“It seemed to me that everything I knew had somehow been turned upside down and rolled in the mud, that things no longer had a common meaning, that the clocks were returning to zero, that the memory was being erased and revised. Someone has asked: Let’s see you now? Against my wishes, I tried to re-invent myself, to live in anonymity, to deprive myself of my own importance.” (Стефановски 2005: 8) – Stefanovski writes about the period that precedes his most impressive, anthological essays.
In a previous reading of Goran’s work, referring to Goran’s essays, it was concluded that “the new situation leads Stefanovski to the realization of the necessity of redefining his own identity, the feeling of losing it and the need to transform it, which confirms Madan Sarup’s thesis that when the individual begins to exist elsewhere, he feels most strongly that identity is a matter not of existence, but of becoming.” (Смилевски 2013: 150)
We could only partially agree with this statement because for Stefanovski identity is neither just a matter of existence, nor only a question of becoming, but it is a matter of both existence and becoming at the same time. It is a fusion of the code from the vertical heritage of identity or, as some theorists would call it, a part of the collective identity and the code constructed from what becomes/is adopted afterward, in the process of (self) construction of the Self in the socio-cultural context. All that together makes Goran’s essayed I exist. In fact, the concrete confirmation of this determination is the essay “Letter to the granddaughter”, where he subtly refers to the vertical heritage of identity as part of the code of the (essayed) I.
But crucial in this context, even though a dominant part of Goran’s essayism arose during the life between two stories, which probably contributed to some of the essayistic reflections and positions, and especially to the evolution of the essayist I, however, thematic and motive base of Goran’s essay should not be sought in autobiographical dimensions. The purpose of Stefanovski’s essays is not to be autobiographical! The foundations of his thematic, creative-thoughtful preoccupation with identity issues and dilemmas date back a long time ago before Stefanovski began seeking the continuity between his two stories, since the period he would say: “times when I thought that what I do has some universal meaning and importance” (Стефановски 2005: 7). In fact, this is evident not only in some of his preserved impressions – his mini or draft essays, the first of which were published exactly three decades before a great part of the essays corpus to be published and which we cover with this reading, but also in his dramatic texts.
The autobiographical excerpt in Stefanovski’s essays is present as an essema – a misanabimic incorporated mini-essay or draft-essay, essay-anecdote or essay-story (and sometimes passing / growing from one type to another type of essema), with no intention an essay to be about him or to be the core of the narrative, but to be a supporting illustration to the story or critique of the stance towards the story. Stefanovski needs the autobiographical excerpt in his essays to create an inner drama in the text, an essayistic theater that will enable a more illustrative, convincing presentation of the story. Or to be more precise – it will enable the presentation of the story, because, Stefanovski himself, with the inter-textual, auto-quoted presence in his essay “On our story”, at the end of the essay-novel “Spark that slips” he said: “Theater is a very powerful workshop and storytelling machine. In the theater, the story is not only TOLD but also SHOWED. It is happening now and here, before our eyes.” (Stefanovski 2018)
In short – in Goran’s essayistic work, the autobiographical image is needed by the text to achieve its purpose, while the essay is not needed by the autobiography to be noticed.
Therefore, in the micro-reading of Stefanovski’s essays, one can and should strive for a distinction between the authorќs biography and the essayistic text. The interpretive key that leads to the spaces of the most interpretive levels of this essayism is also outside the autobiographical field. It is high above it, in the realms of creative-philosophical and philosophical reflections and rethinking of the meaning of existence and even more – of the way how we really exist and survive in the context that grows into a constant of modernity, especially seen in East-West-East relations, and Inferior-Superior and vice versa. Only if the recipient approaches these interpretive areas they will be able to fully understand the messages of Stefanovski’s essay, which, contrary to the theoretical determinants of the essayistic texts, do not end with only three dots.
The key sub-textual point in Goran’s essayism is the perceptions and reflections on the conflict between personal identity – my deep personal or, if you want so, a lyrical story with the socio-cultural context, and at the same time the perceptions and reflections on the conflict between our story and the socio-cultural context. Or more specifically: the clash with the perceptions and interpretations of our story imposed by that context.
“The lyrical principle regularly clashes with the epic principle; the inner life with the outer life, our will collides with the will or indifference of the others. There is a counter-story, conflict, drama.” (Стефановски 2005: 11-12), says Stefanovski. In fact, the epic principle in Goran’s perception of reality is precisely the socio-cultural context, which is not represented by the Other by itself, but by his perception of me and us, and thus with his interpretation of my and our story.
On the first level, when it comes primarily to my story, the socio-cultural context encompasses what in Goran’s essayism is our story (our culture – the identity of one collectivity/nation). But the conflict between mine and our story does not necessarily always mean exclusion. On the contrary, mine is part of our story, and at the same time, our story is part of the essence of my story. That is why the critique of the position towards our story is objectified, because “the wrong story can cost us dearly, lead us to delusion, to a dead-end, to death” (Стефановски 2005: 14).