Love In the Macedonian Fantastic Story

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Love In the Macedonian Fantastic Story

3.2. The Myth of the Vampire

The character of the vampire in Macedonian literature is central, above all, in folkloristic heritage preserved in Marko Cepenkov’s work (Urošević, 1987: 50). In Petre Andreevski’s story “A Vampire” we are faced with the myth of the dead person who rises in the night from his/her grave and continues his/her life: in it, nevertheless, we do not come across the most standard behavior of the vampire (sucking blood from the living): instead, Najden from the story steals from the villagers and disturbs their life. The vampire Najdenko continues his life moving into his wife’s heart, rather than drinking her blood. It is usually considered that a belief older than the one in vampires is the one in poltergeists (the house ghost), who shows its presence in the house by making small troubles (moving objects, making noise) (Urošević, 1987: 50). Andreevski’s ghost displays the same “care” for its property as in his lifetime, and that is why he wants to supply food, hay… There is one person who emphasises that this behavior of the vampire is, after all, ironical, because while Najdenko was alive he was fighting against thieves, and therefore it is dubious that he would steal now. (We are not told what Najdenko’s job was when he was alive. We need this information only as an ironical distance from which we can see that the vampire does not only destroy lives and property, but honour as well.)
The obsession of the villagers with the story of the vampire reflects the mass psychosis that, as documents prove, had spread over Europe, beginning in the 17th century (Urošević, 1987: 54). The village people (again in the function of a choir) take the existence of a vampire for granted, in the same way there suddenly appears a vampire hunter, who bargains with the people about the price of his favour and thus shows that he is a professional in that aria: on the market of “present” vampires that should be caught, he has formed his price, conditioned precisely by the “presence” of vampires.
In European stories of vampires, the dead person becomes a vampire because of love, or a sin that wouldn’t give peace to the dead in the grave, or the grave wouldn’t let the body in because of the sin. (Such motives are found in two ballads by France Prešern – “Redigging” and “The Unfestering Heart”). Such restlessness of the dead person because of love appears in Čingo’s story “The Ghost Who Was in Love”.

4. Third Story, a Portrait

The story “A Requiem for Rubina Fain” by Slavko Janevski (1920) was published in 1976.
It is uncertain whether Rubina is a woman or an apparition. The story is composed of three separate points narrated by the character that is obsessed with Rubina. He catches the sight of this name for the first time in some historical documents – she was a member of Secret revolutionary organization for the liberation of Ermenia: her father was the leader of the organization: they made two attempts to kill the sultan, both unsuccessful. The second time the narrator came across her name was when he found a letter written by Rubina to her friend in which she informs him that she had received a bonsai tree as a present. The third and last time is when he finds a portrait of Rubina in an antiquarian shop in Saloniki and buys it. When he unrolled the wrapping at home, the portrait started falling apart until the picture vanished.

4.1. Impersonality, Dead Eyes

Who is Rubina? While the ghost of the woman in Čingo’s story is most beautiful, similar to the model of the fatal woman from other European literatures (la belle dame sans merci) (M. Prac, 1974: 157-237), in Janevski’s story Rubina is a mysterious creature, a creature without origin, and therefore without physical existence, which absence of physical existence provides her constant presence (Vangelov, 1933: 161). That is why when the narration comes to a point when the ever transparent Rubina is placed in a material object (her portrait), the evidence “self-exterminates”, concretely – Rubina’s portrait falls apart for unknown reasons, its colour crumbles. Obsessed by Rubina, the narrator sees her in different shapes: In Vangelov’s words Rubina is characterised by “polymorphism”, “and polymorphism ends with shapelessness (Vangelov, 1993: 169). “For, in the same way, God (from the perspective of Christian religion has no shape) can assume many shapes: many shapes can assume shapeless” (Vangelov, 1993: 169). Vangelov also refers to the point in the story in which Rubina is called “a creature with no splendour in her eyes, if not eyeless”, and that is “close to the idea of the non-creature, to a sign without substance” (Vangelov, 1993: 172).
The motive of a portrait (image) and the motive of dead eyes are a typical feature of the Gothic novel in general, and especially the novel “Melmoth the Wanderer” by Maturin dating from 1820 (Urošević, 1987: 40). The character Melmoth from the novel inherits a castle from his dead uncle, and in the castle is the mysterious portrait of his ancestor Melmoth who does not age, for he had soled his soul to the devil. When this ancestor appears, his unchanged looks provoke terror. From his whole body it is only the eyes that give away a dead man. These two motives, a portrait and stillness of the eyes (as the mirror of the soul) are found in the story of Rubina, on whose face only the eyes are dead. In both stories there is the motive of knowledge as a dynamic force. The wanderer Melmoth testifies for the surrounding perils who punish those that want to rise towards the summits of knowledge, and in the story of Rubina the main motive of the narrator to follow Rubina is also the desire for knowledge, which appears when he realises that there is no much information about her in history. Unlike Melmoth’s threat warning his ancestor: “Know that your fatal curiosity shall be paid with your life” (Urošević, 1987: 41), Rubina’s narrator suffers in a lesser degree. He does not survive a collapse of his personal integrity, yet, becomes a slave to obsession, which not even at the end is satisfied.

