2004 On Our Story



by Goran Stefanovski

(Inaugural Address at MANU – the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 18 December 2004)


I walked into this building for the first time about twenty years ago. I was working at the Faculty of Philology as an English Literature assistant and I would often pass by MANU. One day I decided to go inside and, without beating around the bush, asked to see Blaže Koneski. The decision surprised even me. Several minutes later, Blaže Koneski came downstairs. He was kind and calm. We spoke for around ten minutes, though I can’t for the life of me remember what about. Most probably I was trying to impress him. Nevertheless, I remember something more important: for some reason I felt that I had a right to that man. That he was sitting there, representing my interests, and that I could call on him whenever I liked. It was a time when I thought that what I was doing had some kind of collective meaning and importance.

Then came many long and fruitless years. I had the feeling that everything I knew had crumbled and rolled into the mud, that things no longer had a collective meaning, that the clocks were returning to zero, that memory was being erased and revised. Somebody said: Let’s see what you’re  made of!  With a heavy heart I tried to reinvent myself once again, to live in anonymity, to free myself from my own import. Thus, the news that I had been chosen to be a member of MANU delighted me that much more. So, maybe it’s not true that nobody is interested in us.

Looking back over the last five decades, I see that, with or without my wanting, things went a certain way and arranged themselves in the form that we refer to as fate. Therefore, perhaps it is time to take stock, recapitulate, catalogue. Sometimes shops put up signs saying: Closed for inventory.

Here, I would like to ask your permission to say a few words about stories: about their sense and meaning, about the material from which they are made, about the way they often amusingly and sadly and dangerously oppose one another. These are some stories from my childhood.

I’m eight years old, we’re living in Prilep, in a comfortable apartment above the town pharmacy, on the high street. The clock tower is next to the entrance to our building. It’s a hot, heavy, sticky afternoon in August. No signs of life on the streets. I’m alone. My father, mother and brother are already in Skopje, we’re supposed to move any day now, and they’re coming to get me. A journey awaits me. In an instant, I see my future and the course of all the events that will happen to me. This instant lasts and lasts, like some kind of time dilation, a freeze frame composed of all the years to come. It’s the longest moment of my life. I can see myself clearly in the context of some big world which lies ahead of me and which somehow returns once again to the point from which I am yet to depart, a point that is at the same time the source and the mouth of the river.

Story number two: St Nicholas Day celebration in the house of my grandparents Altana and Strezo in Debarmaalo, Skopje. My uncles Krume, Ivan, Mile and Risto are all there, as are my aunts, cousins and friends. We, the children, are wearing woollen socks and revelling in the rare freedom of doing as we please. The house smells homely, there are songs in the air and open hearts everywhere. Late in the night, I fall asleep in the middle of the racket, calm, warm, safe. My father Mirko picks me up and takes me home. A healthy cold awaits outside. The snow crunches under his feet. (By the way, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that today happens to be St Nicholas Day.)

Story number three: I’m five. Opening night of Macedonian Blood Wedding at the Prilep National Theatre. Nobody has told me that my mother Nada will be killed at the end of the performance. Someone takes out a rifle, shoots her, she falls dead, the curtain falls, the audience applauds, I’m crying my eyes out. My mother comes over to me, she tries to convince me that it’s not real, that it’s theatre, that it doesn’t hurt. But I don’t believe her, neither then, nor later, nor now, even though she passed away a long time ago. That was the moment that gave birth to my fascination with what is real and what imaginary, with what is the back stage and what is the front stage.

Story number four: As a child I was very afraid of the story of Siljan the Stork, of the mystical metamorphosis of a man who leaves his family and embarks on a pilgrimage. He is shipwrecked and the sea spits him out onto some deserted land. He becomes a stork and is condemned to spending the entire summer on the roof of his own house, watching his family, which is unable to recognise him. After many trials and tribulations, Siljan becomes a man once more and returns home to tell his loved ones about his incredible experiences.

For many years I was unable to find the mythological matrix of this story. It seemed to me like the parable of the prodigal son. Brkić, my professor of English Literature, warned me that its source might not be Christian, but from further to the East. While writing Black Hole in 1985, I supposed that Siljan does not turn into a stork, but that he becomes invisible. At that time I was not sure what that play was about: death, madness, dreams or orgasm. After 1992, several people asked me whether it might not in fact be a play about civil war.

