“In fact, the external elements of nature only made you aware of the elementariness in the human nature of the American – or, of its absence.
Probably a part of that cruelty of the external elements had been ingrained in the soul of every American since the time of the first settlers and pioneers. That inner wild flesh, transferred from the constant struggle with the outer wild, was not melted even by the power of the American civilian… But the modern American was not even remotely exposed to elements like Job. More likely, he… from the wild, inhabited or not, created some kind of comfort, which provided him with at least approximately the conditions in an earthly paradise, albeit artificially. Indeed, it was swallowed up not by the elements, but the created conformism.”
While in America, Gjuzel not only wants to travel around this vast and diverse country, but he also wants to feel on his own skin its neuralgic places and points, through which the typical features of the American mentality refract. One of those, according to the author, unavoidable places is Sin City, the city of vices, as the gambling paradise Las Vegas is affectionately and colloquially called, where he will ritually play several gambling “tricks”. Thus, on page 185, in the spirit of his inherent critical reflections on the apocalyptic nature and threat of materialism to modern civilization, Gjuzel emphasizes the destructive power of Money, while casually using the well-known intertext of R. Krle’s drama about “money (as) death”:
“This is what money is,” I said to myself as I barely got out of the room. Not only self-death, but also the death of others, and perhaps of life as well. Only money will fund the end of the world, that greatest project of this humanity, which gambles with itself. May God protect me tonight from it, from money, I thought when I went downstairs and dived into the huge gambling hall.”
On page 260, Gjuzel tells us an even more specific, cynically coloured, but also radically expressed critique of the modern lifestyle, which may have really begun (or has been most readily read) in America, but, today, has become imperative for people of all countries, including ours. That style is dictated by the consumerist mentality, consumerism, which fuels capitalism and its unquenchable hunger for profit, turnover, trade! The excerpt ends with a paraphrase of the famous military salute, sent in ancient times to Caesar by his soldiers faithful “to death”!
“The Slavic idea of Earthly Paradise in America was retired – toil your whole life whatever you do, until you get a heart attack and lie on the beaches of Florida and exhibit all the hard-earned props, but already plebeian. Homelands were distant, inaccessible, or forbidden to go and die there, in the native soil. From the tropical beach full of sun and sand, one entered directly into the cold earth or the hell of the crematorium. Ave Florida, morituri te salutant!”
Critically and with an evident dose of wit, referring to the existing apology of the promised land and the possibility of realizing the “American dream” in it, i.e. the personal and family prosperity – Gjuzel touches upon, for us, a very instructive question related to America’s character as a country of settlers! A country where the questions (and, of course, the problems) raised about the roots and the diaspora have always been and are vital. Here, on page 314, using the language of botanical metaphor, Gjuzel expresses very interesting, comparative insights into the character of our, Macedonian, and other, more well-known (as well as more successful) diasporas, such as the Jewish and Italian. These insights are still relevant today, when questions about the cultural identity and profile of our diaspora, unfortunately, have not yet reached the lucidity and depth of Gjuzel’s insights.
“I thought, the root becomes visible only when it is already uprooted and after that if its veins can be transferred to new soil, they still cannot live from the air in order to move that huge space that separates the original soil from the new one – they are not radar antennas, nor telepathic tentacles. Our economic migration… they did not turn forced wandering into voluntary trade and exchange between the soil old and new, between the soul old and the spirit new, between tradition and civilization. As the Jews and the Greeks did… The seed of our diaspora, if it took a new root at all, grew like a foreign sapling, accustomed to the new conditions and hurried to forget its seed, because the memory brought only unbearable suffering and prevented growth.”
Gjuzel’s book is full of varied and inspiring remarks, diverse life events, a small gallery of characters and types of strangers – colleagues and friends, with whom the author came in contact during his stay in America. On this occasion, and due to the necessary economy of the exhibition space, we still had to skip or miss some striking parts, such as, for example, the author’s “ocean obsession” (which finds its prominent place and meaning in his lyrics) or part of the spicy stories and events from the life there, told with a lot of sense and with a great deal of humour, among other things. This especially refers to the inventive narrative strategy with the voices, which mutually deny and fight for supremacy in it, a strategy that the author applies when he wants to joke with himself and his own indecision, i.e. the internal (“Hamlet”) division.
We began our presentation and reading of Gjuzel’s travelogue (not by chance) with the movement and its apology, and we will end it thus, this time with a less literal understanding of the core or point of the movement. On page 344, the author unexpectedly “detaches” from American soil (and subject matter) to embark on a very unusual, existentially coloured reflection related to the character and destiny of the mythical (anti)hero, Sisyphus. Usually treated as a paradigmatic example (or, model), which effectively confirms the justification of the basic existentialist thesis of the absurdity of life, in Gjuzel’s excerpt we discover a truly turning point and thorough reassessment and rediscovery of Sisyphus’s punishment as a personal reward. At the very least, Sisyphus’s mission, according to Gjuzel, is a confirmation of existence itself, understood as movement (and at the same time growth). Sisyphus’s mission, no matter how arduous, or perhaps because of it, is a true confirmation of the existence of someone – personal and character weight, as well as (and no less important) a confirmation of physical health and life potential of the individual (because, “he can still always push” a stone – upwards!