Thus the desire to preserve the memory of a turning point in life – moving from the countryside to the city and the wedding act, the transition to another life on an individual level –grows into a self-destructive act, and the case is transformed into a cage of prejudice, losing the value of the memory. This kind of musealization (sublimation of the past, present and future) understood as a “philosophy of possession” or subject materialization of memory, in the name of not forgetting some important, turning points in individual life, is powerless before the whirlwind of time and transience, but it is spiced with an optimal dose of (black) humour, which results in a establishing a distance from the sentimentality of the mentioned act.
Even more dramatic is the uncle’s small suitcase in which “all wars” are “mixed in time” (due to which it is transformed into a “political suitcase of oblivion”, i.e. alludes to the tragic background of history, especially our national history) or the suitcase with the typewriter (a symbol of the writing craft) on which my Mongol roommates / typed their love letters in Cyrillic and kept them for nine nights in vodka / in bottles with sheep intestines, / umbilical cords with the homeland. The vividly presented state of statelessness in these verses offers a whole range of personal testimony not only about others (Mongol roommates), but also about oneself (the lyrical subject is in a student’s dormitory), about the imperative of origin in general, as well as about migration psychology. The longing for the home breeds nostalgia: it is a “restorative nostalgia” (according to Svetlana Boym’s term), the essence of which lies in trying to reconstruct the symbols and rituals of the lost home/homeland (in the poem, they are “bottles with sheep intestines”). Despite the obvious resignation due to the extraterritoriality from the home environment, there is a subtle humorous note here as a defence mechanism of our author from the possible pathos to which these painful, existential topics would lead.
The constant pulsation of Dimkovska’s verses on the border between evil and hope, between the individual and the universal, personal and foreign, home and homelessness or bipatridity, and even multipatridity, a kind of engaged view of the drama taking place on a micro and macro level, pointing to migration and identity crises, to escapes, abandonments and relocations, reveals shocking asylum stories that belong to no time and place. For Dimkovska, borderline is a thorough life and cultural experience and an incentive for creation. Rightly, Elizabeta Sheleva, on several occasions, emphasizes the problem and the enigma of journeying as key to Dimkovska’s poetic and prose works. The poetics of exile and home(less)ness, “diaspora nostalgia (most intimately related to the very act of displacement), for a long time, cannot be easily erased or removed from the global cultural (but also political) scene,” – Sheleva said in one of her studies (Sheleva 2019: 145). In a theoretically justified, very inspiring and permanent manner, she contemplates the same “borderline states” that Lidija Dimkovska continuously problematizes in her poetic and prose discourse: exile, nostalgia, homelessness, otherness, identity, borders (“as a potent creative space and a hybrid polyphony of multiple identities” – according to Sheleva). The similarity goes so far that in Dimkovska’s latest collection of poems there is a poem entitled “Traduttore, traditore” which is in line with Sheleva’s essay of the same name “From translation to betrayal, and vice versa” (with an identical subtitle in Italian), published in her theoretical book From a Personal Angle (2019). By the way, Atanas Vangelov’s review of Dimkovska’s book published in “Lik” also uses the aforementioned Italian witty saying in the title.
As for the poem “Suitcases”, it functions as a kind of “mise an abyme” (to use another theoretical phenomenon) or as: a world in a world, story in a story, text in the text… Namely, every next stanza is a world for itself, there is a subtle overflow of motives within the global notion of the suitcase(s). Especially shocking is the testimony of the suitcases in Auschwitz (one of Hitler’s forty death factories) weighing in on the emptiness / burden of life, the ease of death. (It is no coincidence that in another poem, the already mentioned “Traduttore, traditore,” the author will say: God, you who are not, you who are, / but you were obviously not at Auschwitz.) It is a kind of “invisible museum of everyday human emotion” (Gospodinov), which our Lydia is able to capture so powerfully through her verses. Thematising the life “journey” without going back, with her engaged, fierce writing, Dimkovska joins the constellation of authors who warn not to forget the violence of the past as the only investment for the future, as well as not to keep silent about the trauma, so that it doesn’t repeated. (In this sense, the verses of the poem “Pet” sound especially fierce.) Because the Holocaust is a passport to the world that disappeared / in the double bottom of existence, we read in the poem. And “the poem is a place where even the ordinary grammatical construction, whether affirmative or negative, rapidly acquires the weight of ontological consequence, life or death” (Sheleva 2019:170).
In the poem “Suitcases” Eros and Thanatos, different times and spaces, past and present, memory and oblivion, departure and stay, individual and universal correspond… together with, ultimately, the lives of people packed in their suitcases:
In them knowledge catches dust,
memory – mold, forgetfulness – stench.
Every suitcase is an open story,
each story is a closed suitcase.
And you don’t have to leave to stay,
nor to stay so that you are no longer gone.
If each suitcase a life story hides, and thus the suitcase acquires the status of an object of memory. The suitcase can also be identified with the memory, i.e. a sign of equality can be put between them, and say: memory is a suitcase. Thus, the suitcase is transformed into an object-subject. The next degree of gradation would be the established identification relationship with man: what is hidden in man is consonant with what is hidden in the suitcase…
The poet has the power to fit the universe into one object: the poem “Suitcases” by Lidija Dimkovska, in the most beautiful way possible, confirms that.
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- Шелева, Е. 2019. Од личен агол. Скопје, Магор.