“Towards the Other Land” by Mitko Madžunkov
#1 At the beginning of the analysis of the novel Towards the Other Land (1993) by Mitko Madžunkov (1943), we will briefly discuss the communication transmission in the narrative situation. In this respect, we are tempted to indicate a building procedure in the narration according to the “question-answer” principle. When we explain, we will quote appropriate examples from the novel (we especially stress the example number 7). Still, one can not speak of a “pure” situation where the addressee “orders” or “extracts” the story via some “trick questions”, from, for example, the narrator who is in a “bad mood”. This novel can, obviously, be considered a materialization of a promise of the main character (Kiril Vodočki) given to his younger son (Kamedonski) that he would write him a book. Although with some delay in time, but at the same time with an absence of the address in the diegenic universe, one can assume that this “dialogue” nevertheless takes place. In this sense, the initial communication situation is “unprovoked” (nothing indicates as of why the narrative act starts right now; it can only indirectly be sensed). Taking this into consideration, we can take the first sentence that the novel starts with, the one that belongs to the chapter LAKE:
“One day, the lake shall disappear”. p. 5; (1)
This is a sentence that bears the weight of an eternal truth. It is an undisputable truth that one day everything shall indeed disappear, and the Lake will also. The narrator here directly starts his narration with what will be the theme and idea, and the symbol of this novel – the Lake. Even more, this sentence is written in future tense, which is not a frequent beginning, taking into consideration the experience. Having in mind that the narration can take place linearly or non-linearly, according to the time determinants, although the first tense used here is the future, the position of the narrator towards whаt he narrates about is the current ‘moment”. He is here and now and observes the Lake:
“Both the Mountain and the Lake calmly wave in the eyes of Kiril as in a mirror; they are so real that he simply gets goose pimples from the feeling that there are here” p. 5; (2)
In this way, we are actually made to assume that Kiril is the narrator in this novel. We are made to think this by the fact that the Lake is the object of interest of his perception. This is true, but in the narrative situation in this novel, Kiril is actually “excluded” from the verbal communication – he almost does not use his own words; it seems that he “boycotts” the dialogues, and only leans on his own thoughts and perceptions. According to this, Kiril, as the narrator, is put almost at the same level as the “absent” addressee in the communication situation. The addressee is physically absent on one side, and the “narrator” is verbally absent on the other side. There is a paradox here: it seems that Kiril is not the narrator of this novel, but we can assume that Kiril is the “author” of this novel, that is, the one who “writes” but does not “speak”.
In this respect, we can speak of two “parallel” actions in this novel, two courses: the building of the house of Kiril and the building of this novel by Kiril. In both cases, Kiril is the central consciousness through which we find out about everything, although there are also atypical situations where this primacy is taken away from him. The chapter LAKE is actually an extract from the “physical” action. This action is largely taking place in the present, and the other is “freely” wondering through “time”. After some key characters are introduced in the first chapter, the course is interrupted and we are transferred from the “external reality” to the “internal reality” of Kiril. Because of these “twists” or “deviations”, it is necessary that we differentiate another narrative instance, different than Kiril, which helps him fulfill these “alternations”. In this way we actually have the situation where Kiril explicitly addresses using the typical epistolary form, that is, written address:
“My dear Kamedonski,
Once I promised you that I would write you a book. Still in the dark between the covers, some thirty empty pages wait for me to fill them in with scribbling, with words that would make you nostalgic and make you smile (…) Has the time come, from this distance, for me to start writing it with my illegible handwriting?” – page 17-18; (3)
What can be found out in this part, written in first person present tense, is that here we can actually locate the beginning of writing of this novel, or at least, writing of some part of the novel. As the beginning of the building of the house itself, which takes place by the Lake, “from this distance” of the Lake itself, the writing of the promised book starts, the one “that will not be made of words, but of what they came from”. – p. 22;
In this way, by thickening of the space – the Lake, it is a place of predetermined connection, although the “writer” seems like expressing doubts in his undertaking.
So, if we speak of communication, it exists here first of all at a written level, it is coded. This narrator first decides to use “written”, and not “oral” communication with the addressee, even the implicit one, and that is why there is no specific “diegenic” verbal communication established – there is nobody specifically to listen to what he has to say, This is maybe a story for the one who wants to “read” instead of “listen”, although this “letter” is actually first of all intended for “his” son. In this respect, the narrator is the author as well, and he is present throughout the whole course of action via his “voice”. Still, this situation is far simpler than the one that Henry James uses in The Turn of the Screw, where there is a whole system of structuring based on the levels of narrator.
