici, ono što mogu nakon dugog slušanja baroknih partitura otkriti je …da su barokne partiture statistički uvek za pola tona ili za ceo ton niže od recimo, ičpresionističkih. Ono što sigurno možete u njima sigurno probuditi je ljubav ili svest o izvesnom odstupanju od norme u komponovanju muzike što je posledica upražnjavanja barokne muzičke prakse, ili im možete probuditi interesovanje za orijentalnu muzičku lestvicu koja se takodje izvodi u nižoj, bemolskoj skali, kao što je čujemo kod Debisija ili Bele Bartoka ali ih nikako ne možete naučiti kako da praktično izvode tu muziku ili kako da se otisnu i pomere od onog lako savladljivog do onog tehnički savršenog što olako nazivamo umetnišću.

U tom smislu, kada sam u oblasti ARS POETIKE, pre jedne pesničke radionice koju sam pripremala za mlade pesnike u Njujorku sredinom 1980ih, zapitala starijeg kolegu, pesnika Čarlsa Bernstina, kako da podučavam učesnike seminara, on mi je odgovorio „Ne možeš nikoga naučiti pisanju poezije, već im samo daj listu imena pesnika ili pisaca koje si ti kao omladinka volela i čitala“. To je bio najbolji savet koji sam dobila u domenu predavanja ili podučavanja umetnosti bilo kakve vrste, a to je upravo bilo insistiranje na istorijskom trenutku ostvarenog dela. Insistiranjem na ovoj vrsti istorijski orijentisane obuke, u novajliji ili početniku se budi svest o njegovoj vlastitoj mogućnosti ili nemogućnosti u  učešću u stvaralačkom činu. Njemu se formira horizont o njegovim vlastitim kreativnim ograničenjima i granicama, kao i o njegovim vlastitim mogućnostima istrajnosti koja je, ispostavilo se, ključna reč u stvaralačkim praksama. Nemačka poslovica glasi „ponavljanje čini majstora“, a tome nas podučavaju i najrazličitije vizuelne prakse umetnika, Marine Abramović, na primer.

Otišla sam daleko. Davno sam pomislila, a to i danas mislim i znam da je umetnost teško ili gotovo nemoguće podučavati. Kqo što reče u jednoj svojoj pesmi veliki i nedavno preminuli pesnik, Raša Livada „Učitelj nikada ne saopšti celokupno svoje znanje učeniku-ako ga voli“. U smislu da je velika količina svakog ARS-ARTISA koju treba preneti na učenika obavijena velom tajne i ostaje na učeniku da je sam dokučim na izvesan način učitelj je onaj koji je tu samo da nagovesti tajnu a ne da je sažvaće uče:s:niku Nije ovde reč,pak, o matematičkim formulama.

Volela bih da naglasim da sam za isvesnih trideset i pet  godina univerzitetskog i šire, predavačkog staža uvek izbegavala da predajem umetnost kao kreativni čin i akciju, u vreme kada sam živela na takozvanom Zapadu i to u trenutku kada su takve prakse na Zapadu bile u najvećem opticaju. Kao nekadašnja članica LIVING TEATRA predavala sam istoriju avangardnog teatra, američkog i evropskog na francuskom univerzitetu Paris 8, kao i istoriju književne usmene i pisane avangarde, ali sam uvek za završni ispit na teatrologiji nagovarala studente da pristupe lično kreativnom činu i da pri pravljenju opšteg osvrta na istorijsku avangardu takodje nama prikažu i nešto svoje da nam predstave na usmenom ispitu svoj izraz, njihovu ličnu predstavu, lični utisak i interpretaciju  onoga čime ih je istorija drame podučila. Nisam želela da mi prepričavaju, recimo, šta je sve radio Antinen Arto ili Tadeuš Kantor i da se poslužim sad Kantorovim rečima, nisam želela da stvaram „mrtvu klasu“, ni u pozorištu a ni u životu koji je pozornica svakog kreativnog čina. Pošto ih nisam podučavala pozorišnom pokretu, specifičnim glumačkim tehnikama, već im prosto prepričavala, sažimala istorijsko pozorišno tkivo, prikazujući im na odredjenim primerima iz istorije avangardne dramske tehnike kako je, na primer „Mejerhold uvodio biomehanički trening“ i pokazala im praktično kako se to odvijalo, naši rezultati na univerzitetu Paris 8 bili su veoma plodonosni. Studenti su hvatali najsuptilnija značenja mog znanja i iskustva tako reći „u vazduhu“. Mislim da tako, nenametljivo i suptilno treba predavati i pisanje, otuda moj mali traktat o poeziji, objavljena zbirka „Umetnost hvatanja bumeranga“.

Medjutim, sada primećujem da sam se donekle udaljila od zadate teme „Umetnost u Obrazovanju i vidim da sam neosetno skliznula u jednu drugu oblast koju bi možda trebalo da naslovimo „Umetnost obrazovanja“ ili kako nenametljivo, nečujno i skoro nevidljivo obrazovati potencijalnog umetnika. O umetnosti pedagogije koja je i umetnost i nauka, odista bi trebalo da se dosta toga saopšti, možda ipak neki drugi put. Kada sam se osvrnula na umetnost predavanja umetnosti, pomenula sam u ovom kontekstu Paganinija i Marinu Abramović, a želela sam da naglasim i nešto drugo, da pomenem neka druga imena koja sede u studentskim klupama a koja su takodje veoma važna . Pripremajući predavanja o umetnicima i o nekoj umetnosti, bila sam svesna činjenice da je možda najvažniji elemenat u predavanju bilo koje materije ili umetničkog predmeta- aktivna budnost studenta ili budjenje njegove pažnje, njegove zainteresovanosti za datu umetnost. U pristupu studentu i materiji koju student sluša, svaki predavač, bez obzira na predavani predmet trebalo bi da se stavi u ulogu umetnika ili da postane umetnik. Kada sam prilikom prozivanja studenata na Sorboni, a ovo iskustvo traje nekih celih pet minuta na početku svakog časa, kada sam primetila da je u ovom kvalitativno najvažnijem trenutku našeg časa koji relativno kratko traje a najvažniji je jer od njega zavisi da li će momentalno ugrabiti učenikovu pažnju, kada sam dakle primetila da studentu Hasanu radikalno opada interesovanje za predavanje ako mu ime pogrešno izgovorim kao „Asan“ a ne Hasan, shvqtilq sqm u tom trenutku da je predavanje bilo kog predmeta, a pogotovo onog umetničkog- umetnost po sebi. I da predavač treba gotovo uvek da bude mnogo više umetnik, budni akrobata koji spretno korača po zategnutom konopcu iznad ambisa svakojakog neznanja i predrasude, a manje neki izuzetno visoki specijalistam koji „najbolje na svetu“ poznaje tu naukum taj predmet koji će predavati začudjenim studentima. Predavač mora biti više od visokog naučnika i profesionalca- idealno, on bi trebalo da bude predavač-umetnik ili umetnik predavanja, a takvih stručnjaka je na svim školama u svetu relativno i nažalost, jako malo. Tradicionalno- vecina skola i dalje ne zele da angazuju predavace koji su istovremeno umetnici, kreativci, narocito u nasim oblastima, takozvane Mittelevrope. Evo sta kaze Laurend Hegyi na tu temu: „ono sto karakterise stanovnike Mitelevrope je permanentni strah prema svemu novom, kreativni istup se ubrzo povlaci i ustupa mesto kritici i odbacivanju projekta. Retko u tim zemljama mozemo ostvariti potpunu promenu, radikalnu i celovitu- cesce tu nalazimo taktike temporalizacije tkzv Paralelne Strategije koje odugovlace sa dubokom restrukturacijom. Novi projekti se cesto devalorizuju, pre no sto su iskazani i ostvareni u celosti, njih diskvalifikuju cesto iz polovicnih, beznacajnih, i licnih razloga.“ Mozda ova stalna nemogucnost ka brzom osvarivanju, kaze Hegyi, i navodi umetnike, pisce, filozofe, muzicare pesnike da ostvaruju estetske, politicke i socijalne projekte u njihovim licnim i malim krugovima a ne u javnom obrazovanju; oni stvaraju njihov „ privatan javni prostor“ i zive u nekoj vrsti unutrasnjeg egzila. O tome govorila i ja u mojoj knjizi 11 Umernica slavenki i nomadkinja, o trajanju konceptualne grupe Marine Abramovic, Evgenije Demnievske i naravno Paripovica, Popovica , Todosijevica i Urkoma.


Nina Zivancević


Ono Što Se Pamti – Uvod

Indijski dnevnik 


decembar 2014 januar 2015.

Pariz , Rijad, Koći, Džeda, Pariz


Misao o barbarogeniju proganjala je avangardu, neobične ljude poput Micića i Anrija Mišoa.

U praskozorje 1931. Mišo rešava da ostavi iza sebe duh kolonizatora, odlazi u Indiju i piše tekst Varvarin u Aziji. Osetio se kao varvarin probuđen nadohvat jedne drevne civilizacije, kao što se možda osetio Antonen Arto nakon velike kolonijalne izložbe, u Parizu, početkom dvadesetog veka, koja mu je promenila shvatanja o životu i umetnosti.
Mišo: „Video sam čoveka na ulici. On me je ščepao, i nisam više nikoga primećivao osim njega. Vezao sam se za njega, sledio ga, ubeđen da na svetu postoji samo on; on i flautista; i čovek koji se bavi pozorištem; i akrobata na žici koji gestikulira; u trenutku sam ih sve snimio, sve shvatio.
Mišo će zatim reći da ni Indija ni njeno društvo i narodi ne treba nikada, baš nikada, da podlegnu uticaju Zapada, što je velikodušno osećanje jednog zapadnjaka koje ja, biće sa Balkana, nikada, baš nikada, nisam mogla da osetim.
Varvarka sam upravo ja, ili Titova rođaka, onog Tita koji je sa Nehruom i Naserom pravio ’treći’, to jest nesvrstani svet.

Na kraju svog putovanja Mišo će reći: „Posmatrao sam sebe na tom putovanju kao da posmatram nekog drugog, nekog ko gleda emotivno i seća se jedne imaginarne zemlje u kojoj ne živi. Ja nisam bio u njoj, ja nisam bio tu.”
Ja sam pak, za razliku od Mišoa, stalno živela varvarski, bila sam deo te zemlje, videla sam je, bila sam tu i kad sam obitavala drugde.




Ujutro, pre polaska na put, upalim televizor i šta vidim – strašne posledice cunamija na plažama Kerale koje su me opominjale da idem u neku posebnu ’zonu’, već viđenu okom Tarkovskog – bio je to neki njegov, sasvim poseban interplanetarni svet. Pitam se kako se život mogao nastaviti nakon cunamija, kako mu stanovništvo nije izbeglo, zašto se predalo, zašto su tu ostali svi oni koji su ostali i zašto nisu otišli u neki novi svet?