All of these examples are part of my deep personal or, if you like, lyrical story. But the lyrical principle regularly clashes with the epic principle, just like our internal and external lives, and our desires clash with the desires or indifference of others. This leads to counter-stories, conflict, drama.

My name and surname, which are the simplest of things in my part of the world, are a source of interminable confusion in Great Britain. When I say my name to someone at a counter I can see their hands begin to shake, they have no idea what to type. I collect letters that arrive with my name misspelled and I already have an enviable collection of fifty or so examples framed in glass. I look upon them from time to time as a simple and fierce illustration of two diametrically opposed stories. Stefanoksi, Stefanouski, Stefanobski, and so on. Don’t get me started.

Another example. My computer’s keyboard has various English letters that are completely unusable in my mother tongue: W, Q, Y. Yet, they are nevertheless useful. If I press W, I get “Њ” (Nj), while if I press Q, I get “Љ” (Lj), and if I press Y, I get “S” (Dz). So, all one needs is a little concentration. In order to get “Ќ” (Kj), I need to press the right bracket, and for “Ш” (Š), the left bracket. But I have to be careful, because for some unknown reason if I press for an upper case letter, I get a lower case one, and vice versa. For the letter “Ч” (Č), I press colon, but I have to simultaneously press shift, because if I don’t I’ll get “Ж” (Ž). When I write the letter “i”, the computer automatically puts it in upper case, because when that letter stands alone in English it means “I”, as in me. So, writing in my mother tongue is a constant battle with some kind of monster of globalisation, some kind of hellish multicultural machine, which in fact also contains my parameters and is willing to give them to me, but only if I ask for them under a special visa regime. The computer automatically underlines every text in Macedonian with a red line, as if it were grammatically totally incorrect, almost illegal.

I recently wrote about this dramatic chafing of stories for World Theatre Day.

All living creatures are born with a survival instinct.  In order to survive, spiders spin webs. In order to survive, humans spin stories – about who they are, where they come from and where they are going. For us there is nothing more important than these stories. They are the essence of our life, the backbone of our identity.

Identity is the story of who we are, why we are and what we want. In order to survive in the harsh world, our story must be true, based on knowledge of the surroundings, on deep insight, on a precise blueprint. A false story may cost us dearly, lead us to delusion, a dead end, even death. Since our landscape is continually changing, so too our stories are in a constant process of readjustment. The story is a map. If the map does not correspond to the landscape, we are lost, as in a jungle.

From an early age we are hungry for stories. It is how we study life, and prepare for it. We learn about contrasts, contradictions, conflicts – we learn the drama of our lives: Little Red Riding Hood vs The Wolf, Good vs Evil, Love vs Hate, truth vs lies, “what is” vs “what seems”, Hamlet vs Elsinore, Siljan vs Konjari[1].

We feel a heartfelt need to understand our own story, to see our reflection, to recognise our face, to take courage. We yearn to compare our story with other stories, to examine where they are the same, where similar and where completely different. We crave a master storyteller who will interpret the runes for us, remove the façades, connect causes and consequences, and provide us with our bearings.

A story is sometimes an unarticulated shriek, sometimes a harmonic melody; at times dark and opaque like an X-ray image, at others shining and happy like a fairy tale. Sometimes it is funny or horrible, sometimes both. But one thing is clear: no culture can survive without a true, powerful and authentic story! Indeed, culture itself IS that true, powerful and authentic story.

Theatre is a mighty workshop and engine for storytelling. In the theatre the story is not only TOLD, but also SHOWN. It happens here and now, in front of us, at arm’s length. Theatre is the stone on which we sharpen the tools of our story, the loom with which we weave its tapestry, the place where we flex the muscles of our consciousness and conscientiousness, and weigh our history and destiny on the scales. It is the place where we study life.

It is there that we show our story – our truth about who we were, who we are and who we want to be in the days to come.

This is all easy to swallow in theory, but it is difficult to implement in practice. The domestic lyrical calculations do not add up in the commercial, epic market. This summer, at a theatre biennale in Wiesbaden, I found myself at the usual round table with representatives from Albania, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. All bearded men, the Balkan crowd. A journalist from the Frankfurter Rundschau asked some stereotypical and tedious questions like “How do you see Europe?” I asked why I am always allocated the same crowd, why nobody ever asks any sophisticated questions, why there’s no interest in what happened that August in Prilep, or the celebrations of my family, or my mother in the role of Cveta in Macedonian Blood Wedding, or Siljan the Stork? Why do they always reduce me to their preconception of who I am? Why do they present me with their story of what my story is? Why is that the only space in which they permit my discourse? I say to myself: there’s no running away from the Macedonian Question, it’s bigger than you, it’s following you around, like fate.

