Summer reading: The East Ethnia mini book review

At the end of the week it is goodbye to Belgrade once again, and back to work. I will have a brief period of computerlessness, and so no posting (ha! see if you notice the difference!). But my charming employer has agreed to replace my rahmetli laptop, so this should be just a matter of time, the shorter the better.

In the meantime, a selection of a few of the more interesting books I have acquired and read during my glamorous summer vacation.
  • Slobodan Antonić, Nacija u strujama prošlosti -- This is a fellow who gets a lot of publicity, partly because at one point he did some interesting research, and partly because local media need an intellectual who is sympathetic to the right wing of DSS for the sake of "balance." But sorry, this book is just a compilation of polemical magazine columns.
  • Jovan Bajford, Teorija zavere -- The author marks the spring of 1999 as the time when all sorts of otherworldly discourses from the margins of the church, the military, and the hangers-on from the distant past became respectable enough to get wide play in big-circulation media. Foteljaši say the darnedest things.
  • Aleksandar Bošković, Etnologija skakodnevnog života -- Not really an ethnology of everyday life, more a series of essays written over a period of several years for magazines and newspapers. Some of them are interesting.
  • Boris Dežulović, Jebo sad hiljadu dinara -- Quickly reached the top of my list of favorite antiwar comic novels. A Muslim unit disguised as a Croatian unit for a "special mission" reaches a standoff with a Croatian unit disguised as a Muslim unit for a "special mission."
  • Jens/Martin Eriksen and Frederik Stjernfelt, Anatomija mržnje -- A couple of Danish journalists take a trip and do several interviews. Some of them are good. They also do some analysis, some of which is good.
  • Todor Kuljić, Kultura sećanja -- A good theoretical and historical overview of problems associated with the politics of public memory. If the book were as strong on empirical detail as it is on quotations from Nietzsche, it would be a great study.
  • Nebojša Popović and Kosta Nikolić. Vojislav Koštunica, jedna karijera -- This is a bit of a hatchet job by two historians who have taken the effort to dig up every compromising thing Mr Koštunica has ever done or said. Maybe good as a primary reference source, for someone who wants to sift the wheat from the chaff. Highlight: The essay by Danica Drašković on how Voja is not a proper ravnogorac.
  • Marko Vidojković, Kandže -- This novel about the student protests of 1996-1997 came highly recommended to me by several people. After reading it, I cannot figure out why. A random mixture of objectless cynicism and adolescent male fantasy.
  • Helena Zdravković, Politika žrtve na Kosovu -- Go straight to the empirical material, which begins about two thirds of the way into the book, and you will find some interesting interviews and discourse analysis on ways in which Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo perceive one another.
There are a few other titles in my bag that I have not got to reading yet. Of the ones I have, some are good and some are not so good. For the most part, I am surprised at the thin selection of new titles in bookshops. Maybe publishing is weaker than it used to be, or maybe distribution is as weak as ever.


WARchild said...

Some of the works seem interesting.

Shaina said...

Thanks for the information. Have any of the books been translated into English yet?
Jebo Sad hiljadu dinara looks particularly good.

Eric Gordy said...

I dont know about English translations. It could be fun to try to translate Dezulovic's novel, but it might be hard to carry across the humor, since a lot of it seems to depend on the language. I'd give examples, but some of it would be giving stuff away.

Bg anon said...

Jovan (John) Byfords book is likely to be available soon in English if not so already.

Eric I think that people are dumbing down more these days in their reading. As you will have noticed there are ever more Western titles appearing in bookshops, some good but lots of trash too.

I have one of Antonic's books too and agree with you to some extent on him. His writing doesnt seem to be as 'important' as his role.

His role appears to be to reign in the right of DSS who might flirt with the Radicals, to bash the Radicals for not using their brains and to chastise DS for not co-operating with DSS and finally to condemn the 'jacobins'.

Having said all that its not a bad thing that somebody like him exists. Certainly beats similar types we've had to put up with in the last few decades.

I havent read Vidojkovic but have been following his regression (no typo) since 2000. Disapointing.

Eric Gordy said...

I like that description of Antonic! I should add that I have nothing against the guy personally (even though we disagree about many things), but don't understand his prominence these days.

I don't know whether people's reading habits have changed or publishers are turning away from social-science themes. It is still true that the best way to get your hands on a recent social science book is to receive a copy from the author, but it also seems like the bookstores used to carry more than they do these days.

Bg anon said...

I agree Eric. In fact I'm sorry to say that despite a proper effort I couldnt find your book in the London book quarter - that was about 2 years ago.

I half thought that a copy would make its way to Serbian bookshops to sit next to the Malcoms and the Glennys post 2000... Is there a reason why that hasnt happened?

Have you published The Culture of Power in Serbian? (Samaizdat maybe?)

I have only heard good things about the book but as yet havent been able to lay my hands on a copy.

I wrote a little more about Antonic yesterday here but my post got lost in cyberspace. Wanted to say that NPSM that he co-edits with Vukadinovic is a worthy publication / compilation.

Eric Gordy said...

Yes, of course, everyone buy my book! Although it's a bit dated now, time to come out with a new one. I think if it's not in the shops, the online dealers ought to still have it.

B92 put out a translation in 2001, a very fine translation by Biljana Lukic, who was a delight to work with. Sadly, it turned out to be her last translation. I have no idea whether it is still available anywhere.

My impression is that the best places for soc-sci books in Belgrade these days are Srpska Knjizevna Zadruga (on Marsala Tita) and Sluzbeni Glasnik (in their newly remodelled shop on Kneza Milosa). Beopolis (in Dom Omladine) and Stubovi (in Kulturni centar) seem to keep up a good stock, and it is also always surprising what you can find in Komunist (or whatever it is called now), despite its reputation and fascinating window display.

Tonight I'm packing, and we will see whether my flight back through London gets cancelled or not.

Bg anon said...

The problem in the past was that one couldnt order online from Serbia since extra measures were taken owing to the amount of CC fraud - if your IP address was from Serbia then no cigar :(

But yes an update would be good. Then again think with the amount of things that have happened since 2000 - well you could easily add 3 or 4 new chapters on the subject - would be fascinating to read a detailed piece of writing on the Culture of Power in Serbia under 'Democratic' politicians.

Well, good luck getting to Heathrow last I heard nothing was moving. Hope that you get delayed long enough to attend the Belgrade Beer Festival!