S pogledom izlomljenog ogledala, koji ne pada ni previše nisko niti se pak isuviše uzdiže ka nebu, prekrštenih nogu, hindusi meditiraju tela podeljenog u sedam čakri, u lotosu, pri nebu, u ranojutarnjim i večernjim molitvama boginji Kali, sa postojanošću i uživanjem, što na sanskritu znači bav. Usmereni na večnost, udubljeni u sebe, usporeni, samokontrolisani i dostojanstveni, hindusi se nikada ne žeste niti nerviraju, kaže Mišo, tako da onaj ko ima želju da zapeva, taj peva, onaj ko želi da se pomoli, on se moli. Najviše veruju životinjama poput krave, slona i majmuna, svetim životinjama koje su kao i oni, mirne i naizgled bezbrižne, u svakom slučaju ravnodušne prema spoljašnjem svetu, koji hindusi nazivaju iluzija ili maja. Krava se, na primer, najede trave, nikako deteline, da bi zatim varila po nekoliko sati ono što je progutala.

Pitam se da li ću ja, koja živim od iluzije (svakodnevnog teatra barbarogenija) i od žvakanja deteline, videti sve ono što je Mišo tamo video. Jer svako vidi ono što mu je dato da vidi, ono što već zna o nekom predmetu ili čoveku. I neće videti ništa što već nije čuo, video ili naslutio ranije.

Hindus, kaže Mišo, voli životinje koje nisu odveć zahvalne čoveku, znači ne voli naročito psa i mačku jer njih ne privlači odviše mudra meditacija, zbog prirode njihovog uznemirenog i dinamičnog bića. Hindus mora da promišlja, onakav kakvog ga vidimo u ranim indijskim filmovima, daleko pre Satjađit Raja, kada su i besni vojnici nekog radže najpre odlučivali (po nekoliko minuta u filmu) da li da se razbesne ili ne. I na kraju bi ih ipak razbesnela data situacija. A danas je Indija jedna od najvećih svetskih sila koja je izašla iz recesije i uspešno žvaće detelinu najsvežijeg neoliberalizma. 

Što se konja tiče, Mišo smatra da je u životu svih hindusa konj, onako lud i dinamičan, u daleko manjoj prednosti od kamile, jer kamila retko galopira i trči – ona stabilno i promišljeno stavlja jedno kopito pred drugo, zabavljena sopstvenom sporošću, koju mnogi nazivaju dromedarstvom. Hindus, dakle, poštuje sporost i stabilnost, što se ogleda u njegovom osećaju za jezik. Hindi, spor, grgurav jezik, sav je sastavljen od konsonanata koji se spopliću i teku, teški i hrskavi. Na tom jeziku su spevane – a i dalje se pevaju – najviše religiozne himne naspram kojih evropsko stvaralaštvo izgleda smešno i bahato. Indijska misao je magična – ona ima magijski karakter i bliska je svojoj orijentalnoj filozofiji, koja se uvek obraća Biću ili Brahmi. Mišo duhovito kaže da zapadnjački filozofi promišljajući svoju muku gube kosu, a da orijentalci muku skraćuju tako što puštaju da im kosa raste. Njihove misli upućene Brahmi donekle su različite od naših, uslovno rečeno evropskih, jer smo mi bića razdvojena od Apsoluta, što kažu Upanišade: „Oni koji odu sa ovoga sveta a nisu otkrili atman i spoznali njegovu suštinu neće dostići oslobođenje NI U JEDNOM SVETU”.

Da bi se približili toj suštini, hindusi recituju mantre i – dišu. Jedna od varijanti božanskog udisanja-izdisanja, takozvani udžaj, odvija se na sledeći način: četiri udisaja kroz levu nozdrvu, zadržiš dah, pa zatim šesnaest izdisaja kroz desnu nozdrvu. Njegova molitva boginji Udisanja–Izdisanja, stvaranja i razaranja, majci Kali, može da otpočne.

Hindusi više veruju majci, boginji materinstva, nego boginjama ženstvenosti Lakšmi, Radi i Sarasvati, koje su čulni avatari ili avatarke Šive, sveopšteg stvaraoca. Ako postoji pojam sveca kod hindusa, onda je to majka, kao simbol požrtvovanosti, žrtvovanja za druge, za generaciju koja dolazi, jer o prošlosti ne treba razmišljati, prošlost je akašik – traka koja teče i upravo se manifestuje u sadašnjem trenutku. Majka je Velika MA, i ona održava poredak svih stvari neophodnih za produžetak vrste i opstanak, a za hindusa je generacija koja dolazi, koja produžava porodicu i vrstu važnija od njega samog. Pojam žrtvovanja kao procesa izuzetno je važan ovom narodu koji se prvo žrtvuje za delove tradicije i prošlosti, zatim se skromnim bivstvovanjem žrtvuje u trenutku u kome živi, a docnije se žrtvuje za potomke. Sve pojave indijskog panteona su čulne jer slave život i Apsolut na najočigledniji način, ali u tolikoj meri da mi, zapadnjaci, naspram njih izgledamo kao puke posledice oplakivanja Hrista, žalosti za Bogom; u našim crkvama ili katedralama osećamo se tako mali i mizerni u susretu sa Apsolutom, koga se plašimo.

Veliki asketa Ramakrišna oblačio se – kako neki kažu – u ženu, jer je kao žena želeo da ga voli Bog koji je sišao sa panteona da bi živeo među ljudima. Hinduistički molitvenik je praktičan i sprema vernika da se izbori sa snagama zla u životu: Rigveda je puna konkretnih i praktičnih saveta. Mantre i ponude u obliku insensa, sveća i hrane pomažu verniku, na nadasve praktičan način, da se približi Apsolutu, a lepota dekora ili ponude tu i nije važna. Kao i u najmističnijem delu katoličanstva, hindus se idolatrijskom askezom približava Apsolutu i obožava u ekstazi.

On mu se klanja, prostire se ničice pred njim, mada neće nikada povikati kao naš hrišćanin: „Iz dubine vičem k tebi, Gospode!” (De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine.) Neće vikati na ovaj način jer se hindus oseća jakim pred svojim bogom, a ne kao crkveni miš, jadan i bespomoćan pred licem bede. On će prisiliti svog boga da mu pomogne, neće drhtati pred njim od straha ili od tuge pregoleme. Glasno i sa puno bava on će otpevati svoj AUM; postići će smirenje, dobiće snagu u molitvi, pljunuće na sve demone koji ga okružuju, neće im samo zapretiti da ustupe sa: „Natrag Sotono”, on će ih ispljuvati i izlupati, uništiti moralno i materijalno, i Sotona se (bar neko vreme, u njegovoj glavi) neće pojavljivati.

A sve ovo se odvija polako, u ubrzano–usporenom svetu Indije, veoma polako, jer hindus nikada ne žuri, ne trči. Molitve izgovara lančano, 38.000 stihova Ramajane, kao i 100.000 stihova Mahabharate, koji teku polako, bez ijedne vidljive (r)evolucije u epovima, koji ni sami nemaju neki određeni centar ili vrhunac radnje… Ovo nam sve kaže Mišo, kartezijanac, koga nije mrzelo, još onda, te daleke 1931, da prebrojava drevne stihove na sanskritu. 

Nina Živančević

Isečak iz knjige Ono što se pamti; Kornet 2017


Abject or débris Art published in The Opiate


One day I stopped loving it

I felt being its only representation, representative and a uniformed statue. I was the only replica of my own insane creation, I became a dated caricature of my old powerful but degenerated self, a piece of Débris art admired by the connoisseurs of the Abject long ago.

I knew death was around the corner, now that I had almost 75 to 80 percent of my friends’ names and references crossed out in my telephone book. I did not complain though and accepted begrudgingly this fact, shrugged my shoulders with a long “sooo what…”

I find myself presently on a bus rushing from Beograd to Paris (the Easter vacation’s over and lots of children, kids of the forlorn Serbs and Gypsies living in Diaspora are eager to get back home–although, very few of them knew exactly where their home was).

To be honest, the same goes for me: I’ve had a vague idea where I was heading to–I was heading to the place where I would see, once upon a time–lots of art…heading to a place where I was watching a lot of good movies with my kid… Or was that place an epitome of laughter, soft evenings, sweet gatherings with like-minded friends–where we, armed with gin and absinthe, shared our latest verses, news, gossip?

No point of return there… With a certain geometrical progression in their mad speed of disappearance–my buddies left the battlefield and in Paris I dwelled all alone. The morning television program from Chanel ARTE would vaguely disperse the deadly silence which reigned over my apartment… And the monotonous sound of the cell phone would sort of start bleeping on its own, urging me to dial one or two numbers which were still left intact in my book, I mean they remained uncrossed on the page, shining through… But who were those people anyway?

Certainly, they were not my buddies, the folks whose brilliance marked my existence and whose presence in art and science–as much as in my life–meant so much to me–alas! Such rare treasures in my life tended to disappear in huge lumps, they all oozed down the drain… And first of all–they were replaced by those aforementioned dummies… who did not qualify as real partners in my scholarly meditations and then… Slowly but surely those disappeared from my horizon as well–one thing for sure–among all imitative qualities in life–real affection and camaraderie cannot be invoked and faked easily on a daily basis

You call people and you see one another, but you both know that it’s a fake… Like a fake fur or a plastic cake–you have a taste of the real thing, you still remember its original shape and size but sadly enough you attest to the fact that this encounter between you two IS NOT IT, not the real thing you treasured so much and remembered.

So that’s how I found myself in the utmost loneliness in the most solitary town on Earth and that was Paris. Oh, the loneliness of the long distance runner, the film by Lindsay Anderson, how I knew you well!

But perhaps never did it strike me with such clarity, with such desperate unforgiving clarity as it did this morning, while riding on this quiet bus with the spring breakers munching their forlorn sandwiches–I was under the special sepulchral impression that my life was this time, definitively over. I finished it, ruined by my utmost speed–like I was running somewhere–could not determine exactly where. But I was rushing to get over there and I was burnt out in my own endeavour

Burnt by my own speed which propelled me to get there, anywhere–AHEAD of my own time!

This discovery almost made me laugh–and I rushed to call that special friend, confidant to my lonely efforts–but hmmm–there was no one to reach out for. I was heading to my own dystopian nest in the heart of Montmartre, but I dreaded opening its doors of perception, at that particular place where my physical home was, where I dwelled in Paris, in the 17th arrondissement where also my very heart of hearts and my memories were locked, but I lost the key to that door and was never happy while sleeping, eating or working in it (the existential dread…)

Although Andrzej Wajda says in his last great film Blue Flowers that the frontier between politics and art should not be erased, we feel that the world we live in forbids its citizens to ignore the effects of global political and ecological issues. The face of Art(s) becomes dirty and ugly to those who tend to its overwhelming neoliberal and commercial Endeavours  and who ignore the burning issues of humanity. Oliver Ressler’s work, especially the documentaries of this contemporary Austrian filmmaker cum activist and performance artist reveal his humanist obsession with

Human misery and hardship.

Artur Zmijewski is another responsible filmmaker–he filmed the now burned “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais…otherwise known as the shame on the face of France, and shame on the face of greedy England.