A few days ago I went to dinner in Canterbury, surrounded by contented and comfortable friends and acquaintances from the University of Kent. Some of the books I have read, were written by them. The money I dream about is being spent by them. My ceiling is their floor. So I sit there, on edge, tense, my adrenalin beating in my forehead, high blood pressure, preparing for the imminent fateful battle of life and death, all or nothing. Leave your women and children at home, this is a duel! The Macedonian is again being put to the test! I grow horns like a bull, and begin to foam at the mouth. But this is a shrewd bunch, so they elegantly avoid me, like matadors, flexible in the face of my anger. It is here that their power lies.

It may sound paradoxical, but even though leaving Macedonia seems to be a parting, it is in fact a joining. You can play the Englishman in Skopje, but in England you are but a Macedonian. I contemptuously lecture those who ask me whether Macedonia is Greece, whether we speak Russian, whether we are all Muslims. With them it’s easy; it’s hard with the ones who very well informed. Right, so the country where you’re from is on its knees. Terrible corruption, yeah? Aha, so this framework agreement is a ticking time bomb. The Greeks aren’t recognising your name, right? Of course, it’s easiest when I’m being complimented: oh, that Milcho Manchevski is good, and that Simon Trpcheski, and Vlatko Stefanovski. I nod contentedly. But of course. One of them is my brother.

The worst is when nobody even touches on any of my themes. I feel superfluous and frustrated. That is how I used to go to Belgrade when I was a young man, impatiently wanting to walk into an argument, now and here, immediately and on the spot, to show that I am not inferior, that I am not, I quote, “darkness come from the South”. There I am in London, red-faced, snorting like a bull. Is any man here brave enough to take me on? Let us drink; I take out my sword when drinking wine, and my gun when drinking rakija. Meanwhile, London, a city of 12 million, couldn’t care less about my loudmouth bragging. By now I am tired and drunk, I fall into bed with a blurry sense that it is me that is provoking myself, that I am wasting my strength in vain, that I am alone. I’m already depressed, I miss myself, oh if I could only get on a snail and make my way back home! “But there are Blacks, and Arabs and Indians here! Where is my invitation from the Queen? I was expecting tea parties, lords, ladies and good manners.”

So the problem is not just in the world, but also in me. Many years ago, as a student, I egotistically proclaimed to my lectors Graham and Peggy that King Lear was not a true tragedy. They turned towards me, eyes full of attention, and said “Interesting. Why?” This confused me. What do you mean why? Why are they asking me why? It should be enough that I am telling them such a profound thing, why do they need me to back it up? Don’t they believe me? I realised that my capacity for critical thinking is fragile, that maybe I have some sort of intuition, but I don’t have the critical apparatus to defend it. They were patiently waiting for an answer. But I used to get ‘A’s in secondary school because I used to throw in a foreign word at strategic places in the reading. It was all based on charm, bluff, erotica. Discussions were the place for light improvisation, an entertaining exchange of ideas, without responsibility, a free for all, no holds barred, as long as it was all in good spirit. We’re amongst friends here, we’re not going to interrogate one another as if we were in a police station, are we? What was I to say, “I don’t know” or “I’ll find out”? I changed the subject just so that my obstinacy could rule unchallenged, so that I could keep them in suspense, asking themselves what kind of brilliant idea I had had which I had not shared. But they got me thinking. I learned that I had to stand behind what I say, not get bright ideas and expound false prophecies. Revenge was lying in wait when I later also became a teacher, and students would shrug their shoulders at the question “Why?” What why? Because! So that you ask, that’s why!

In Sweden, I’m asked a question which requires a simple yes or no. Will you be coming to dinner? I sense a profound need to say yes and no and maybe. Just like I normally say, and normally hear, at home. “Let’s talk about it again later.” Why should I leave traces, me, the nomad? Why must I commit myself? Why must the enemy know where I am and then come and cut my head off? My tribe is specialised in covering up all its traces. It’s a fantastic traditional survival technique of the “Charshija”[2], but it’s not a way to write an academic paper, nor to conduct rational policies, nor create a modern state.