4.2. A portrait (mirror)

The narrator is, in fact, obsessed by a shapeless being, a spirit. How is the apparition to be materialised? That question is similar to the labour of the master in Čingo’s story to retrieve the dead ghost. This desire can be termed the syndrome of Doryan Grey, the hero from Wild’s novel, who trades with his own picture in order to gain eternal life, but in eternity the categories of life and death are wiped out, so if he is eternally alive, he is eternally death, too, as are the apparition, the ghost and the vampire. Doryan Grey exchanges himself for his portrait. In order to transmit himself into the spiritual state of eternal youth, he is in need of a material element, which in this case is the portrait.
The portrait is a mediator between the spiritual and the material. In the previous stories the roles of mediators are taken by the window/room of the master, and Najdenka’s heart: and in this story Rubina’s portrait bought in an antiquarian’s shop in Saloniki, which falls into pieces when the narrator wishes to own what cannot be possessed. Those mediators break the ontological norm, distract the possible, and construct an impact of two orders: the natural and the supernatural (the real and unreal).
The portrait is not an accidentally chosen mediator – it includes elements both of the material and of the spiritual world. The portrait placed in a frame is a physical/material object which can be hung on a wall: the portrait as an art value is a spiritual category dependent of the aspect: perspective. Such an opposition between book and text was established by Roland Barthes in 1971 in his article “From the Work to the Text” (and later on in 1973 “Theory of the Text”). The work (oeuvre) is a physical object – the book which can be put on a shelve. The text (from the Latin word texture = weave) is what is generated from the work when the reader reads the book: the text exists only in the extent to which the reader registers in it polysematisism (Intertekstualnost, 1988: 11).
Apart from the portrait, another mediator from a higher level is the mirror which, since ancient times, has been an irreplaceable means for transition into the transcendental and carrier of the complex metaphysical connotation of the work (Krstev). Mirrors have a conventional role summed in the formula “what is up is equal to what is down”, and this is expressed by the two young people in the story “The Ligntenings in Front of Them Made Even the Dead Burn” by Slavko Janevski (1920), when Stella tells Abraham: “On this side, where we are now, everything is different. The order is reversed, the ostensible end is the beginning of infinity… all of them, my mother, (…) are alive to us only as diseased.” Krstev says: “In the virtual picture everything seems real, with a small difference that there is an exchange between the left and the right side.” (Krasztev). It is this change that Stella refers to in the story.
The portrait and the mirror are metaphors of two disparate quests: Oscar Wild in his “The Portrait of Doryan Grey”, looks for a higher truth (the lost eternal youth) in the mirror, whereas in the case of Rubina’s portrait in Janevski’s story, the narrator views impersonality, the materialisation of the absent.
Eventually, the phenomenon of the broken mirror which always brings bad luck, i.e. is a sign of the disintegration of the whole, is also present. Thus, when the narrator wants to see Rubina in the picture, in search for the shapeless and all-present, the picture falls into pieces, as the mirror did. That accounts for the fact that the irrational cannot be rationalised, that the unity of the world cannot be preserved, the material and the spiritual tend towards opposite poles. That denies the idea for the potential unity between the two worlds – the rational and the irrational, for between them is the uncrossable abyss of the mediator!

4.3. Obsession by Absence

Both death and absence are a great topic of love. In one occasion Proust had said: “‘No’ is the greatest stimulus for the wooer”. There is no greater ‘No’ than death or absence. The narrator (and the master from the previous story) are faced with death and absence and only then do they begin a seductive game against loss.
The narrator is obsessed by Rubina, and that obsession is not the same as love, although it is partly motivated by the heart. He states that the instruments leading him to her are: “the heart and the sense of relating the past to himself” (Vangelov, 1993: 160), as well as “the discovery of the forgotten” Rubina (Vangelov, 1993: 179). The characters share an experience that cannot be measured with any other in terms of its fierceness. It is known that there is a connection with the supernatural whenever an experience reaches its limits, i.e. when it reaches superlative states (Tzvetan Todorov, 1987: 131): which is the case of the master’s love, the obsession with Rubina, and the constancy of Najden’s spirit.

5. Fourth Story: Love Triangle

The short story “A Woman” by Mitko Madžunkov (1943) was published in Macedonian in 1988. It has certain fantastic elements (the approach of the winter sledge from the lake) on the one hand, and symbolic elements (a symbolical relationship of the woman with the lake and the climate) on the other.

2018-08-21T17:24:00+00:00 February 1st, 1999|Categories: Reviews, Literature, Blesok no. 07|0 Comments