The question which another one, Le Grice, asks in his book Shoot Shoot Shoot: the First Decade of the London Film-makers’ Co-operative 1966-76, for example, is “whether any aspect of illusion or sequential narrational structure can be made compatible with the anti-illusionist materialistic aesthetics”? In other words, how can we watch Cloud(s), talk about clouds, film them and at the same time, not pay for them, not worry about them being polluted, not disappear inside of them for a lot of money etc. etc.
Yes, how can we…

Concentration camp resembles a Grand Hotel (Alain Resnais)
But does a grand hotel resemble a camp or a jail of a sort?
For us to discover…

by Nina Živančević as seen in The Opiate



Alors que le France se prépare à voter pour le second tour et repense à la montée ou la progression des idées d’extrême droite – ce qui nous amène à la question du fascisme, des évènements culturels à Paris sont là pour essayer de rappeler à chacun les plus atroces aboutissements du fascisme que représente l’Holocauste.

Il y a deux jours, un vibrant hommage était rendu au Musée parisien du Judaïsme à Primo Levi : une conférence était menée par Daniela Amsallem et fut suivie de la représentation théâtralisée/dramatisée de l’interview de Levi par Ferdinand Camon. Les salles de cinéma ont à l’affiche des films tels que “Django” (de Etienne Comar) et «Le procès du siècle» (de Mick Jackson) qui font de l’Holocauste leur thème, plus précisément de cette folle et systématique extermination des minorités juive, slave et rom (“gitane”) perpétrée par le régime nazi durant la seconde guerre mondiale.

Actuellement les médias qui suivent les préceptes du politiquement correct font en sorte de ne pas prononcer deux mots qui pourraient froisser les oreilles et les opinions des votants : ces mots sont fascisme et peur. Mais après avoir écrit ces mots, mon stylo reste coincé sur mon oreille nouvellement gauchiste, j’ai du mal à oublier que le candidat du centre Emmanuel Macron n’a eu dans sa victoire qu’une faible avance sur la candidate d’extrême droite Marine Le Pen lors du scrutin d’il y a une semaine; et j’ai encore plus de mal à ne pas voir que l’écart tend à se resserrer. En attendant, j’essaie tout comme d’ailleurs la majorité des habitants de cette France humaine, éclairée et égalitaire, de ne pas céder à la panique; état dans lequel j’essaie de me remémorer la première fois que j’ai prêté attention à ce phénomène de société fasciste: ce qui peut amener cette situation, ce qu’elle représente, les auteurs de son avènement – et bien sûr, les fâcheuses conséquences qui en découlent.

Il y a deux livres ouverts sur mon bureau devant moi : “Eichmann in Jérusalem” de Hannah Arendt et “Si c’est un homme” de Primo Levi. La question du fascisme a commencé à occuper mon esprit la première fois à la lecture du rapport fait par Arendt du procès Eichmann qui eut lieu à Jérusalem en 1961. Hannah Arendt, philosophe allemande, a essayé avec insistance de trouver la réponse à la question qui hante l’humanité “Pourquoi les victimes ne se sont-elles jamais rebellées ? Comment est-il possible que ces victimes se soient laissées systématiquement écraser sous les bottes du fascisme, et aient pu souffrir un génocide ayant visé des millions de personnes ? Comment se peut-il que des victimes aient été exterminées pendant des années sans un seul signe de protestation ? Comment leur volonté de vivre a-t-elle pu s’éteindre bien avant le moment de leur exécution physique, et comment ces victimes ont pu annuler leur identité et leur voix bien avant de rencontrer ces officiers SS ?»

Arendt dira que le meilleur moyen de garder les gens en esclavage est de les maintenir dans un état de soumission apathique, et que le gouvernement fasciste arrivait à transformer en robots, en mannequins ambulants, des personnes qui, acceptant le statu quo en silence, se retrouvaient dirigés directement vers l’échafaud. Nous avons tous l’expérience de n’avoir pas d’espoir de changer un système de gouvernement en place, nous connaissons l’absence de désir de voter pour QUELQUE candidat présidentiel que ce soit, estimant qu’aucun vote ne pourrait améliorer la situation -tous ceux qui n’ont pas voté cette fois en France avaient ce sentiment, et ont décidé de marcher calmement vers un concentration lager idéologique.

En fait Hannah Arendt ne s’est pas beaucoup intéressée à la personnalité de Eichmann dans son livre. Cet officier Nazi, assez semblable à Klaus Barbie, fût arrêté presque accidentellement à Buenos Aires en 1960. De là il fut emmené directement au tribunal de Nuremberg où il répéta, comme un «banal»citoyen allemand dont il utilisait le vocabulaire, qu’il n’avait fait que son devoir en exécutant les ordres de leur suprême Führer, Hitler. Arendt n’était pas vraiment intéressée par la structure de la personnalité de Eichmann – elle était avant tout intéressée par le phénomène du mal chez l’homme, et par son absence de conscience rapportée au moyen de catégories sociales et philosophiques. Elle pourra ainsi dire «sur le banc des accusés à Jérusalem, ce n’est pas un homme qui est assis pour être jugé par cette cour historique, ce n’est pas non plus le régime Nazi lui-même – mais ce sont les phénomènes de haine et d’antisémitisme qui ont fait leur apparition dans ce monde il y a des siècles».

Eichmann a refusé de plaider coupable à ce procès – son avocat Robert Servicius a déclaré une seule fois que l’accusé se sentait coupable «devant Dieu mais pas devant le système légal en soi». La seule fois où il admit son erreur à la cour fut quand il mentionna la conversation téléphonique qu’il eut avec Franz Rademacher, un membre du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères. Rademacher était chargé de la question juive en Yougoslavie et Eichmann l’autorisa au cours de cette conversation téléphonique à fusiller de façon systématique les juifs et les gitans de Serbie pour en débarrasser cette partie d’Europe de l’Est. Le général Böhme (qui était la main armée en Serbie) n’avait pas vraiment exécuté l’ordre ou le conseil d’Eichmann avec suffisamment d’efficacité, mais seulement six mois après, ce même Böhme décida d’une initiative de grande envergure en raflant toutes les femmes ainsi que les enfants pour leur appliquer la «solution finale» en utilisant des chambres à gaz mobiles aménagées dans des camions spéciaux. Alors qu’au cours d’un des procès de Eichmann en Allemagne de l’Ouest en 1952, l’accusé avait déclaré que la plus grande opération d’épuration en Serbie avait été réalisée parce que «l’armée allemande avait pour mission de maintenir l’ordre en Serbie et de fusiller les rebelles juifs», Arendt dit que c’était le pire des mensonges, les juifs ne s’étant jamais organisé en rébellion armée en Serbie, contrairement à ce qu’ils avaient fait en Hollande en 1941.

Est-ce que je puis, après avoir lu ces lignes, avoir des idées sur la nature du régime fasciste et de l’insipide, pernicieuse « banalité du mal commis » ? Non, ce fut un jour où au Quai d’Orsay, j’ai rencontré Hubert Védrine, qui était alors ministre français des Affaires étrangères, et, lors d’une conférence spéciale réservée aux journalistes serbes, français, macédoniens et albanais, alors que les collègues journalistes lui demandaient comment s’était-il sentait quand il avait débarqué en Serbie, au début de l’an 2000, en ayant à l’esprit que c’est avec son aval que tant de bombes à l’uranium appauvri avaient été larguées sur notre pays. Le ministre, sans trop réfléchir, répondit qu’« [il] avait toujours aimé la Serbie en tant que pays, mais au moment donné [il] n’avait fait qu’accomplir [son] devoir imposé » ! L’un des journalistes l’adressa alors avec frustration : « Monsieur le ministre, il me semble qu’Adlof Eichmann répondant à une question similaire avait donné votre réponse ! ». Aussitôt, la conversation fut déplacée sur un tout autre sujet.

Et maintenant, cette histoire avec une nouvelle campagne présidentielle et la candidate du Front national, Marine Le Pen.

Contrairement à Hannah Arendt, Primo Levi a toujours prétendu qu’un fasciste comme Eichmann, était une personnalité complètement déchaîné, pathologique et destructrice, pas le moins banale. Que son désir de commander et d’exécuter les ordres était lucide, mais relevait d’une folie bipolaire. Le film de Mick Jackson « Le procès du siècle », relate apparemment la procédure judiciaire de l’historienne Deborah Lipstadt, relatée à l’origine dans son livre «L’Histoire en procès : Ma journée au Tribunal avec un négationniste de l’Holocauste », dans lequel cette historienne américaine et défenseur des droits de l’homme, avec arguments à l’appui, et quelque peu impuissante, essaye de faire tomber les revendications de certains groupes sociaux qui affirment que les chambres à gaz n’ont jamais existé pendant de la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

La note accusatoire contre le fascisme resonne encore plus fort dans le film d’Etienne Komara «Django» qui relate de manière sublime et artistique les années de guerre du célèbre musicien de jazz d’origine manouche, Django Reinhardt. Invité par des officiers allemands à leur jouer de « la musique sans grands élans spirituels et des solos et des bravoures », Django assiste à la représentation du « Festin chez Trimalcion » où il joue sa guitare tandis que les officiels se succèdent à lever le toast à l’« Europe unie, l’Europe allemande ». L’excessif arrêt sur image de la caméra sur cette scène ne manque pas d’attirer l’attention même du plus naïf des spectateurs des cinémas français qui finit a un moment par se demander « qui donc maintenant lève le toast – et pour qui ? ». L’une des scènes les plus émouvantes du film vient tout juste après, lorsque le musicien, interprété magistralement par la grande star du film récent, Reda Kateb, brise sa guitare légendaire et creuse avec un trou dans la neige pour s’y cacher – au moment où il fuit avec sa mère et sa femme vers la frontière suisse enneigée.

En dépit des opinions relativement défavorables venant des critiques français orientés vers la droite, ce film est un grand hymne anti-guerre que le réalisateur termine par le « Requiem pour mes frères tziganes » de Django, œuvre qui n’eut qu’une seule représentation en France à ce jour.

L’un des plus grands rassemblements massif de protestation contre le statu quo de la campagne présidentielle aura lieu demain à 16 heures à Paris, place de la République – je me demande si les participants de cet « Appel à l’éveil de La Gauche » laisseront leurs plumes et leurs haches de guerre à la maison ; je me demande si les participants feront leur devoir d’école et prononceront en chœur les mots « fascisme » et « peur » ; je me demande si ils ont lu les souvenirs du grand poète français Robert Desnos qui, à l’arrivée de la Gestapo pour le déporter dans le Camp de concentration – avait remis son stylo à plume à sa fiancée Youki, avec ces mots « ils peuvent emmener mon corps, mais mon esprit reste avec toi », je me demande …

Nina Živančević

Version anglais


Fascism and Fear

While France is getting ready to vote in the second run and is rethinking the mounting or further ascent of the far right and the National Front- which guides us back to the theme of Fascism, the cultural events in Paris try to remind everyone of the most painful consequences of Fascism exemplified by Holocaust.

