Translated from Macedonian: Elizabeta Bakovska
If it is considered that with every reading the poem passes the way from a person to an above-personal expression, thus transforming the other’s expression of the poem into one’s own, personal expression of the reader, then the “universalization” of the poetic world is fulfilled via the initiation of the other’s expression into one’s own, by adopting the poetic vision as one’s own, which on the other hand implies marginalization of the category one’s own (author). The difference between one’s own and other’s view of the world is erased and the space of shared images of the world is opened. In the space of spiritual and literary communication, “property” and ownership categories become secondary. The joint space of the author and the reader is the shared vision and discrete understanding, which is the other name for recognizing oneself in the other and his identity.
Therefore, the question asked by Aleš Debeljak in his prose poem, from his cycle “Elegies from the North” (Мигови страв, 1990): “Do you recognize yourself in this poem?” (Космополис, 2010: 12) is legitimate.1F This question is implicitly directed to the reader and explicitly to the lyrical subject and the other face of the poet (oneself), and even to the imaginary collocutor of the poem (even if it is the divided I!). The question of the recognition is constantly open, before every poem, with every reading, with every facing with the world and its images. Maybe this act of recognition of the reality intervenes in the fictional world, and it becomes important to cherish the “sense of reality, which changes like shifting archipelagos in the South Seas”.
Taking into consideration these signals of the presence of (the intimate shadow of) reality in the poetry of the Slovenian, South Slavic and European poet Aleš Debeljak (1961, Ljubljana),2F I will give myself the liberty to contextualize the interpretation of his poetry regarding the cultural and historical situation of the end of the XX century and beginning of the XXI century. In these frames, the context will refer also to his essay, i.e. socio-politiciologal and philosophical understanding of the Yugoslav habitus and the meaning and consequences of the breakdown of the Yugoslav federation (approved as “Atlantis”), understood as a parable of the Balkanization of Europe and the world, published in the Croatian translation of the book The Balkan Den (2014).
Each “Balkanization“ is followed by a new integration, Europeisation and globalization. Each fragmentation is followed by a new structure (new system of relations), new frames, borders and groups of the fragmented parts. A new satge, new directing setup of the same prototext. On top of it, in the XXI century, the very texture of the societies is being revised (not only the one of states), their identities, branded with the strategy of fluid, changeable, but also transitory identities, the national and demographic engineering. There is a psycho-social environment of planting fear established, on all grounds: (1) the fundamental fear of death metastasized into a fear of horrible death; (2) the fear of meaninglessness and absurd, lack of meaning in living, more precisely suffering because of the lost meaning of life, the lost home (state), displaced nations and friends; (3) the fear of loneliness or isolation, modus of life in enclaves of ghettoes (already not only individual, but also collective, and part of the collective is also projected in the personal identity!) and, finally, (4) the fear of freedom, the panic fear of freedom which blocks, paralyses the persona and created invalid individuals.
As far as this fear is concerned, the fear of freedom, one can say that Aleš Debeljak’s poetry is free from it, that is constantly sets itself free from fear by opposing it, showing it that it is possible to feel the pleasure of the freedom of thought, expression and speech, movement, self-presentation, identity, style, way of living… And not only that, freedom in Aleš’s poetry is a condition without one cannot be, one cannot survive. More than that, Debeljak’s poetry if an ode to freedom. It is a liberation act, which with every new poem conquers the space of freedom. Therefore the impression of certain “lightness” of the expression in the poems,3F the impression that the poems were written with easiness and they are read with easiness, free of pretentiousness, depression, artificial closeness and sophistication. We have into consideration ligtness which is elegant and lucid. It is lucid especially in the finale of the poems when it makes twists that revaluate the semantics of the poem and imply an effect of satisfaction in the surprise, in the twist. We have into consideration the lightness that does not flirt with freedom, but rather creates an atmosphere of freedom, feeling, delusion and illusion of freedom. We have into consideration an intellectual habitus which defies and strives to a turnover, essential turnover, not a turnover-because of a-turnover.
This is the key to the Debeljak’s poetry charm – to attract with its narrativeness and confessionality, with its rootedness into personal experience and in the experience with various types of collective existence (the world in the former Yugoslav state, new para-state frames of the European Union, the discrepancy between the political axiology and reality…). Between the lines of this narrativised confessionality (which seems like striving to convince us into the diary-memoir genesis of what has been said) there are, almost in a film manner, dynamic and edited, visual and emotional fragments and sensations. All of this is fitted into the dominant shaping modus of Debeljak, the sonnet and para-sonnet (with four quatrains or with two quatrains and two tercets), as well as couplets. Looking like a sonnet, and still a “light” variation of the sonnet, free of the strict form of the sonnet (four stanzas with 4+4+3+3 verse, plus the rhyme, plus the acrostic).4F
1. In the first Macedonian translation, authored by Lidija Dimkovska, the statement is: “Ќе најдеш ли сега сили да се препознаеш во оваа песна?“ (Will you find the strength now to recognize yourself in this poem?) (Избрани песни, 2004: 44).
2. Zamenjave, zamenjave (PAM, Mladinska knjiga 1982), The Names of Death (Imena smrti, Mladinska knjiga 1985), Slovar tišine (Aleph Press 1987), Moments of Fear (Minute strahu, Mladinska knjiga 1990), The City and the Child (Mesto in otrok, Mladinska knjiga 1996), Unfinished Odes (Nedokončane hvalnice, Mladinska knjiga 2000), Under the Surface (2004 Pod gladino, Mladinska knjiga 2004), Smugglers (Tihotapci, Mladinska knjiga 2009). His essays cover more than 14 books, such as Melancholic Figures 1988, The Postmodern Sphinx 1989, The Dark Skies of America 1991, Above the Ruins of Modernity 1999, The Balkan Bridge: Essays on the Literature of the “Yugoslav Atlantis”, 2010 and others.
3. In Greek, eleftheria means freedom, and in the Macedonian colloquial speech the world lefterno is used as easy, leisurely, light and free.
4. Only in the book Moments of Fear (1990), which contains the beautiful “Elegies from the North”, the poetic expression is prosaised and narrativised, both technically and stylistically.