(Interpreting the poem “The Breaking of the Strength” by Blaže Koneski)
1. Kitančev and Koneski, and their prototext
The more I read and re-read, the more I understood I was swimming deeper and deeper, to the places in the ocean where it was impossible to touch the bottom. Many ideas were born in my head, numberless ways of approaching the text, but each idea gave birth to a new one, and the new one to an even newer one. I felt that I was becoming part of the story too. As if my strength, which had been given to me, was also breaking. I had to choose a single path that I was to follow and that was what I did.
At the very beginning when I said – I would sit down and write an essay about Blaže Koneski, I remembered Trajko Kitančev and his mystification “Prince Marko’s Strength Is Broken” (Todorovski; 1993: 287). I recalled that Koneski has an intertext placed even before the very beginning of “The Breaking of the Strength” and I was sure that this quotation was referring precisely to this poem by Trajko Kitančev. When I opened the book to read the poem once again, I realized that I had been mistaken – Koneski is in fact quoting a folk story, not a poem. Nevertheless, I did not give up my intention, I knew that the first idea in my had was in fact the same angel that stood on David’s shoulder when he was writing the psalms.
Although Koneski does not directly quote Kitančev, we can not easily ignore the fact that these two poems are mutually connected. If nothing else, we could assume with a great certainty that these two poems are connected by the same prototext, i.e. that Kitančev himself was inspired by the same folk story that inspired Koneski. If we think a while, this thesis sounds very logical.
Nevertheless, both authors have used their inspiration in a different way. Kitančev has fully used his prototext and only stylized it, i.e. he has replaced the prose discourse by verses; Koneski, on the other hand used his inspiration to build upon what has already been written. Thus, one can freely say that Koneski’s poem “starts where the oral stories and Trajko Kitančev’s poem end” (Vangelov: 1981: 143).
It is not by accident that I called this text “Prince Marko’s Strength Is Broken – The Day After”. When I read Koneski’s poem, this was the impression that I had: the subject woke up the morning after and realized what had happened to him. Here, the new story began. The rebellion began. If you want it said in a more picturesque way, the continuation of the film about Prince Marko started here, with a new modern actor. Two different lyrical subjects experienced the same fate. The old one was continued by the new, contemporary one – if you prefer, the more modern one.
Koneski himself in some of his explanations speaks about this poem and everything that had inspired him to write it. The most elaborate explanation is in his essay “An Experiment” where he writes about his discovery of the poems, denying their spotless originality. There, he speaks about actualization (a term that he borrows from the Prague school) and via everyday examples, in his style, he manages to come close to the reader. He actually manages to actualize the actualization itself, and bring freshness in a dull term.
He does the same with his poetry. He does the same in “The Breaking of the Strength”. The old mythological matrices are placed in a new code. He connects, as he himself says, the three sides of a triangle – the tradition, collective and author (Koneski; 1990: 255) – thus giving birth to a completely new poem. He gives birth to a new child, which carries inside itself the genetic marks of its parents.
2. Who is the subject?
One evening, while I was trying to fall asleep – as it is said, in the incubation phase – these questions came up: Who is in fact Koneski’s lyrical subject? Is it Prince Marko at all? Is it the same Prince Marko as Kitančev’s? Is it maybe a new Prince Marko who was also given something by God, who later changed his mind and took it away from him? I gave the answer to these questions the next day. I decided on the last one, precisely because of the actualization that Koneski himself spoke about.
Why do I say a new PRINCE MARKO? There might be more reasons, but one was crucial for me – the lyrical subject of Koneski is a hero. It is a subject with superhuman features. The subject that distances himself from the people because of these features and comes close to God. There are enough explicit proofs in the poem on this, and I shall elaborate them below.