Two nights ago in the Parisian Musée of Judaism there was a big homage paid to the Italian Jewish writer Primo Levi—the conference was held by Daniela Amsallem then followed by the theatrical representation/dramatization of Levi’s interview with Ferdinand Camon. The cinemas are hosting films such as “Django” (by the director Etienne Comar)and “Denial” (by Mick Jackson) which have for their theme the very subject of Holocaust, more precisely that crazy and systematic extermination of the minorities of Jewish, Slavic and Rom(“Gypsy”) nationalities by the Nazi regime during the World War II. At the same time, the public media who follow “the politically correct democratic” postulates try really hard not to pronounce two words which would hurt the ears and opinions of the voters: these are Fascism and Fear.

However, while I’m writing this text, with my fountain-pen stuck behind my new-leftist ear, I can’t forget that the centralist candidate Emmanuel Macron had won a lame advantageous victory in votes before the extreme-right candidate Marin Le Pen only a week ago. I have a greater problem yet not to observe the fact that Le Pen has almost equalized her votes with Macron in the voting boxes of today. In the meantime, I’m trying- as much as the majority of that humane, enlightened and egalitarian France not to enter the state of the daily panic in which I try to remember when was the first time that I paid attention to the phenomenon called the Fascist society—how do we enter it, what is it all about, who creates it- and of course, what are its deadly consequences.

Two books are wide open in front of me on my desk- Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” and Primo Levi’s “ Survival in Auschwitz” (If This is a Man). The problem of fascism started occupying my mind for the fist time when I was reading Arendt’s report from the court process of Otto Adolf Eichmann which took place in Jerusalem in 1961. Hannah Arendt, a German philosopher had been trying obsessively to give herself an answer to the question which haunted humanity “Why the victims have never rebelled? That is, how it was possible that these victims allowed to be systematically squashed by the boots of Fascism and suffer the genocide involving the millions of people?” How it was possible that the victims were being exterminated for years without a single sign of protest? “How was their will to live extinguished much before the moment of their concrete physical execution, and why these victims had sort of annulled their identity and their voice much before the fatal encounter with those SS officers?” At one point Arendt will say that the best way to keep people in slavery is to keep them in the apathetic submission and that the ruling Fascism had a way to make robots, walking mannequins out of people who accepted that status quo and were walking silently in the procession right to their scaffold. We have all experienced hopelessness to be able to change anything in the governing system, we have experienced all the absence of desire to vote for ANY presidential candidate as we did not see that the voting could improve the current situation—all of us who did not vote this time in France have felt this sentiment as we decided to walk quietly into a certain ideological concentration lager.

Hannah Arendt, in fact, did not pay so much attention to the personality of Eichmann in her book- this Nazi officer, much like Klaus Barbie, was arrested almost accidentally in Buenos Aires in 1960. From there they took him directly to the court of Nürnberg where he repeated in a “banal” manner, using the vocabulary of a normal German citizen that “he had only doing his homework, under the commands of their supreme Führer, Hitler”. Arendt was not really interested in the structure of Eichmann’s personality– she was, above all interested in the phenomenon of evil in a man, as well as the absence of his consciousness in terms of social and philosophical categories. Thus she will say that “on the bench in Jerusalem there was not a single accused—a man who would be the subject of this historical court-trial, nor was there the Nazi regime itself sitting on that bench– but the phenomena of hatred and antisemitism which were pronouncing themselves in this world (see Europe more precisely) for centuries.

Eichmann had refused, to begin with, to claim guilty at that trial- his lawyer Robert Servicius has said only once that the accused felt guilty “before God but not in front of the legal system as such”. The only time he admitted his error in court was when he mentioned the telephone conversation which he had with Franz Rademacher, a man from the German Ministry of the Foreign Affairs. Rademacher was in charge of “the Jewish question in Yugoslavia and Eichmann authorized him – during the telephone conversation- to apply “the systematic fusillade” in Serbia so that he could clean that part of Eastern Europe of Jews and Gypsies. General Böhme (who was an extended hand in Serbia) hasn’t really realized this advice or order of Eichmann’s efficiently enough, but only six moths later- when he (Böhme) when he himself took a greater initiative in Serbia to collect all women and children as well and apply the “Final Solution” by placing those in a mobile gas chambers in certain trucks. During one of Eichmann’s trials in West Germany in 1952, the accused had mentioned that the greatest “cleansing” in Serbia was performed because “the German army was scheduled to keep order in Serbia and shoot at the Jewish rebels” although, Arendt says that was the worst lie of them all because the Jews never staged an armed rebellion in Serbia, unlike the Jews from Holland who rebelled in 1941.

Had I started thinking about it, at that time, having read these ines which spoke about the nature of Fascist regime and about that nauseous, disastrous “banality of evil”? No. I started reflecting about it the day when I was invited to Matignon, to a special conference held by the former minister of French foreign affairs, Hubert Vedrine, which he was giving to a group of the French, Serbian, Macedonian and Albanian journalists. My colleagues- journalists were asking Vedrine how he felt the first time he landed in Serbia, after the fall of Milosevic’s government and after his given accord to drop the bombs with the depleted uranium on the country. The former minister responded without making a blink: “I always loved Serbia, but at that time- I was just doing my homework- I was executing the orders given to me by my superiors.”

One of our colleagues retorted in a frustrated tone of voice “But, Sir, I think that Eichmann had a similar reply to the given question.” There was a split second of total silence in the room- and then the conversation quickly moved to some other subject.

And now we have a new presidential campaign here and a candidate who comes from the National Front League, Marin Le Pen.

Unlike Hanna Arendt, Primo Levi, Italian Jewish writer, himself a survivor, has always claimed that a fascist like Adolf Eichmann is a warped, pathological and destructive personality, by no means “banal”. And that his desire to command and give orders to the inferiors as well as his need to receive orders from his superiors, a sort of sign of a lucid but deeply troubled, bipolar personality. Mick Jackson’s film “Denial” allegedly follows the real trial of an American historian, a Shoah specialist, Deborah Lipstadt which was described prior to the film in Lipstadt’s book “”History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier”(2000). Lipstadt is somewhat like Arendt, puts herself on trial – in order to prove that banality is never banal enough to be neglected in court, as Lipstadt, a historian and a human rights activist hopelessly tries to deny the existence of those evil and not so banal social groups paid to believe that the gas chambers had never existed in Auschwitz – or anywhere else, during the World War II. 

The tone of accusation concerning Fascist government practices is even louder in Etienne Comar’s film “Django”which tells a sublime story of an artist, more precisely- it describes the war years of a famous Rom jazz musician, father of Java and free jazz–Django Reinhardt. Once he was invited to play his music to an elite corps of German SS officers, Reinhardt even decided to do it: he was promised a free leave and an escape for his tribe. However, he was advised by his German impresario to perform “without greater soulful adventure in music”- — consisting of his renowned long guitar solos. Poor Django accepts the challenge and participates in a sort of Gestapo’s Trymalchion party; there he plays his guitar with his band and the SS officers toast to “New Europe, United Europe”, that is German Europe. The most innocent spectator in the cinema cannot fail to observe the insistence of the director’s camera on this scene and soon enough we are bound to ask the inevitable “who is toasting here to whom? Is this a reference to the European union and its broken stability in 2017?” One of the most moving scenes in the film comes a bit later when the musician, majestically played by a new star of the French cinema, Reda Kateb, breaks his legendary guitar in two to hide himself in it- at the moment when he is on the run, approaching the frozen Swiss frontier all alone. And despite the bad reviews coming from the right-oriented French media, we see this film as a great anti-war hymn ending with Django’s “Requiem for the Gypsies”- his composition which was performed only once in front of the French audience.

The big protests against the ambiguous presidential campaign are taking place this week at the Republique square in Paris– I’m wondering if the members of the “Appeal for the Resurgence of the Left” are leaving their fountain-pens and their hatchets behind at home; I’m puzzeled to know if they are doing their homework and if they are going to say these two words loudly: Fascism and Fear; I’m curious to know if they had read the memories of their great poet, Robert Desnos who- once the Gestapo officers came to pick him up and take to the camp- simply handed his fountain-pen to his partner, Yuki, and said something to the effect “they can take away my body- but I remain in my spirit here, with you”, I’m just wondering..

Nina Zivancevic

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Littérature et Culture contemporaines en Iran

Comme en témoigne le travail de Sadegh Hedayat, Nahal Tajadod, Daryush Shayegan et Simon Farid Oliai

Il semble que l’histoire véritable de la culture moderne et contemporaine (les arts et lettres) en Iran commence quelque part dans la deuxième décade du XXe siècle, plus précisément en 1925, quand Reza Khan a pris les commandes du trône royal de l’ancien Ahmad Shah de la dynastie Qadjar. Les Quadjars ont auparavant gouverné les pays de l’Iran pour plus de 400 ans, et la nouvelle dynastie Pahlavi n’est restée au pouvoir que pour 50 ans, jusqu’au 1er avril 1979, quand la République islamique a pris le pouvoir par le mouvement révolutionnaire. Durant ces temps tumultueux, non seulement le dernier Shah de la dynastie, Mohamed Reza, était forcé de fuir le pays, mais encore un grand nombre des écrivains, artistes et scientifiques intéressants ont été contraint de faire face à l’exil. Le régime profondément religieux de l’ Ayatollah Khomeiny n’était pas prêt à encourager le développement des arts et de la culture modernistes qui ont commencé de prospérer sous les Pahlavis, pourtant peut-être trop vite pour la mentalité traditionnelle des Persans – ce que nous indique le sociologue de la culture Daryush Shayegan[i]. L’insistance des Pahlavis sur la modernisation rapide de la culture iranienne, l’insistance de Reza Pahlavi sur l’indépendance de l’U.R.S.S. et la Grande-Bretagne ont mené à la formation des états indépendants comme Kurdistan et Azerbaïdjan, cependant contrôlés par les Russes ; le Code civil a été établi, ainsi que les changements rapides dans l’éducation, dans la justice et le ministère de la Santé ; les femmes ont été officiellement interdites de porter des voiles et tchadors, etc.), le fait qui n’a pas été reçu de la part du peuple traditionnel dans l’esprit de développement et sentiment réels. Dans son roman « Elle joue »[ii], l’écrivaine contemporaine Nahal Tajadod a essayé d’expliquer pourquoi et comment une telle société, rapidement modernisée, avait été prête à faire un pas en arrière et revenir à l’ancienne pratique traditionnelle religieuse musulmane. Shayegan, de son côté, explique comment cette « occidentalisation » rapide du pays a mené à « l’ankylose identitaire » ; ce qui a produit une sorte de schizophrénie culturelle chez les Persans « qui en même temps achetait les sous-produits de l’Occident en tentant de rester loyal, dans l’intimité de sa maison, à leur ancien héritage culturel ».[iii]

De fait, tous les auteurs ci mentionnés n’attendaient pas, au côté de Salman Rushdie, que le jour imminent de la fatwa se produise contre eux – ils se sont enfuis du pays longtemps avant que la course de la Révolution ait commencé. Cependant, les figures culturelles comme Nahal Tajadod et Daryush Shayegan n’étaient pas les premiers à  s’enfuir du pays face à la Révolution islamique ; longtemps avant ce temps il y avait des gens créatifs, écrivains tels que Sadegh Hedayat, qui habitait Paris dans les années 1930, et un philosophe et écrivain, un descendant de la dynastie Qadjar, Simon Farid Oliai, qui habitait Paris dans les années 1990. Ces intellectuels, chacun dans son époque, doutaient également de la sincérité politique des Pahlavis (nous entendons souvent dire que Shah Mohamad Reza opérait à la CIA), par conséquent ils ont préféré l’exil que la très rapide modernisation des industries de l’Iran que les Pahlavis ont poursuivie, combinée à  l’inflation économique.

