Balkan altruistic inconsistency
The problem of interhuman relations, of the division of the world that implies the alienation and solitariness, has a special place in the poetics of both writers. Those matters are more explicitly exposed in Andrić’s works, through ideas of his heroes who feel the discomfort of division among people. The old Christian Leventanets complains to the French Consul Deffosse: “No one knows how it is to be born and to live on the edge of two worlds, to know and understand both of them, and yet to be unable to do anything to bring those two worlds together and to make them understand each other; to love and hate each of them, to feel in both of your places of birth as if you have neither, to feel everywhere at home, yet to remain always as a stranger. Briefly, to live crucified, yet as a victim and a tormenter at the same time.”12F Such a feeling of solitariness and alienation also possesses other strangers in Andrić’s prose. Those are characters like Davna, Nikola Rota, Davil, Ibrahim – Pasha, or Max Levanfield. It is difficult to be a stranger in Bosnia. That fact is very well known by friar Nikola in the story “Glass”, who is horrified by the fact that he lives in a world that hates everything it does not possess. Koneski addresses to the spiritual and thoughtful effort of modern man not to despise and hate, not to judge, but, with the help of altruism, to understand and discover what is strange and distant to him, because it is the only way to survive as a human and to understand himself. This attitude of Koneski reveals on individual bases. In his poem “Doves”, for instance, he compares the doves which “equally share their love” to gestures of humans who either do not understand the altruistic gestures or do not dare to speak openly about them. The possibility of emergence of love even in most inadequate situations is associated to the blooming of the rose in the deep and cold winter, in his poem “A rose”.
The communicational process plays a great role in the establishment of trust and love among people. Yet, that process in the Balkans was put to a minimum level or it does not exist at all. The process of “enculturization” does not begin in Andrić’s heroes from diverse religious and civilizations, brought to the same level.13F The adoption of basic values and principals of the cultural environment in which they live is strange and important to them. “How is it possible – Deffosse asks himself – such a country to begin to find its order and accept as much civilization as its closest neighbours have, when its people are divided so much, as no other in Europe? There are four religions existing in this mountainous and poor space. Each one is strictly divided from the other. They all live under the same sky and on the same soil, but each one has it’s own holy place, far from their native land, in Rome, Moscow, Constantinople or Jerusalem.”14F Is it possible in any way that “the Balkan wasteland turn into an English meadow”; is it possible that peoples in the Balkans reach the necessary level of civilization to live together? – Koneski asks himself. In his observation “Field” he would realize that the thorn is growing and that there are other “uninvited guests”. With such a poetic personification, the tragic reality in the Balkans is apparent, in which different religions and civilizations spread eagerly in order to conquer as much bigger space as they can. Yet, they are now aware that their short roots are doomed to short living. That is sometimes done by some nationalities (the couch grass), and sometimes by others (the clover), yet common sense and tolerance (on which the cultivating process insists – the English meadow) are so difficult to prevail.
Heroes in Andrić’s prose feel fear and rejection when they realize that their identity is not unique and that the world, which was complete to them, is composed of numerous different, and even opposed under-worlds. That realization leads to conflict situations, in which they feel unsafe, unsatisfied and resigned. That is the base for hatred and religious fatalism, so much present among characters that belong to different religions. Unfortunately, Deffosse’s realizations, saying that each religious community in Bosnia believes that its benefit is conditioned by the harm done to other religions and that progress of one is a harm to another, are true. The problem is that the process marked as habitualization,15F which turns the unusual, the unfamiliar and the strange into usual, familiar and domestic, does not work for the Bosnian man. Exactly that mechanism of habitualization, which is normal in other cultural environments, calms down passions and creates harmonic atmosphere for living. The absence of such a process in Bosnia, probably, is a result of the temper characteristics of Bosnian people, which are explicitly defined by Andrić in his novel “Travnik Chronicle”: “The Turkish rule left to its Christian citizens certain characteristics of its mentality, such as hypocrisy, stubbornness, distrust, laziness of the thought and the fear of every innovation and every work or movement. Those characteristics were incorporated in the nature of the Bosnian man and remained as permanent features of his character”.16F He is too much suspicious towards everything unknown and new, yet he is also stubborn in preserving his condition.
It seems as if Andrić has anticipated the present situation in Bosnia with those realizations. Whereas in the European continent borders vanish and there are less and less interethnic divisions, there is a completely retrograde process in Bosnia. The creation of multicultural societies, in which members of different cultures live side by side, but also together, is a utopia for Bosnia.
12. Andrić, Ivo, Travnik Chronicles, Svetlost, Sarajevo, 1989, 328.
13. Melville W. Herskovits, Man and his Works: The science of cultural anthropology, New York, Knopf, 1948.
14. Andrić, Ivo, Travnik Chronicles, Svetlost, Sarajevo, 1989, 296.
15. The term was taken from the book of Peter L. Berger, Brigitte Berger and Hanssfried Kellner, Hopeless Mind, Penguin Books, London, 1974, 165.
16. Andrić, Ivo, Travnik Chronicles, Svetlost, Sarajevo, 1989, 296.