(Some Aspects: Hibris, Vampirism, Portrait-Mirror, Love Triangle and Castration)
1. Introduction, the Fantastic Genre
Love and death are two central topics in poetry in general. “Their relation is not always the same, still, it is always present” – Tzvetan Todorov says (1987: 139). He states the example of the fairy-tale “Little Red Riding Hood” by Pêrot, which clearly displays the relation between “going in bed with a being from the opposite sex” and “being eaten, die” (Todorov, 1987: 139). It is well known that orgasm during the sexual act is identified with the so-called little death, which means that although different, the phenomena love and death are, in a certain way, closely related.
The fantastic is connected to the archetypal models and it is, therefore, regarded that the fantastic stories have a finite number of combinations. Rogé Cayoix, Louis Vax and others have constructed lists of fantastical topics (Urošević 1987: 15). Among the oldest and best known topics of those lists is the one of the interweaving between love and death.
Fantastic literature corresponds to the subconscious desires of the human beings, and Freud’s psychoanalysis has shown that the subconscious is composed of sexual desires, suppressed and directed towards the wrong or the forbidden objects. The centering of the sexual desire and the manifestation of fantastical creative energy are relatable operations. When Croir claims that “the fantastic is the outlet and the catharsis of dark desires” (Urošević 1987: 28) then it becomes clear that love and the fantastic, apart from being undefinable, own other common traits.
Tzvetan Todorov analysis fantastic literature through the aspect of hesitation that this type of literature provokes. In Živko Čingo’s short story “The Ghost Who Was in Love” the teacher catches a sight of a ghost in the window of his room, and his existence cannot be explained with the physical laws of the world which we live in. The narration asks from us to decide whether we believe that the teacher saw the ghost or that he hallucinated. While we hesitate the fantastic element asserts its place. We observe, together with the character, the oppositions of the two worlds: the real and the fantastic and the scope of the genre is established in the formula “we almost believe”.
The fantastic is a genre mostly situated between the two other genres: the strange and the supernatural. In fantastic literature we are relieved from both blind trust and blind disbelief, for both take us out of the scope of this genre (Tzvetan Todorov, 1987: 35). Thus, so long as the narrator from the story “A Requiem for Rubina Fain” by Slavko Janevski (and the reader along with him) wonders whether what appeared in the window is a woman or an apparition, we can speak of a fantastic story. In the moment when the character stops believing that she is an apparition, we get the strange. I don’t believe in apparitions, this is strange. When he believes that he had seen an apparition we get the supernatural. I believe that this world is such that there are apparitions in it – this is a supernatural world!
Except being related to the strange and the supernatural, the fantastic is also contiguous with the stories of dead bodies, pervert events: nevertheless, in Urošević’s view they do not belong to the fantastic: the fact that moral codices are undermined in them does not include them in the fantastic, in which it is primarily a matter of breaking the laws of logic (and physics). (Urošević, 1987: 17).
In the fantastic stories the theory of desire is much exploited. Clode Roir analysis the desire of the characters from the fantastic stories in relation to Freud’s psychoanalysis and shows that dream corresponds to the accepted and recognized desires, whereas nightmare (dark fantastics) – to the suppressed and the unrecognized ones. From this aspect fantastics is catarsic in relation to the dark zones of the subconscious, it liberates them (Urošević, 1987: 28).
In Macedonian literature we encounter fantastic stories in the 19th century in the stories of Marko Cepenkov who was using folkloristic matrices on the basis of which he created folkloristic-artistic stories (Urošević, 1987: 21). According to a later distinction there are several different types of fantastic stories in Macedonian literature: traditional (romanticist) fantastics (Vlada Urošević, Mitko Madjunkov, Slavko Janevski): folklorist fantastics (Živko Čingo, Petre M. Andreevski, Vase Mančev): the fantastic of dreams (Katica Kulavkova, Danilo Kocevski): fantastic of the absurd (Mile Nedelkovski and Blaže Minevski): allegorical fantastics (Zoran Kovačevski, Mitko Madžunkov): erudite fantastics (Vlada Urošević, Krste Čačanski, Dragi Mihajlovski, Dimitrie Duracovski, Aleksandar Prokopiev, Jadranka Vladova, Hristo Petreski, Ermis Lafazanovski, Venko Andonovski) (Pavlovski, 1998).
In this text, through the analyses of 5 fantastical stories from the 1970ies, 80ies and 90ies in Macedonian literature, we shall follow the altering of the motive love and its most frequent interweaving with the motive death and absence. They are the stories “The Vampire” by Petre M. Andreevski, published in 1974: “The Ghost Who Was in Love” by Živko Čingo, published 1976: “The Requiem for Rubina Fain” by Slavko Janevski, published 1976, “A Woman” by Mitko Madžunkov, published 1988: and “The Averoes’ Mistake” by Venko Andonovski, published 1993. Why short stories? Fantastical prose, in the beginning, was as much part of the novel as of the story, Urošević says (1987: 10): later, however, the fantastic prose appears more often in the story, which came to represent this genre.
