(on Mosaic of Voices by Lidija Kapuševska Drakulevska, Skopje, Magor, 2018)
Is it enough to be a woman so as to write essays like a woman? Is it enough to be a university professor so as to write essays of scientific research and academic character? Is it enough to be sincere, noble and honest reader of literary works, so as to observe, analyse and interpreted them seriously and acribically, and yet sweetly and charmingly, as does the winner of the 2018 Dimitar Mitrev Prize, Lidija Kapuševska Drakulevska.
I paraphrase this thought by the feminist critic Shoshana Felman, quoted many times by Lidija herself in her essays about other women writers, so that I can position myself closer to her literary writings and, starting from it, to try to express something about the nature of her critical and essayistic work. A few years ago, Lidija and I conducted a joint research on women critics in Macedonian literature, concluding that there is an obvious predominance of women, especially in the domain of academic criticism. Today I have the opportunity to add to that list of critics Lidija herself, who certainly belongs here, and who at the time, out of understandable reasons, exempted herself from the analysis.
But can the essay really have gender identity? I am not a proponent of this hasty and careless labelling, but it is a fact that every author writes starting out from his/her own position: temporal, spatial, linguistic, civilizational, generational, and in that sense gender, of course. The woman, as it was said even in Boccaccio’s Decameron, is the ideal reader of the novella, that is, of the literary text in general. But Lidija’s seemingly tender nature need not deceive anyone: she can show her extraordinary firmness and toughness whenever she gets hold of the pen and engages in interpretation of literature, its multi-layered deep and multiple appearances and variations.
Comparatist by vocation and education, Lidija in her texts easily moves through the numerous world and Macedonian literary phenomena that have been the subject of her interest, and which she undertook to study or interpret in her almost three decades of professional career in literature. A critic, an anthologist and an essayist with tireless curiosity and unrestrained spirit, Lidija Kapuševska Drakulevska has been the author of seven separate books with critical essays, as well as eight edited books and anthologies. The fact that her first book of criticism, In the Labyrinths of the Fantastic (1998), has experienced a second edition, speaks for itself, having in mind that in our surrounding most of the books of critical-essay character never succeed in exhausting even the modest circulation of the first print-run.
Seen together, Lidija’s books speak themselves of a miraculous evolution of her creative path: the first books, remakes and adaptations of the master’s and the doctoral thesis of the author are distinguished by an exceptional acribia and seriousness, but above all by comprehensiveness and thoroughness in the scientific and research approach, while the newer titles show a much freer “poetics”, to use this term so dear to our essayist, more playful, but also more mature, more confident in itself, sovereign in the choice of literary walks, bold in the judgements and interpretations.
Such is also her latest, rewarded book Mosaic of Voices. The work is a complex critical paper in which the author presents twenty-seven lucid views and writings dedicated to authors, works and phenomena related to contemporary Macedonian literature. The views are divided into five chapters: “Poetic voices”, featuring texts in the field of poetry, “Prose voices”, dedicated to short stories and novels, “Harmonious voices”, which involves comparative analyses of Macedonian and foreign writers, “Imaginary voices”, related to the author’s lasting passion for the genre of fantastic literature and “New Voices”, in which attention is turned to the work of younger authors. All these are texts in which Lidija confirms herself as a caring and pedantic literary follower and connoisseur, not only in her own linguistic and cultural environment, but also as a competent thinker in her comparative consideration in comparison with otherness and the other.