Triangulating the square around the circle

I am fully aware that my posting has not been so frequent since my arrival in Belgrade. This is only partly because of the unreliable dialup connection I have here in my lovely garsonjera. It is also because from the moment I arrived I seem to have been swept up in the whirlwind of NGO worthy causes and the long hours in kafići that follow them. One thing I have noticed about the worthy causes: they are no longer advertised. I got into last Saturday's invitation-only presentation on Srebrenica on the «imperial advantage» strategy—wear a suit, speak English and smile, and maybe they will think that you are important. Other events, including the documentary film festival in Dom omladine, I found out about through the friend calls a friend network, it was not announced and the audience rarely got above ten people. The nice folks seem to be closing the circle, whether because of intimidation or something else I do not know.

A high point: at the presentation of his new book Vampires like us: Writing down "the serbs", Tomislav Longinović described the image of the vampire: «it is an imaginary creature that has to feed constantly on the blood of others. So the vampire is a metaphor for the idea of the nation.» Toma's new book is in English, and deserving of high praise.

Should I mention that among the worthy events was the largest-ever meeting of worldwide Balkan bloggers?


Thelostclam said...

Dr Gordy this metaphor for vampires intrigues me. Is this meant to say that nations are inherently parasitic? Would i be wise just to buy the book? And i am glad to see you made it to the Balkans in fine shape.

Student, Clark University

Eric Gordy said...

Hey there Dan! Welcome!
I hope it's possible to find the book in the US, if not I have a copy. I think he is trying to account for national images in the Balkans, and vampires are a big part of the mythology (Dracula was just one permutation of a local folk tradition before Bram Stoker used it to build his novel that is still popular all over). It has all of the elements that people around here use to criticize bad government: works in secret, takes from ordinary people, adopts an inauthentic foreign high style, is a bloodsucker... and the novel becomes popular at about the same time that national cultures and states begin developing in the Balkans! So one way of accounting for these two developments, one in history and one in literature, emerging at the same time is to ask whether they have something in common. The image of a strange and powerful force that feeds on the blood of ordinary people works nicely as a way of perceiving a strange new bureaucratic structure that constantly gets people into wars. plus, the vampire is one of the few Balkan folk myths that people know about anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

If you want to buy your own copy of "Vampires Like Us: Writing Down 'The Serbs' " you can order one online from:


Yakima_Gulag said...

Well I was not at that meeting but you guys missed out on Spring Chinook Salmon! So there! and huckleberry pie! double so there!
There are few compensations to life in the gulag, and these are two of those compensations.
Seriously, Vlad Tepes fascinates people generally for all the wrong reasons. He was a tyrant, in his day even, he was outre. Tepes had issues as we sayn these days.
The common people being bled by rulers was pretty literal in his case. He probably killed more of his own people than he killed of the Turkish invaders. Mehmet II, no slouch in the nasty torture department was appalled and had to leave the conquest of Romania to an underling.
I think this type of ruler weakened the region and made conquest by the Turks easier than it had to be.

Eric Gordy said...

Ahh... you lucky Northwesterners. Salmon ... and oysters...
But we have krompirusa here!

Yakima_Gulag said...

well that's something I can make at home. I became a fair hand at normal everyday Bosnian cooking thanks to my time there. Probably I'm not as good at it as I am at Mexican food or Asian Indian food, but i bet I can make my own krompirusa!
As for oysters, I prefer the tinned smoked type over the fresh ones. I'm reading a cheesy novel about Sacajewea, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition, know what? those people got SiCK of SALMON! probably because it was spoiled half the time, or dried and powdered. I suppose in those circumstances I wouldn't like it anymore either.

Anonymous said...

Dobar vam kongres, nema sta, nadam se da ste se dobro zabavili!