POLIP - International Literature Festival
The political arena has been shaken significantly in the year we have left behind– BREXIT, Trump’s victory, the rise of the right-wing populism across Europe – which,in turn, will bring about many changes. The Chinese ancient curse‘May you live in interesting times’, often quoted by Hanna Arendt in discussions on political crisis, comes to mind. A massive flux of refugees and migrants, with the right-wing on the rise, has exposed cultural, ethnic and religious tensions lurking beneath the surface in Europe. The post-Communist countries, including those in the Western Balkans striving to enter the EU, have also been deeply affected by the political turbulences, mainly because of their corrupt governments and the lack of tangible economic development.
A recent period which was marked by progress, albeit conditional, towards a more stable Western Balkans has now been replaced by a tumultuous phase of permanent provocations and suspended dialogue. In place of talks, the political elites chose instead high-risk performance acts. At the moment both Serbia’s and Kosovo’s political elites operate outside of The Brussels Agreement framework, while simultaneously maintaining their pledge that the process of normalization of their relations has no alternative. The relations between Belgrade and Zagreb, and between Belgrade and Sarajevo, are not much better either. The opposition in these countries offers no political solutions, while some representatives of the opposition demand radicalization of the relations or even for the dialogue to be completely abandoned. In such circumstances culture and literature are threatened by being subjected to ideological interferences and exposed to increased surveillance. Literature is,hence,forced into exile – both an external and internal one. In the spheres of culture and literature it is possible to look for the answers that politics is unable to offer, openly refusing to confront the problems in the first place. Finally, literature doesn’t offer solutions, that’s not its purpose, but rather proposes critical examination of the political and cultural processes, as Predrag Matvejević (1932-2017), one of the most prominent intellectuals of the Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav period, said in the past.
For many, if not for the majority, migration is the exit strategy from the political and economic crisis. Whereas some people from this part of the world want to leave ‘home’, others are forced to leave ‘home’ – predominantly people from Syria and other countries in the Middle East,thus confirming the state of exile as an inevitable part of the human condition.
The immediacy that characterizes the way we access information today, together with many other technological advances,adds a new dimension to the issue of exile and to our experience of political unrests. In line with this, one could pose a question – does literature adopt a new dimension of creation and consumption? How does literature respond to mobility (or a lack thereof)and to the idea of home or multiple ‘homes’? Simultaneously, saturation with images portraying political crisis, makes literature a space of possibilities, a bridge to plurality of experiences of the self in relation to others, of new spaces in relation to the known ones. The very use of language, being the sole medium of writers, enables us to grasp the complexity of human condition in a profound way.