Sadegh Hedayat était exilé en Paris dans les années 1930 où il fut accueilli par André Breton et Henry Miller comme l’auteur exceptionnel du bref chef d’œuvre « Le hibou aveugle ». Dans la préface de l’éditeur de son recueil de contes intitulé « L’homme qui tua son désir »[iv] on peut remarquer le regret éditorial que le travail de ce grand écrivain iranien, dans son obscure beauté et profondeur comparable à Kafka et Edgar Poe, demeure  inconnu du public. Cette figure méconnue des lettres Persanes, qui a souvent désigné les tabous de la société iranienne de son époque, était, en même temps, un ethnographe suprême des coutumes anciennes persanes et un satiriste digne des méditations d’Omar Khayyam. Il avait souffert en exil jusqu’au point de se suicider en 1951. Ce profond lecteur de Dostoïevski a toujours affirmé en ses contes que notre vie n’est qu’une rencontre de l’humain avec un immense malentendu et qu’on vit sans cesse en forme humaine dans nos prisons intérieures qui peuvent aussi nous servir comme espace de la liberté personnelle infinie. Dans ses textes il se tourne allégoriquement et virtuellement vers le passé persan – vers l’héritage zoroastrien de la lumière et le feu (« l’Admirateur du Feu ») ou vers l’ère des Barmécides qui ont stratégiquement régné sur Baghdâd sous le premier califat Arabe  (« Le dernier Sourire »), pendant qu’Hedayat nous rappelle constamment que le passé est ici juste pour expliquer la Vacuité du présent et peut être le seul moyen de nous présenter la (im)possibilité du Futur. Dans son conte sur les Zoroastriens, « L’Admirateur du Feu », Hedayat se souvient avec une certaine nostalgie du berceau ancien des civilisations, Persépolis, maintenant un site archéologique en ruines, visité par de fameux archéologues afin de déchiffrer l’Histoire. Un spécialiste de l’Iran, Flandrin, arrive devant un autel dans le site-cimetière de Naqsh-e Rostam, où l’image d’Ahura Mazda, le Dieu central zoroastrien du feu, est représentée à l’entrée même de la grotte où l’ancienne famille royale iranienne a été enterrée. Selon l’archéologue, les pèlerins zoroastriens récemment arrivés, revenus à ce site après leur travail,  avaient  rassemblé des faces gravées dans les pierres entourant la grotte – là à l’air libre -, et se prosternaient face à l’ancien sanctuaire, rendant hommage au feu. Et puis, les mots de l’archéologue français disent tout – toute l’histoire de l’Iran depuis ces débuts à travers les conquêtes des Arabes et Moghuls : « J’étais tellement frappé de voir qu’après de nombreuses années les efforts incroyables des musulmans ne pouvaient pas empêcher les dévots de cette ancienne religion ; ils visitaient toujours ce site en cachette afin de se prosterner et de rendre hommage au Dieu du feu. » L’homme qui tue son désir est en fait un bouddhiste. Et dans toute son œuvre, Hedayat nous ramène au chemin du « calme », qui contrôle non seulement son désir, mais encore la société en tant que telle, et règne sagement sur ce monde au bénéfice de tous les êtres humains. Ce type de société était visible en Iran pendant l’empire Sassanide, mais avec les conquêtes arabes et l’établissement du premier califat, les traces du bouddhisme et sa ramification, zoroastrienne, ont disparu en Iran. Quand même, certains aspects en demeuraient toujours durant le VIIIe siècle, notamment avec la famille Barmécide et son représentant illustre, Rouzbehan Barmaki, qui régnait sur le Khorasan déguisé en souverain musulman, mais qui en fait était le gardien de plus grand temple bouddhiste iranien, Nowbahar. À cette époque, le calife Haroun al Rachid, qui avait  grandi avec un Barmécide et a donné à cette famille noble bouddhiste presque carte blanche pour régner sur son royaume musulman, a lentement commencé à se rendre compte qu’il avait été finement manipulé par les vizirs Barmécides. Alors il a décidé d’éliminer les Barmécides et aussi toutes les autres sectes en incluant les manichéens, les zoroastriens et les mazdakites. Par conséquent le conte de Hedayat, « Le dernier Sourire », parle directement du massacre qui suivit la décision du calife. Rouzbehan, le maire de Khorassan et le gardien de la porte bouddhiste vit dans un palais qui est un temple vivant bouddhiste et où il médite toutes les nuits en contemplant l’essence ou plutôt l’absence de tout désir. Il a été averti de la décision du calife de les massacrer tous, mais il attend paisiblement que l’armée du calife entre dans sa ville, méditant et gardant son « dernier sourire » sur son visage ; il serre une lettre dans la main – un ordre écrit par son pair, Mohammad Barmécide, qui a ordonné la même chose qu’Haroun : ils ont à exécuter un massacre, mais en faveur des Barmécides contre les oppresseurs musulmans. Lui, Rouzbehan, était censé attaquer la population musulmane et libérer les régions comme Khorassan, Bactria, afin que règne la famille musulmane Bamian. Cependant, il n’a pas pu les attaquer, vu que le bouddhisme lui défendait de tuer un être vivant, homme ou animal. Alors il attendit dans son palais, un dernier sourire (de Bouddha) sur son visage, il mourut en méditant, la lettre dans ses mains lui commandant de tuer ses frères musulmans ; ce qu’il n’a pas pu faire, et finalement il a atteint l’état de bouddha dans une situation impossible.

Les sites sacrés anciens font partie de l’héritage iranien que chaque Persan chérit – le même souci et la quête pour Bactria et Bâmiyân ont été exprimés par le philosophe Simon Oliai, dans le moment où les fondamentalistes musulmans ont démoli les Bouddhas de Bâmiyân. Ces monuments étaient presque aussi chers au cœur de cet écrivain distingué que le destin de ses enfants – il a donné des nombreuses conférences à l’ONU, à Paris, à Téhéran et aux États-Unis. Ce qui était un signe exceptionnel du respect et la reconnaissance de son héritage culturel qui a été détruit depuis l’époque d’Haroun al Rachid et les Barmécides, jusqu’à aujourd’hui. Selon un sociologue et anthropologue culturel, Daryush Shayegan, les fondamentalistes ont essayé d’occuper le terrain qui a été abandonné par la population traditionnelle et les anciens métaphysiciens. Or cela a mené à une certaine idéologisation de leur tradition, tandis que la République islamique a lancé la religion vers le domaine de la modernité, où cela tombait dans un piège de la raison, comme Hegel le dirait. Ignorant les règles des temps modernes , le chiisme révolutionnaire a permis à ses partisans d’accepter les idées révolutionnaires qui flottaient dans les airs comme une idéologie diffusée ou, mieux encore, comme un marxisme vulgaire qui avait échangé son manteau contre celui du stalinisme pour ne plus en changer.

Pendant qu’un grand nombre d’écrivains iraniens modernes et postmodernes, peut-être, n’a pas atteint le style et le talent élégants de Sadeq Hedayat pour illustrer les caractères et leur atmosphère, tous ont hérité de lui sa passion pour la métaphore filée et la pensée allégorique.  Tous partagent une vaste vision d’une grande civilisation, jadis perdue pourtant léguant à ses enfants un patrimoine matériel et immatériel dont ils pouvaient être fiers. Tous les artistes, auteurs et penseurs iraniens, sentent à l’unisson qu’ils sont les porteurs du feu sacré et que leur travail créatif est une mission prolongée que leur patrie les a tenus  à entreprendre. Cette conscience de leur passé si présente, délaissée et peut-être entraînée dans une mauvaise direction, rend compte, selon les mots de Gashvad, d’un propos d’Hedayat : « Tout cela est notre faute, parce que c’est nous qui avions appris aux Arabes l’art de la gouvernance, nous avons élaboré les concepts de leurs doctrines, nous les avons offert, l’esprit et l’âme généreux, nous leur avons offert nos pensées et nos enfants, notre industrie et littérature, en espérant que tout cela anoblirait leur esprit sauvage et rebelle ! Hélas ! Ses mentalité et race si diffèrent des nôtres ! Mais tant mieux ! Ils devraient demeurer comme ils sont, leurs pensées nées de leur pisse et excrément – oui, c’est ce qu’elles sont. »

Un porteur des mots similaires est une collègue d’Hedayat beaucoup plus jeune, une femme – Nahal Tajadod. Née en 1960 à Téhéran, Tajadod arrive à Paris en 1977, et fait des études en relations politiques entre l’Iran et la Chine. Hedayat a donné à son peuple la traduction de Kafka, mais Tajadod a donné au peuple français une des plus complètes monographies du poète Roumi[v] , avec la traduction de Mowlana – « Le Livre de Chams de Tabriz : cent poèmes »[vi]. Dans son roman complexe, à multiples facettes, « Elle joue », Tajadod peint l’image de la vie et l’époque des hôtes d’Iran contemporain, ou plutôt les conditions de vie des artistes, peuple d’une certaine sensibilité, racontée par une actrice et musicienne Sheyda, qui avait grandi à l’époque où l’Ayatollah Khomeiny s’était emparé du pouvoir dans les années 1980. L’image du régime répressif religieux est toujours valable jusqu’à nos jours dans le pays où la musique et le théâtre ont été interdits d’être diffusés ou exécutés en public jusqu’à récemment :  ainsi le défi majeur de l’héroïne envers la société et le code légal est l’acte même de montrer son art ; d’où le titre « rebelle » du roman « Elle joue ». La narration, en fait, nous peint un portrait d’une autre héroïne iranienne – on pourrait dire le portrait de l’auteure même, ou une femme quelconque, particulièrement une femme Persane qui a passé toute sa vie en exil et n’a pas trouvé une place comme sa véritable maison. Ces deux femmes se rencontrent finalement à Paris, et échangent leurs expériences sur les conditions primaires de la vie en exil : ce qui donne à ce roman la hauteur d’un texte profondément philosophique ou d’un traité sur l’exil. « Nous deux sommes maintenant en France, une arrivée trois ans auparavant et l’autre dix fois trois années auparavant. Pendant tout ce temps j’ai habité plusieurs maisons, mais je me sentais chez mois nulle part. Impossible pour elle de trouver une. Elle est une nomade sans foyer… ». Alors, dit-elle ironiquement et sarcastiquement : « Si tout va mal, je vais  déménager en Inde : mieux vaut être un vagabond en Inde qu’un sans-abri à Paris, n’est-ce pas ? » Une descendante d’une civilisation ancienne, Sheyda, tout comme l’auteure Tajadod, exilée, doivent apprendre un nombre de petits trucs inutiles, insignifiants qui, pourtant, composent l’identité et la civilisation d’un pays : « Elle n’est qu’au début d’un long exil, elle n’est pas préparée à vivre en France. Elle doit apprendre la langue qu’elle avait déjà étudié – mais il y en a toujours une couche qu’on apprend « sur place », la signification des truffes (pour les Français) ; ce qu’elle devrait apprendre sur la manière dont ils apprennent à aimer saint-émilion, roquefort, le discours de de Gaulle à l’occasion de la Libération de Paris, Arletty, Gabin et leurs répliques… Tour de France, Mai 68, la Nouvelle Vague… les noms des réalisateurs, des écrivains – à ne pas oublier Proust, surtout, Proust – les sportifs…, les restaurants, les hôtels, les saisons politiques… les jours fériés… Oh quel sacré morceau de travail pour toi, qui ne sait pas même qui est Dominique Strauss-Kahn ! Mais aussi, quel heureux hasard pour toi. » (p.47)

