When the World was Home – Cosmopolitanism as a Modernist Ethos

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When the World was Home – Cosmopolitanism as a Modernist Ethos

(“The Whole World is a House”, or the nomadic pledge of Bogomil Gjuzel)

“I could not live at home without the world, and in the world I could not live without my roots. Alienated at home, and housed abroad. Or, rather – a home in the world and the world at home “(Gjuzel: The Whole World is a House, 1974 republished in: Selected Works, Volume 4, 2012: 314)



Published less than 50 years ago, unusual in its genre form, Bogomil Gjuzel’s travelogue “The Whole World is a House” still radiates with its relevance, today, perhaps, even more emphasized than at the time of its appearance, if we take into account the author’s approach and the topic it deals with – the travel and residence (life) of its author in Ireland and America (USA) in 1973, when he was 34 years old.

This book appeared twenty years after the beginning of the Macedonian literary confrontation, which outlines and affirmes the efforts of Macedonian writers and critics in favour of modernism, as a current poetic challenge and as a spiritual climate of the new (Western) European oriented time.

One of the basic characteristics of modernism as a new poetic commitment is precisely the emphasized interest and openness to international literary and cultural trends and benefits. The spirit of modernism, from the time of its beginnings (in Baudelaire’s essays) is basically defined as correspondence – conformity, simultaneity, orientation – to its current time, the contemporainety.

After the critical debate, which in the period from 1953-1960. was intensively conducted in the periodicals, regarding the creative legitimacy of contemporary Western European literatures – the Macedonian literary scene saw a strengthening of cosmopolitanism, arousing of curiosity and interest in the creative experiences of European and world Modernism, all together leading to the discovery and establishment of the spiritual and creative “kinship” with writers from different national literatures, cultures and, in general, “geographies”.

Part 1 – Dwelling as an ontological principle

At the beginning of Gjuzel’s book there are two program dedications – the first dedication has an (auto) poetic character and it is an intertextual replica – reactivating the immortal verses of the founder of Macedonian contemporary literature, Kocho Racin, from the poem “Tatuncho” published in the “White Dawns” book of poetry, in 1939: “Though I did not build a house, with high boxwood gates, the whole world is my brotherly house…”

Expressed for the first time in Racin’s memorable verses (and, because of its gnomic authenticity, also difficult to translate into any other language), the unusual coinage and phrase “the whole world is a house” – implies disengagement from the idea of the Home as a Location.

On the other hand, this lyrical counter-position also results in dis-engagement, dis-connection from the principle of possession.

Completely surrendered to the optimal projection, to its life and home as a project – the lyrical subject is utopistically oriented and thus relieved of the burden of homelessness. The projection of the world as home corresponds, coincided to the philosophical notion and approach to home – where home, dwelling is an ontological category equivalent to life. In the words of Martin Heidegger, “The way you are and the way I am, the way we are people on earth is dwelling.” When existence in the world is interpreted as a synonym for dwelling, then, it is a uterocentric conception of the world (as Peter Sloterdijk calls it). Thus, Racin’s verses, in a fascinating way, coincide and express exactly this philosophical projection of the ontological character of the home, i.e. of the dwelling as the most general ontological category. And if, following Heidegger, we equate language with the House of Being – then the house, the home in its broader and metaphorical connotations can equally encompass and refer to the language, the nation or the fatherland as our home.

But, unlike the traditionally engraved notion of the House as a metaphor for the (spirit of) Nation, this poetic phrase of Racin’s goes a step further – in affirming a fundamentally different approach – known as cosmopolitanism. It advocates an alternative and universalist projection of the principle of the House: which encompasses, suggests, implies the whole world!

Gjuzel’s second dedication, though of a private, personal nature, is still essentially connected with the cosmopolitan spiritual commitment that pervades his entire book: “To My Wife Lexi – The World at Home.”

As it is already known, the book “The Whole World is a House” belongs to the genre underrepresented category of (literary) travelogues!

The travelogue as a genre (according to its definition, expressed by the French comparatist, DanielHenri Pageaux) is motivated by experience and curiosity about the Other (experience and curiosity, which is, in fact, inextricably linked to the cosmopolitan oriented spirit of Modernism).

Nevertheless, this inventive (and intriguing) book by Gjuzel contains and combines a variety of genre elements, mostly those of a reflective, essayistic and analytical nature, which go beyond the expected genre premises of travel prose and affect aspects of human spirituality as well, enter into interesting cultural comparisons, deliberate on debatable problems within the turning point epoch and the counter-cultural revolution of 1968, philosophically analyse human nature – hedonism, consumerism, capitalism, the dark spots and the absurdity of its existence.

AuthorElizabeta Šeleva
2021-06-02T20:02:05+00:00 May 31st, 2021|Categories: Reviews, Literature, Blesok no. 137|0 Comments