2. First Story: Transition
The story “The Ghost Who Was in Love” by Živko Čingo (1935) was published in 1976.
The story begins with a scene in which a group of hunters get lost in the woods and end up in a village, in fact an enclosed, isolated place, where anything is possible. The hunter, since Chekhov’s prose and on, presents a confidential and competent narrator, and so it is here.
But as soon as they enter the unknown place, the narration is taken over by the character of the master (teacher), who is, actually, the main character of the story. A hailstorm starts in the night and the master Cvetan offers the hunters quarters for the night and tells them a story of love and sin.
2.1. The Concept of Hubris
In the nearby village a husband and wife lived in great love, happiness and spiritual wellbeing. Their extreme happiness multiplied even more when they discovered they would get a child. It was, however, precisely because of this extreme happiness, that their neighbours were upset and said: “So much happiness is not for good.” (48) And, truly, in the moment of greatest happiness, on birth, the wife died.
Here lies the first lesson. The villager had to be punished for having too much happiness. The world is so established that excessive happiness presents a danger to the way things in it are arranged. The villager is not subjectively guilty for being too happy, he never sins consciously, yet must suffer for he is objectively sinful, he must be punished, so that the disturbed order is established again. This villager appears as hubris, as the culprit for the given rules being broken.
The concept of the hubris assumes an objective sin, as was the one of the villager. In the book entitled “Sofocles”, Zdeslav Dukat analysis the ancient Greek ethics of the so-called hubris, and refers to Herodot’s history in which we can find the story of Policrates, the ruler of Sam, who was so good in things that everything he succeeded in everything he put his hands on. His friend Amazis advised him to be more careful for he would provoke god’s envy, and indeed he fell into the hands of the Persians. This example, according to Dukat, is interesting since Policrates cannot be reprimanded for subjectively sinning: he even made an attempt not to provoke god’s anger (he threw the ring into the sea, when he was asked to renounce the thing he cared most for). Yet, his sin is objective: he disturbs the established order in the world and, therefore, must be punished.
The order for people is prescribed by the Greek ethics of the golden middle, of the true amount, and contained in Aristotle’s maxim: “Nothing too much”. The hubris disturbs this conception and sins against the set limits: for his sin the villager is punished by the death of the loving wife.
2.2. Disturbance of the Ontological Norm
In the same way he disturbed the ontological norms with the excessive happiness, the villager makes a similar mistake when faced with his wife’s death. His pain is excessive, too, similarly as was Achilles’. Achilles’ way of heroic behavior, apart from the excessiveness in anger, desire to revenge, pride, incapability to bear offence and stubbornness, assumes excessiveness in pain as well (when he hears the news about his best friend’s death, the other soldiers have to hold Achilles by the arms, so that he doesn’t commit suicide), Dukat says. During the funeral, the villager displays identical excessiveness in sorrow: he digs around the grave, fights with the soil and summons his dead bride to return to him, even as a ghost, if that is the only way. The narrator narrates: “the most terrible thing of all was the fact that the soil he had dug was boiling, it was full of life, anyone could tell, it was unbelievable.” (49)
Those who were present at the funeral, the villager, fear even greater misfortune and say: “if there is god, after these words, he would have to give back the dead woman to this man” (49). In the same way they used to say “So much happiness is not for good” when these two people were excessively happy, thus do they now say “So much love is not for good”.
As in the 9th chapter of the Illiad the representatives of the Greek community go in Achilles’ tent to express the attitude of the community that it is not good to be excessive in the anger, so do the villagers in the story conclude that it is not good for the man to feel excessive sorrow, the way he felt excessive happiness. The people represent to community, the antique chorus whose role is to correct the excessive feelings of the character. The people are representatives of the pragmatic life philosophy – not to disturb the arranged order.
From that moment the fantastical paradigm and the disturbed ontological norms enter the scene. The master-narrator (whose beloved wife died three years ago of unknown reasons) voluntarily “condemns” himself to share the excessiveness of the villager, becoming obsessed by his sorrow. Once he accidentally met the funeral procession and thus found out about the villager’s misfortune, so every day he goes to the graveyard to keep company to the villager. Thus the latter gets a medium in the character of the master.
In the beginning the master says: “only humans do not return, only humans do not revive”. He expresses his awareness that the world is finite, that people cannot return from the world of the dead. Yet, it is him who encounters the ghost.