Là, comme ailleurs dans le roman, Tajadod compare deux mondes, celui de l’Iran de l’ époque où elle a grandi et qu’elle a quitté, où la première écrivaine, Tahereh, s’était dévoilée devant un groupe d’ hommes, et cela s’était  passé il y a si longtemps, en 1845 – et le monde, imposé par le régime fondamentaliste religieux de Khomeiny, avait, selon Simon Oliai : « ramené (le pays) 400 ans en arrière, tout en année 2000 .»

Au début de son long exil, la plus jeune héroïne, Sheyda, est consciente du fait que, si elle se dévoilait en public et à New York, comme son idole, la poètesse Tahereh l’avait fait, que les mêmes anathèmes et fatwa la suivrait. Elle a entendu des paroles des mullahs maudissant les femmes libérées « Honte à celles qui osent enlever le hidjab en public – elles mériteront la prison dans ce monde, et l’Enfer dans l’autre ». Descendante d’une vieille famille bahaïs, qui ne pouvait pas adopter l’Islam, Sheyda a survécu aux interrogatoires de la SAVAK (la police secrète iranienne), à « l’embargo » et l’aviation militaire « Mirage » de la guerre avec l’Iraq, qui avait duré plus de dix ans.

« Elle sait aujourd’hui que ces mirages, nommés « Mirage F1 » ont été fabriqué en France et vendus à Saddam Hussein afin qu’il bombarde l’Iran ». Sheyda également va apprendre et comprendre comment l’ Ayatollah a gagné les cœurs des Iraniens et a établi la République Islamique au lieu de la « République du progrès », qui venait de l’Occident, mais quelque peu, à leur avis, était prédestinée à coloniser le peuple.

Les problèmes du progrès culturel et de la diversité culturelle étaient les horizons constants de l’attention pour un humaniste et penseur à multiples facettes, Daryush Shayegan, auteur de plusieurs livres reconnus sur les changements interculturels, tel que « La lumière vient de l’Occident », « La Conscience métisse » et « Qu’est-ce qu’une révolution religieuse? ». Pour son analyse multiculturelle, Shayegan commence par la signification de termes tels que culture et assimilation culturelle. Ce qu’on appelle « la Globalisation » a remonté l’heure, aussi, ou nous a ramené à la notion de la validité singulière ou l’ethnocentricité d’une culture. Lorsqu’il y a « une maison » et le sentiment de l’ethnicité pour une tribu culturelle (dar al-Islam ou la Terre d’Islam), il y a aussi, selon Shayegan, une terre étrangère où l’Islam a échoué à trouver la tolérance, ainsi nommée dar al-harb ou la Terre de la Guerre. Ce qui est  un grand Autre saint pour quelqu’un de Dar al-Islam, pour un Européen ou un Chinois, le grand Autre est censé être un être de Dar al-Islam. Shayegan prétend plus encore que, si quelqu’un ne vit qu’uniquement pour sa tradition culturelle, son identité culturelle, il devient une sorte de la personnalité sclérotique, si vivement présent et imminent dans sa propre expérience que cela l’empêche d’observer toute distinction importante et précieuse. Ce qui est d’une importance cruciale dans notre projection des visions objectives du monde. Shayegan affirme qu’il y avait une période saine dans les années 1970, où les différentes cultures toujours pouvaient communiquer l’une avec l’autre, où « Senghor avait lancé le concept de la négritude et où l’UNESCO avait organisé des conférences liées aux sujets culturels importants, ou lorsque les intellectuels iraniens, encouragés par des effets indésirables de la contre-culture américaine, avaient critiqué les effets négatifs de l’influence culturelle occidentale pendant qu’ils avaient préconisé le retour à leur identité culturelle originale. »

Shayegan est prudent lorsqu’il examine les éléments de la  prétendue diversité culturelle. A plusieurs reprises, dans tous ces livres, il a souligné le fait que chaque culture devrait éviter le piège majeur, prétendument celui qui offre sa propre exclusivité et la haine pour d’autres cultures dans la civilisation autrement ouverte, et où les règles de la démocratie seraient respectées. Dans une telle civilisation, les relations entre les peuples et cultures qui l’habitent ne sont pas celles du  monologue. Ce qu’on atteste dans toutes les civilisations anciennes et traditionnelles, mais plutôt celle du dialogue, qui a créé quelque chose que Gadamer appelle « la fusion des horizons ». Et alors Shayegan change sa critique par rapport au « terrain culturel » nouvellement créé ; ce qu’il nomme le phénomène de la Renaissance des religions. Il y explique les effets primaires et secondaires suivant l’établissement de l’Islam comme la religion officielle de l’État Islamique en Iran. Ces effets ont pris plusieurs formes, mais les résultats de ce(s) revirement(s) culturel(s) les plus connus ont des impacts la spécifique :

  1. Mythologisation du Temps, ce qui n’est que le déplacement de l’Eschatologie à la catégorie de l’historicité (le Coran n’est pas intéressé en soi par l’historicité, mais par la verticalité de l’expérience révélatrice)
  2. Effacement de la mémoire collective des musulmans ; ce qui a renvoyé la couche culturelle de l’entière civilisation d’Islam vers le sens littéral des temps célébrant salad, le modèle imaginaire de la ville idéalisée du Prophète, appauvrissant, en fait, la culture et l’histoire de l’Islam de telle manière qu’elles marchent vers la barbarie et la stérilité
  3. Réduction de l’homme spirituel et idéal en Islam, ramené à la caricature d’un révolutionnaire radical qui, quelque peu semblable aux anarchistes Russes des romans de Dostoïevski, tue les gens à tire-larigot
  4. Sanctification de la violence – Shayegan cite ici Al-Ashmawy qui, dans son livre « L’Islamisme contre l’Islam », dit que dans les 7000 vers du Coran, moins de 700 référent à une matière légale ou didactique et, sur ces vers, à peine 80 pourraient indiquer une « prescription légale » de « ce qu’il fallait faire » ou de ce qu’un croyant devrait faire dans une situation légale.

Mais Shayegan remarque ici une chose avec pertinence :

Si le Fondamentalisme est un aspect sombre de la nouvelle renaissance des religions en général, le nouveau polythéisme qui se présente à l’Occident sous le nom commun des pratiques de « l’Âge nouveau », désigne la même chose que le néo paganisme. Ce qui est un aspect badin de la nouvelle métamorphose des formes religieuses vers  des idées anciennes et des archétypes religieux allant d’un contexte à l’autre. Et qu’est-ce qu’est la raison pour la création de ces multiples carrefours de nouvelles sectes et communautés religieuses ? Shayegan pense, et il est bien possible qu’on le pense aussi, de concert avec l’héritage de la recherche de Vladimir Zivancevic, professeur de religions comparées, que les grandes religions du passé ne peuvent pas satisfaire les différents besoins des êtres contemporains d’Anthropocène. Par conséquent que l’approche multiculturelle des « zones mixtes de l’hybridation », toutes les cultures sur notre planète poussent leurs habitants vers une rencontre spécifique horizontale, l’un avec l’autre, où la vision principale et globale des choses prend la vision kaléidoscopique de ce qui fracture simultanément la myriade de particules de la lumière pendant que notre chemin principal à travers la vie demeure sombre, non éclairé et appauvri.

Un des porteurs des bougies sur le chemin mal éclairé de la connaissance et l’examen de conscience dans la vie, c’est la figure du philosophe Simon Farid Oliai née à Téhéran, mais qui a grandi et a fait ses études en Occident (l’Université de Loewen).

Suivant les pas de Hegel dans sa quête pour « le Maître Absolu » de l’histoire universelle, Oliai a écrit une très profonde étude des intellectuels, artistes, scientifiques et autres acteurs sociaux créatifs dans les différents contextes culturels et l’a intitulé « Contester l’Absolu »[vii]. En analysant, ou plutôt en s’opposant à la pensée de ces prédécesseurs et contemporains tels que Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, et s’approchant plus étroitement de la pensée de Gianni Vattimo et John Sallis, Simon F. Oliai conteste ce qu’il appelle « l’essence » du fondamentalisme ou la crainte fondamentaliste et/ou l’approche des choses. En contemplant la signification profonde de notre vie, ou simplement le fait d’exister sur la Terre – ce qu’ on rencontre dans les écrits cruciaux de classiques de la pensée européenne moderne tels Nietzsche et Heidegger, Simon Oliai ne néglige pas le rôle décisif de « la philosophie d’Orient » ; ce qui a sans doute enrichi ses réflexions sur les racines métaphysiques de tout dogmatisme contemporain. Dans son livre , sous-titré « Nietzsche, Heidegger et la lutte d’Europe contre le Fondamentalisme », Oliai explore le continent des écrivains et penseurs –parmi lesquels Sohrawardi, Avicenne, Hafez et Roumi – qui, avec Heidegger, ont abordé le problème du « Dieu ». « La question ‘qui est Dieu’, est trop dure pour les êtres humains », selon Heidegger[viii] (et Oliai apporte sa contribution),  examinant la question de savoir « Qu’est que-ce c’est Dieu ?» dans la perspective d’un philosophe « européen » sérieux. Oliai prend la déclaration de Shayegan « la Lumière (l’édification) vient d’Occident », et la pousse un peu plus loin en posant la question essentielle, surtout ontologique (serait-ce  un vestige de la pensée manichéenne ?) et c’est – s’il y avait de la Lumière en tout, et si cela nous approchait soit d’Occident soit d’Orient – qu’est-ce que nous, les humains, ferions afin qu’on la garde avec (en) nous ?

Il est intéressant de remarquer que tous les écrivains iraniens susmentionnés ne peuvent poursuivre leurs recherches intellectuelles dans leur patrie – ils vont et viennent entre les pays de leur résidence et l’Iran, et gardent leurs flambeaux, leur lumière héritée dedans.

