In the Depths of Memory:

/, Literature, Blesok no. 113/In the Depths of Memory:

In the Depths of Memory:

Bogomil Gjuzel’s “Sick Dojchin” and T. S. Eliot’s “Gerontion”
Who is Gerontion?
Who is Sick Dojchin?
Differences and similarities

Sick Dojchin is an epic character, one of the personifications (in the collective memory of civilisation) of the saviour who must save something dear to him from an aggressor. The second and the third elements are usually personified as Beautiful/White Angelina and the Black Arab in the Macedonian folk/legendary tradition, the first usually having the function of Dojchin’s sister/fatherland, whereas the second—that of the conqueror. The basic matrix/pattern upon which the legend is built can be narrowed down to the fight between good and evil, between lightness and darkness (the names of the characters are indicative), with the mediation of a third character, a saviour, bearing some of the characteristics of both characters, someone hidden in the shadow of these two elements, who gains meaning only when the time comes for him to perform the act of salvation. “Dojchin, as an epic-heroic substitution of White Angelina, becomes Sick, thereby taking on a characteristic of the black, of death, because he ‘rises from the dead’ in order to perform his famous feat, to defeat the conqueror, the thug, out in the open, personified in the figure of the Black Arab” (Kjulavkova, 2009:69). This is the main context, the motif of Bogomil Gjuzel’s “Sick Dojchin”, borne in the title of the poem first published in 1963 in the collection Alhemiska ruza (Alchemical Rose), under the subheading Envoi.
“Sick Dojchin” opens with images of degradation and staleness, presented through the words of the dramatic persona in this dramatic monologue, who later on reveals himself as the speaker: “That is why I lay sick…” He presents his surroundings, the “White City” as a place where nothing happens, a city that sleeps “under the cover of fog and snow”, a city which, on a macrocosmic scale (universe=world=man), is still unborn, in a figurative sense, and his “painful birth” is prolonged, as if unwanted, uncalled for. That is why there are no newborns, no new people and the “cradles are still”, there is nothing good, but also nothing bad, as “The black seed is buried in the earth, and evil blood “is boiling like fresh wine / To crow once again in another time”. The first verse sets the frame of the title story’s deconstruction. Here the function of the white/good/home is personified in a static White City (maybe as one of the personifications of the Wide/White World), whose name leads us to interpret it as a comparison to White/Beautiful Angelina, but is obviously contrary to her, its seeming whiteness and cleanliness in which fogs rule is deconstructed. Here the two terms white and black become one and the same: the evil-good city performs the function of both the homeland and the foreign country, both oneself and the other, both what needs to be defended and what it is defended against. Hence the conclusion that this text is not a celebration of the characters from folk poetry, but a recontextualization of their functions. “The black seed” is buried in the earth, “the black earth” later on in the text, but the earth is such as a result of the air in the White City: “(That makes the city white, and the earth black)”. The “bulwarks” are hence forgotten, nobody knows where “the beginning point of the field and the world” is, the physical (geographical) demarcation is completely lost, and the bronze gates (human creation) are already rusty from the “warm tongue of fog the birth-giver”, of nature, here presented as something disease-ridden and sick.
If in some historical contexts religion marked the difference between god and evil with the birth of the saviour, here, it seems, neither he can be born, or his birth/coming is unwanted. Therefore:

The caravans arrived and locked themselves in the inns
(The camels bleat with the burden still on their backs)
The taverns have vanished in warm breaths and white smoke
Now in wine their own blood men seeketh, in bread
Their own strength, with curses unuttered though

This is a recontextualization (or mythical turn) of the coming of the three wise men after the birth of Jesus. The image presented here is completely opposite—the wise men, or the magi, have locked themselves in the inns, almost forgetting what they came for, leaving the gifts on the camels. They do not fulfil their task (or refuse to do so) and embrace the comfort of the smoky and crowded inn, a symbol of bohemianism and wastefulness. The prolongation of the coming of the religious hero and saviour is obvious, so everything is up to man now: wine is no longer the blood of Jesus, but the blood of the common man, bread is no longer the body of Jesus, but the body of man; these are sought not in church, the home of prayers, but in inns. We can derive the logical conclusion that the common man is the hero now, but a hero that does not use his forces to perform what is needed of him, but on the contrary, he leaves them to languish, to grow, always deferring the moment of action.
But if this is an acceptable mode of life for some, it is obviously not so for the speaker in the poem. For him, as a man who may have epic heroism in his genes, silence-ridden life means death as much as an action-filled life does. Because Dojchin’s death is predetermined, one way or another—the lack of action in a “limited world” kills him, but so too will the presence of action at the future moment of combat with the evil, the black, the Arab. He is predetermined to die in order to save his people, the white, the good, and then live in the poem, which will not be written if the final battle does not succeed. Dojchin’s problem, his sickness, is that his White World does not know of cries, but only silence, “death ignores the cries”, the people do not even try to summon “the black”, be it within or without us, so that it can be finally defeated. This deferral also defers Dojchin’s heroic act, and his body “full of strength” (Koneski) cannot bear inaction. This in turn leads to the logical conclusion as to the source of his sickness: he has lain sick, lonely and alienated in the “tower of air”, an empty tower, a modified reference to the ivory tower in the Song of Songs, a symbol of intellectualism that has no application in everyday life. What is interesting in this text is the merging of the characters’ functions and the deconstruction of oppositions: the epic, the timeless, has elements of the ordinary, the mortal, in itself, whereas the ordinary, the common man, has taken on the function of a hero by his own means. Therefore, it seems safe to say that Dojchin refers to any individual who, not wanting to come out of the womb (safety, security, comfort, be it an inn or a tower), inflicts upon himself the modern illness of inertia and silence, against which, as the text later reveals, this individual/collective Doychin is trying to fight. “Sick Dojchin” sees the sublimation of the three functions of the legendary paradigm, but also of the physical/geographical demarcation of the White City, whose stagnation and drowsiness (from the first verse) are transposed onto the polyphonic, polysemic speaker.

AuthorIgor Popovski
2018-08-21T17:22:27+00:00 June 12th, 2017|Categories: Reviews, Literature, Blesok no. 113|0 Comments