Dialogue and Identity
We wander about one possible “projection” of dialogue of this book, in time and space with an author who addresses “the other land” from a different space and time angle. The reception of the ‘other’ has always been intriguing for many authors and books, and we will look at the example of Thomas Mann in the Magic Hill. The identity in this sense is unrecognizable without the “alteration”. The Magic Hill is based on several counter-points, out of which the most subtle and the most delicate is the counter-point that is seen in the chronotope matrix, by connecting the two “epic” and therefore civilization spaces: EAST and WEST. The perception of the other, though the love story of Nash Kastorp aims to stress not only the magnetic power of the “other sex”, via the conflict of cultures, but also the magnetic attraction and ‘unknowing” but at the same time also “direction” (towards) the other, resulting in a number of didactic implications. The dynamics of this relation is clear: opposition, that is, attraction. The Magic Hill does not deal with self-perception, but it deals with the perception of the other. In this sense, it deals with self-shaping “via” the other.
Towards the Other Land immanently deals with identity. In various ways, first of all it is a self-perception that moves through the already developed context of the discourse of conspiracy, which is very present in the Balkan cultural space, but there is no taking sides, a national pathos promoted via the “voice” of the novel. This novel offers “voices” that are often antithetic, opposed in the frame of their own cultural space, many voices on their own identity first of all, one which was always directed “towards” the other and thus acquired its specifics, actually the many voices themselves. In this respect, the ones that are present but not dominating one another are the parallel discourses of self-perception: “victim of conspiracy”, “victim of self-conspiracy”, “skepticism”, “defiance”, “powerlessness”, “smallness”, etc.
Is this an obstacle to the projection of a dialogue (an “imaginary” one0 between these two specific books? They are neither indicated to each other in time or in space, not to mention intention or purpose. Still, this dialogue, if we do not question it as well, exists and will exist, first of all in the area of cultural spaces. The treatment of this topic is the common connection. This option is open in the title of the novel itself, Towards the other land. A metaphorical interpretation of this title would move away from the contextual meaning of the travel (constantly) towards “some” other land, or in this case the bi-partitness, bi-linguality, division of space where the hero addresses as one, and it would give it a different meaning of “dedication” – dedication “towards” The Other Land, in our context, “towards” the other cultural space, with respect to the existing immanent mutual “imperceptiveness” or indifference about it. This is only if it is understood as an invitation to a dialogue. Towards the Other Land has that capacity, also by being formulated as a message, towards “itself”, its own lines, its own children, its own offprings. In this way, it rejects the need of constant self-examination, search for some “other” different outcome, source, in this sense, “alteration”, to determine its own identity, because it sees the already existing plurality in this sense. This book interprets the identity though the necessary, primarily needed “self-reflection”, which has the only right to be a real cultural benefit. In this sense, one does not insist on “limitations”, “hermetic”, closeness – the border of space, but, on the contrary with the fact that the space here is understood with its complete broadness and openness and via the “model of open book”, it cancels, loosens the borders, proclaims them arbitrary, thus following the modern cultural trend, seems the only possible one. This is also reflected via the titles of the chapters in the novel, which are determined in space, but not always an open one, a space where the view “expands”, and does not shrink, the space of Nature, epic space, where man also reflects with his “voluminosity”, size, that impresses the modern homo sapiens, hidden in his huge, erect, monolith buildings and reminds him of his ‘growing up”. A broad panorama always exists before the Man in this novel, it offers itself to him, not as a replacement of a physical space, across the border, with the awareness that the borders exist in our heads only. In this way the natural borders of space, (Earth, Mountains, Rivers) have an intact harmony, wholeness in this sense.
The space matrix completely reflects it. The chronotope of the house is opposed to the chronotope of the street. In this sense, not only the axis “inside” – “outside” is present, but also ‘up” – “down” and “left” – “right”, which means that there is a multilayered space structuring of the space in the text.
The reception of this work still remains a questionable literary-culturological issue, but it seems that it will yet be questioned, although it has been put for almost ten years. This return to it can only be understood as opening its provocative character. All other implications that are contained in this text can only take something from it, and not add to its meaning.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska