Therefore, the Arabian proverb quoted at the beginning, which by the way serves as the motto for Urošević’s story “A Story About How to Write Stories”, starts to acquire (auto)ironic undertones of a Pirandellian kind. Perhaps Roland Barthes was after all right when he launched his thesis about the “death of the author” and his or hers presence in the Text as a “guest”?! In fact, the famous French structuralist (even though he is advocating for a more active role of the reader in the creative act) rejected the authorative presence of the author and as in favour of his ludic inscription into the text, an approach incorporated also by our own Urošević, who has no reservations to take on all the “risks” of the writer’s craft.
The abovementioned short story by Urošević is, at the same time, a story and a meta-story about how to write a short story. “When you write a story, there is always something left unexplained for the writer himself. At first, you are in charge of the story and everything is according to your wishes, but then afterwards…” – we can read at one point in the short story. Far from giving any ready-made recipes or formulas about potential narrative models, Urošević puts rather the focus on an auto-ludic model which entails seeing yourself in your own creation, but not solely as a “narcissistic discourse”, but also as a critically based and consciously intentional act. The beginning of the short story is identical to its finale, thus implying the spillover of fiction into reality. In this fashion he is moving the boundaries between the work of literature and the experiential reality: the story written by the narrator at the beginning, becomes his reality at the end of the story. The narrator merges with his literary hero, thus the subject and the object, the author and his model become One. The analogous sliding back and forth between fiction and the factual also exists in the short story “The Doll”. This is skillfully achieved through the use of the classical theme of the double, quite similar to the device in “A Story about How to Write Stories”. The difference is that here a parallel is drawn between the female character and a doll – both in the story the writer is writing and in his factual reality.
The ambiguities deriving from questions like: What originates from what?! And does reality precedes fiction or does the story precede reality?! – serve to promote the principle of “open narration” in the spirit of the Umberto Eco’s concept of the “open work”. The Italian writer considered as “open” those literary works which share the ambiguity of life, thus alluding to the possibility to read real life as a fictional narration, while fictional narrative worlds to be lived as realities. “Reading stories is a kind of a game through which we learn how to make sense of the infinite number of things that have happened, that are happening and that will happen in the real world” – says Eco and then concludes: “That is the therapeutic function of narration and the reason why people tell stories from the beginning of humankind”.4
This is a sufficient provocation also for our Vlada Urošević, that restless Adlerian „flâneur“ through the labyrinthine narrative paths. For him, too, the “world is a story”, one big narrative, a cryptogram waiting to be deciphered. Regardless whether it involves the multiplication of the story like in the supremely lucid Borgesian short story – „The Kitab-An Manuscript” which oscillates between the fantastic (the story is an excellent example of “erudite fantasy”, infused with the charm of a Borges-like erudite sailing through the centuries and encyclopedias of knowledge) and the detective genre, offering an “open” end with multiple possible endings (four in total), different variations of the solving of the mystery; or whether it entails creating a veritable textual pluralism forming a harmony between the referential (the text) and the autoreferential (the voice of the author) such as in the type of comments in the “The Story About the City”; no matter whether the short story is composed as a report (“Watching the House”), as a collage of “titles of old movies” (in the eponymous short story), or the author personally intervenes in the story – as in “The Secret of the Skopje Clock Tower” where he appears as a character in the finale and represents himself to the others with the words: “I am the omniscient narrator”. Regardless of the approach, Urošević is always experimenting with narrative procedures in the name of individual artistic freedom.
This principle of autopoetics (freedom) is explicitly emphasized in “The Story about the Man Who Knew How to Draw Smoke Great”, even though the outcome is tragic ultimately for the artist. Is this just another proof that there are no absolutely binding artistic rules and that an author can equally play with both respecting and violating the rules?! Anything is possible in the narration of Urošević: there are no final answers, it reveals and conceals at the same time, it riddles even when it decodes, it advocates for the relativity of things giving them an ironic undertone, as well as letting itself open to the paradoxes of the “unpredictable walks” of the main characters. Something in the vein of the gestures and cries of the “mute antiquarian” from “The Key” who, as the narrator states: “was explaining to me, in great lengths in his unintelligible language, some obscure and complicated and only comprehensible to him history”. These words seem to be resounding with the poetic echoes of Arthur Rimbaud’s lyrics: “I alone have the key to this savage parade“.
4 Умберто Еко, Шест прошетки низ наративните шуми. Скопје, Култура, 2005, стр. 107-108.