Nina Zivancevic

(Traduit de l’anglais par Slobodan Ivanovic)

[i] À consulter – Daryush Shayegan – « La conscience métisse », Albin Michel, Paris, 2012.

[ii]Nahal Tajadod, « Elle joue », Albin Michel, Paris, 2012

[iii] Shayegan, Ibid., p. 105

[iv] Sadegh Hedayat, « L’homme qui tua son désir », Editions Phébus, Paris, 1998

[v] Tajadod, N. « Roumi le brûle », Paris, J-C Lattès, 2004

[vi] Tajadod, Nahal, Mowlana, Le Livre de Chams de Tabriz, annoté par Jean Claude Carrière, Gallimard, 1993.

[vii] « Challenging the Absolute », Oliai. S., University Press of America, MD, 2015.

[viii] Ibidem


Contemporary Literature and Culture in Iran

Published on site

(As seen through the work of Sadeq Hedayat, Nahal Tajadod , Daryush Shayegan and Simon F. Oliai)

Today, after the bombing of the Shiite Mosque in Saudi Arabia by Al Qaida–the questions of meaning and belonging and faith become ever more pertinent in the Islamic world. Its most cultured and versatile representatives, the Persians, have endured the changes of their civilizations, religions and cultures for more than 3000 years, as attested to in the literary work of their giant, Sadeq Hedayat, contemporary of Joyce and André Breton. Not less interesting is the literary and anthropological, sociological work of a writer, Daryush Shayegan, who after 30 years of absence returns to Tehran and asks  again and again the legitimate question,  “What is a religious revolution?” which he also explores in his books, “Light comes from the West, “ “Mixed consciousness” and “Hinduism and Sufism.” The philosophical aspect of this quest is pursued by Simon F. Oliai, Iranian philosopher and specialist in Heidegger studies, living in the U.S., whose book “Challenging the Absolute” sheds light on new readings of Heidegger, Nietzsche and the coordination of the world’s struggle against Fundamentalism in Europe and elsewhere . A secular, literary version of this problematics presented by Oliai is found in the literary fiction and biography of a young Iranian woman-writer who has been living in Paris most of her lifetime; she is also interested in the issues of what it means to be a woman, a Moslem woman of Persian background living in the West. Her interests are shared by her compatriots, the visual artists and filmmakers Shirin Neshat and Marjane Satrapi.  My work here attempts to clarify some relevant aspects of the Persian contemporary cultural heritage.

Contemporary Literature and   Culture in Iran

 (As seen through the work of Sadeq Hedayat, Nahal Tajadod , Daryush Shayegan and Simon Farid  Oliai)

It seems that the real story of the modern and contemporary culture (arts and letters) in Iran starts somewhere in the second decade of the 20th century, more precisely in 1925 when Reza Khan took over the royal throne from the ancient Ahmad Shah of the Kadjar dynasty. The Kadjars previously ruled the lands of Iran for more than 400 years, and the newly established Pahlavi dynasty remained in power for only 50 years, until April 1, 1979 when, by the revolutionary movement, the Islamic Republic took over. In these turbulent times not only the Pahlavi dynasty’s last Shah, Mohamad Reza, was forced to flee the country, but also many interesting writers, artists and scientists felt compelled to face exile. The Ayatollah Khomeini’s profoundly religious regime was not going to encourage the development of the modernist arts and culture which started flourishing under the Pahlavis, but perhaps too soon for the traditional mentality of the Persians—as the sociologist of culture Daryush  Shayegan  tells us[i]. The Pahlavis insisted on the rapid modernization of Iranian culture (Reza Pahlavi’s insistence on independence from the USSR and Great Britain led to the formation of the independent states of Kurdistan and Azerbaidjan controlled by the Russians; the civil code was established, as well as the rapid changes in education, justice and the ministry of health; women were officially forbidden to wear veils and chadors, etc.);however this modernization did not sit well with the sentiments of the more traditional people.

In her novel  “She Plays,”[ii] contemporary woman writer Nahal Tajadod explains why and how such a rapidly modernized society was likely to take a step back and return to the old traditional Muslim religious practice.

Shayegan for his part explains how this rapid “westernization” of the country led to the “ankylose of the national identity,” which produced a sort of cultural schizophrenia for  the Persians “who were at the same time buying the sub-products of the West while trying to remain loyal, in the privacy of their home, to their ancient cultural heritage.”[iii]

By the way, all these authors mentioned here were not waiting along with Salman Rushdi  for  the imminent day of fatwa to fall upon them–they fled the country long before the course of the Revolution took its stride.

However, cultural figures like Nahal Tajadod  and  Daryush Shayegan were not the first ones to flee the country facing the Islamic Revolution; long before their time, -there were creative people (writers such as Sadeq Hedayat who lived in Paris in the 1930s;  and a philosopher and writer, a descendant from the Kadjar dynasty, Simon Farid Oliai who lived in Paris in 1990s). These intellectuals, each in his time,  also doubted the political sincerity of the Pahlavis (we often hear that Shah Mohamad Reza operated with the CIA’s helping hands); thus they preferred exile to the really quick modernization of the industries of Iran which the Pahlavis pursued, combining it with economic inflation.

Sadeq Hedayat was exiled in Paris in 1930s where he was welcomed by André Breton and Henry Miller as the exceptional author who wrote a short masterpiece “The Blind Owl”.  In the editor’s preface to his posthumous collection of short stories entitled “The man who killed his desire”[iv] we hear the editor’s regret that the work of this great Iranian writer, compared in its dark beauty and depth to Kafka and Edgar Poe, is still unknown to the general public. This dark figure of the Persian letters, who would point out the taboos of the Iranian society of his times, was also a supreme ethnographer of the ancient Persian customs and a satirist worthy of the meditations of Omar Khayyam, and who suffered in exile to the point of committing suicide in 1951. This profound reader of Dostoyevsky has always claimed in his stories that our life is just an encounter of a human with a big misunderstanding and, that,  as humans, we constantly live in our inner jails which can also serve us as a space of infinite personal freedom. In his texts he constantly turns allegorically and virtually to the Persian past–to the Zoroastrian heritage of light and fire (“The Admirer of Fire”) or to the era of the Barmecides who strategically ruled Baghdad under the first Arab caliphate (“The Last Smile”). Hedayat constantly reminds us that the past is there just to explain the Vacuity of the present moment and perhaps the only means of bringing us the (im)possibility of the Future. In his story about the Zoroastrians, “The Admirer of Fire”, Hedayat remembers with a certain nostalgia the ancient cradle of the civilizations, Persepolis, now an archeological site in ruins which famous archeologists visit to decipher history. The Iranian specialist, Flandin arrives at an altar in a graveyard site of Naqsh-e Rostam, where the image of Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian principal God of fire, is represented at the very entrance of the cave where the ancient Iranian royalty were buried. The newly arrived Zoroastrian pilgrims who returned to this site after work, according to the archeologist, completely resembled  the faces engraved on the stones surrounding the cave. In the free air there, they were prostrating in front of the ancient sanctuary paying homage to fire. And then, in the words of the French archeologist Hedayat says it all –the whole history of Iran from its beginnings through the Arab and Moghul conquests:

“I was so shocked to see, that after so many years the incredible efforts made by the Muslims could not erase the adepts of this ancient religion; they were still coming to this site secretly to prostrate and pay homage to the God of fire.” The man who kills his desire is, in fact, a Buddhist. And in his entire writing Hedayat brings us back to the path of the “calm one” who masters not only his desire but the society as such and reigns over this world wisely for the benefit of all human beings. This type of the society was visible in Iran during the Sassanid empire, but with the Arab conquest and the establishment of the first caliphate, the traces of Buddhism and its offshoot, Zoroastrism, have vanished in Iran. However, some of it still remained in the 8th century, notably with the Barmecide family and its illustrious representative, Rouzbehan Barmaki, who ruled Khorassan in the disguise of a Muslem ruler, but who, in fact, was the keeper of the biggest Iranian Buddhist temple, Nowbahar. At that time, the caliph Haroun al Rachid, who grew up with a Barmecide and gave this noble Buddhist family almost open hands to rule his Muslim kingdom, had slowly started understanding that he was being finely manipulated by the Barmecide veizirs. Thus he decides to liquidate the Barmecides and also all other sects including the Manicheans, the Zoroastrians and the Mazdaists. Thus Hedayad’s story, “The Last Smile,” speaks exactly about the massacre which followed the caliphe’s decision. Rouzbehan, the mayor of Khorassan and a keeper of the Buddhist gate, lives in a palace which is a living Buddhist temple and where he meditates every night contemplating the essence, or rather, absence, of every desire. He is warned about the caliph’s decision to massacre them all, but he is peacefully waiting for the caliph’s army to enter his city, meditating and keeping his “last smile” on his face; he holds a letter in his hand–a written order by his peer, Mohammad Barmecide who had written an order similar to Haroun’s: they were to execute a massacre, but in favor of the Barmecides against the Muslim oppressors. He, Rouzbehan, was supposed to attack the Muslim population and liberate regions such as Khorassan, Bactria and Bamiyan from the Muslim rule–but he could not attack them, as Buddhism forbid him to kill any living being, man or animal. So he waits in his palace, with the last (Buddha’s) smile on his face;  he dies in meditation, and with a letter in his hands- commanding him to kill his Muslim brothers which he couldn’t do, so finally he reaches his Buddhahood in an impossible situation.

The sacred ancient sites are part of the Iranian heritage which every Persian holds dear to his heart. The same worry and quest for Bactria and Bamiyan was expressed by philosopher Simon Oliai, at the moment when the Muslim Fundamentalists were demolishing the Bamiyan Buddhas. These monuments appeared almost as dear to the heart of this distinguished author as the destiny of his own children–he created numerous conferences at UNESCO in Paris, in Teheran and in the U.S., an exceptional sign of respect and the appreciation of his cultural heritage which was being demolished since the times of Haroun al Rachid and the Barmecides up to the present day.  According to sociologist-cum-cultural anthropologist Daryush Shayegan, the fundamentalists were trying to gain terrain subsequently abandoned by the secular population and  the ancient metaphysicists; instead it led to a certain  ideologisation of their tradition as the Islamic Republic launched the religion into the domain of modernity where it  “fell” into the trap imposed by human reason, as Hegel would have it. Ignorant of the rules of the modern times Revolutionary shiism allowed its followers to accept the revolutionary ideas floating in the air like a diffused ideology or, better, as a vulgar Marxism which changed its cloak into Stalinism and stayed with it.

While many modern and postmodern Iranian writers might not have attained Sadeq Hedayat’s elegant style and talent for portraying characters and their milieu, all of them inherited and shared his love for extended metaphor and allegoric thinking. All of them share a vast vision of a great civilization, once lost and gone but which left to its children some material and immaterial monuments they could be proud of. All the Iranian artists, authors, and thinkers–feel in unison that they are the bearers of the sacred fire and that their creative work is a prolonged mission that their homeland obliged them to undertake. The awareness of their abundant past, forlorn and perhaps swayed in the wrong direction, is reflected in the words of Geshvad, one of Hedayat’s characters: “All of this comes as our fault because it was we who taught Arabs the art of governing, we corrected the grammar of their own language, we elaborated the concepts of their doctrines, we offered them, open-handed, our spirit and our mind, we offered to them our thoughts and our children, our industry and our music, our science and our literature, hoping that all this will ennoble their savage and rebellious mind! Hellas! Their mentality and race are so different from ours! But so much the better! They should remain the way they are, their thoughts born out of their piss and excrements–yes, that is what these are.”

The similar bearer of the words on mission, is Hedayat’s much younger colleague , a woman Nahal Tajadod. Born in 1960 in Teheran, Tajadod arrives in Paris in 1977 and studies the political relations of Iran and China. Hedayat has given his people the translation of Kafka, but Tajadod has given the French one of the most complete monographies of the poet Rumi,[v] as well as the translation of  Mowlam– Hundred Songs of Chams from Tabriz.[vi] In her complex, multifaceted novel “She Plays,” Tajadod gives the picture of the life and times of the denizens of contemporary Iran or rather the living conditions of artists, people of certain sensibility,  recounted by an actress and musician, Sheyda who grew up in the times of Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power in 1990. The picture of the repressive religious regime is still valid to the present day in the country where music and theater were forbidden to be publically performed until recently–thus the heroine’s major challenge to the society and the legal codex presents the very act of performing her arts, the “rebellious” title of the novel “She Plays.” The narrative, in fact, gives us the portrait of yet another Iranian heroine–one could say the very portrait of the author herself, or any woman, especially a Persian woman who has spent her life in exile and hasn’t felt any place as her real home. These two women meet finally in Paris, and exchange their experiences about the primary conditions of life in exile which eventually propels this novel to the height of a profoundly philosophical text or treatise on exile.

“We are both in France now, one of us arrived three years ago and another one ten times three years ago. During all this time I had lived in several houses, but in none of those I felt at home… Neither Sheyda has a house. Impossible for her to find one. She is a homeless nomad-” And she adds with irony and sarcasm: “If everything goes wrong, I will relocate to India: better be a vagabond in India than a homeless in Paris, isn’t it?” A descendant of an ancient civilization, Sheyda, as well as the author Tajadod herself in exile, have to learn a number of useless, insignificant, little things which, however, make up a country’s identity and civilization: “She is just at the beginning of a long exile, she was not prepared to live in France. She has to learn the language which she had already studied–but there is always another layer of it which you learn -on the spot”,

“the meaning of truffles (for the French) which she should learn how to appreciate the way they learn how to like saint-émilion, roquefort, De Gaulle’s speech at the liberation of Paris, Arletty, Gabin and their replicas…Tour de France, May 68, the New Wave…names of film directors, writers–don’t forget Proust, above all, Proust, –sportsmen.., restaurants, hotels, political seasons…holidays–Oh, what a holy chunk of work for you, who don’t even know who Dominique Strauss-Kahn is! But also, what a lucky chance for you.” (p.47)

Tajadod makes a comparison between two worlds: the Iran of her day where she grew up and which she then left behind, where the first Iranian woman writer, Tahereh, took off her veil before a group of men-, so long ago, -in 1845; and the world imposed by the fundamentalist religious regime of Khomeini which, according to Simon Oliai: “turned the clock 400 years back into the past, all in year 2000.”

In the beginning of her long exile, the younger heroine, Sheyda, was aware of the fact that if she took off her veil in public and in New York, the way her idol, poet Tahereh did, that the same anathema and fatwa would follow her. She had heard the words of the mullahs cursing liberated women: “Shame on those who dare take off hedjab in public. They will merit prison in this world, and Hell in the other one.” Descendant of an old bahaïs family, who could not adopt Islam, Sheyda had lived through the interrogations by SAVAK (Iranian secret police) and through the “embargo” and the “Mirage” air force of Iran’s war with Iraq–which lasted more than ten years.

“She knows today that these mirages, called  “Mirage F1”, were fabricated in France and sold to Saddam Hussein in order to bomb Iran.” Sheyda will also learn and understand how the Ayatollah won the hearts of the Iranians and established the Islamic Republic instead of the “Republic of Progress” of the West; who, in their view, was predestined to colonize his people.

The issues of cultural progress and cultural diversity have been the constant horizons of attention for the humanist and multifaceted thinker, Daryush Shayegan, author of several illustrious books on intercultural changes, such as “Light Comes from the West”, “Mixed Consciousness” and “What is a Religious Revolution?” For his multicultural analysis, Shayegan starts with the significance of the worldly terms culture and cultural assimilation. So-called “globalization” has also turned the clock back or has returned us to the notion of singular validity or ethnocentricity of a single culture. When there is a “home” and the sentiment of ethnicity for one cultural tribe (dar al-Islam or land of Islam), there is also, according to Shayegan, the foreign land where Islam failed to find tolerance, thus called dar al-harb or Land of War. What was for a man from Dar al-Islam a holy Big Other, was for a European or a Chinaman Big Other ,a being from Dar al-Islam. Shayegan further claims that if a man lives solely and only for his own cultural tradition, his cultural identity becomes a sort of sclerotic personality, so intensely present and imminent in his own living experience that it prevents him from observing any important and valuable distinctions which are crucially important in our projection of the objective visions of the world. Shayegan claims that there was a healthy period in 1970s when different cultures were still able to dialogue with one another, when “Senghor launched the concept of negritude and when Unesco organized conferences related to important cultural subjects, or when the Iranian intellectuals, encouraged by the side-effects of the American counter-culture, had criticized the negative effects of the Western cultural influence while advocating the return of their original cultural identity.”

Shayegan is careful when he discusses the elements of so called cultural diversity. On a number of occasions in all his books he underlines  the fact that each culture should avoid a major trap, to promote its own exclusivity and, at the same time, hatred of other cultures within its civilization, which is otherwise open and where democratic rules are respected. In such a civilization, the relationships–between people and the cultures who inhabit it–are not distinguished  by a monologue, but are rather dialogic in nature, creating something which Gadamer calls the “horizon of the mix,” (as we attest to in all ancient and traditional civilizations) Here Shayegan shifts his critique to the newly established “cultural terrain” which he calls the phenomenon of the Renaissance of Religions. He explains both the primary and the secondary effects following the establishment of Islam as the official religion of the Islamic State in Iran. These effects have taken several forms, but the most visible results of such cultural shift(s) are reflected in the following  phenomena :

  1. Mythologization of Time which is nothing else but a misplacement of eschatology to the category of historicity (whereas Koran in itself is not interested in historicity but in the verticality of the revelatory experience).
  2. Self-effacement of the collective memory of the Muslims who shifted the cultural paradigm of the civilization of Islam to the literal sense of the times celebrating salaf, the imaginary model of the idealized city of the Prophet–which in effect impoverishes the culture and history of Islam as it marches towards barbarism and sterility.
  3. Reduction of the spiritual and ideal man in Islam, reduced here to the caricature of the radical revolutionary, somewhat resembling the Russian anarchists from Dostoyevsky’s novels, who kills people left and right.

4.Sanctification  of violence—here Shayegan quotes Al-Ashmawy who in his book “Islamism against Islam” says himself that in 7000 verses in Koran, less than 700 refer to any legal or didactic matters and out of those… barely 80 would indicate any ‘legal prescriptions’ as of ‘what to do’ or what a believer should do in any given legal situation.

But here Shayegan remarks pertinently:

If Fundamentalism is a somber aspect of the new renaissance of the Religions in general, the new polytheism which appears in the West and bears one common name of “New -Age” practices is equal to Neopaganism, a playful aspect of the new metamorphosis of religious forms where ancient ideas and religious archetypes flow from one context into another. And what is the reason for the creation of such multiple crossroads of new sects and religious communities? Shayegan thinks, and we are likely to join him, together with the research-legacy of  Vladimir Zivancevic, a professor of comparative religions, that great religions of the past are not able to satisfy different needs of contemporary Anthropocene beings. As the result of the multicultural approach to the “mixed cultural zones of the hybridation,”-all cultures on our planet push their inhabitants into a specific horizontal encounter with one another where the main and global vision of things takes on a kaleidoscopic vision which fractures simultaneously myriad of particles of light while our major road through life remains still dark, unlit and impoverished.

One of the candle-bearers on the darkly lit road to knowledge and self-examination in life is the figure of the philosopher Simon Farid Oliai, who was born in Tehran but grew up and was educated in the West (University of Leuven).

Following Hegel’s steps in his search for the “Absolute Master” of universal history, Oliai wrote a very profound study of the intellectuals, artists, scientists and other creative social actors in different cultural contexts and entitled it “Challenging the Absolute”[1]. Analyzing, or rather leaning against the thought of his predecessors and contemporaries such as Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and more closely -relating to the thinking of Gianni Vattimo and John Sallis, Oliai challenges what he calls “the essence” of fundamentalism or the fundamentalist fear and/or approach to things. In thinking about the profound meaning of our living, or simply being on Earth–which we find in the crucial writings of such classics of Modern European thought as Nietzsche and Heidegger, Oliai draws constantly on the insights of these thinkers to whom he is clearly indebted.

However, he does not neglect the decisive role of so-called “Eastern philosophy” which has undeniably enriched his reflections on the metaphysical roots of all contemporary dogmatism.  In his book, whose subtitle is “Nietzsche, Heidegger and Europe’s Struggle against Fundamentalism,”- Oliai explores the continent of writers and thinkers–Sobrawardi, Avicenna, Hafez and Rumi among them–who, along with Heidegger, had addressed the problem of “God”. “The Question ‘who is God’ is too hard for human beings,“ Heidegger[2] once said, and Oliai makes a significant contribution to re-examining the question of knowing  “What is God?” from the perspective of a serious “European” philosopher. He takes Shayegan’s statement, “the Light (enlightenment) comes from the West,”–and pushes it a bit further by asking the essential question, mainly ontological (would it be the relic of Manichean thought?) and that is –if there is Light altogether, and if it were to approach us either from the West or East—what would we, humans, do in order to keep it with(in) us?

It is interesting to notice that all of the Iranian writers mentioned here have not been able to pursue their intellectual research in their own homeland–they  travel back and forth from the countries where they presently reside to Iran, and keep their torch, their inherited light within.

Nina Zivancevic

French version on

[1] « Challenging the Absolute », Oliai,F. S., University Press of America,  MD, 2015.

[2] Ibid.

[i] See Daryush Shayegan « La conscience métisse », Albin Michel, Paris, 2012.

[ii]Nahal Tajadod, « Elle joue », Albin Michel, Paris, 2012

[iii]  Shayegan, Ibid. , p.105

[iv] Sadegh Hedayat, « L’homme qui tua son désir », Editions Phebus, Paris, 1998

[v] Tajadod,N. « Roumi le brule », Paris, J-C Lattès, 2004

[vi] Tajadod, Nahal, Mowlana, Le Livre de Chams de Tabriz, annotated by Jean Claude Carrière, Gallimard,1993.