Before continuing, a word or two on the Charshija’s story:

The Charshija believes that the world and history have forgotten it and pushed it to one side, so it too has pushed to one side the world and history. Thus it’s eternal. The Charshija sees the world as alien and corrupt, and itself as its pure essence and soul. And in order to preserve its purity, the Charshija refuses to act, it sits still, goes with the flow, and does not participate in the world, but only sniggers at it. It says YES to the world only when it takes from it, for example, interest free loans during grace periods. But it tells that same world NO if it begins to question how the money is being spent. Our schemings are socially beneficial, it’s our own brand of domestic, patriotic robbery; gentle, prescribed, difficult to explain to uninitiated outsiders. It’s what our crooks are good at. But they don’t even think twice while their adventurous colleagues uproot the foundations of our Story and install their own narrative workshops. “Well, it’s the paymaster who says what song we are to sing. We’re businessmen. It’s you culture vultures that are supposed to protect our Story.” Well, well, well. Is that so?

From time to time, the Charshija allows someone to put it in its place. Some teacher, an old man with white hair or no hair, the voice of conscience: some kind of romantic phantasm, a fired-up literary corpse, someone who will recite something smart, while it pretends to be humbly listening, only to then return to its usual lawless recreations.

The Charshija of course took the measure of Siljan the Stork and sealed his doom. It is curious, all-pervading, it remembers everything and forgets nothing, it has the last word, all the answers, sayings, symbols, tricks, and has a nickname for everyone, so they don’t get too big-headed. Siljan reports for duty every day. If ever he wants to be alone, the Charshija says: “separate from the crowd at your peril!” If he wants to leave the pub, it says: “where the hell are you going? Do you know where you’re going?” If he says he’s got some work to do, it says “what do you mean work? Stay here.” And Siljan is also a clandestine poet, having to write in secret when nobody is watching. In town he is modest, average, follows the herd, fits in, does not stick out, puts ashes on his head. The Charshija mocks Siljan, just as it does the world and life itself.

So there’s Siljan, in the pub, wallowing in small talk, waiting for the past and future to collide, realising that everything around him is full of conspiracy, scheming, lies and double crosses, that nothing is sacred, and not only in the relationships between people, but also in the world itself, in existence as a whole. The world is an illusion, a collection of illusory attitudes and illusory feelings. It is artificial out of necessity, and that is good, because since it is artificial, it is not really tragic, and thus does not really hurt.

Siljan departs on his pilgrimage, barely survives a shipwreck and a series of internal upheavals, returns home, sits in the same place, in the same pub, with the same people, in the middle of the same small talk, and nobody knows where Siljan has been, nor what he has done, nor do they care. They know that the world is a mirage and that the cosmos is twisted and that travel is not possible. And if Siljan should want to say something, they respond: “and what are you going to tell us? We know everything.” Thus, the circle is closed. Where were you? Nowhere. What did you do? Nothing.

In one of his essays, Kundera contemplates the revenge that the Charshija has prepared for Odysseus on his return to Ithaca. They tell him what has happened during the years of his absence, but nobody honours him with a question about what he was doing under the walls of Troy. They don’t even ask him about Achilles, or Hector, or Priam, or Hecuba, and neither about Circe, nor the Cyclops, nor the song of the Sirens, nor the gruelling decade-long wandering on his way home.

Hence Siljan laments in the writings of Cepenkov: “I am in a barren land, with not even a rooster to sing!… if only I’d been killed by a rifle… I will die in this desert and eagles, crows, will eat my flesh… Will this be my final resting place?” It is difficult when one is a stranger abroad. But it is even more difficult when one is a stranger at home. Most frightening are the times when even one’s home becomes alien and foreign, an unfamiliar hell. When one is in his element, yet panic-stricken and alienated as if a snake has slithered over him. When one is an internally displaced person. When the sadness is not as a result of absence, but as a result of presence. When one’s house is not one’s home.

In the 80s, each of my visits to Prilep meant a stay in Hotel Lipa: a hotel built in accordance with all the principles of trade-unionism, a rich Socio-realistic construction, a workers’ utopia, a shining synonym for brotherhood and unity. A fantastic lobby, and huge restaurant in which you’d be somewhat ashamed to order any traditional home meals, which in any case were not on the menu. Instead there was Argentinian churrasco and Kiev style shashlik. Some type of false Esperanto universalism, a fake licence for an invented Europe. No connection whatsoever with any sort of organic Macedonian tradition.

I went to Prilep last year. Hotel Lipa was bankrupt, closed, full of cockroaches. I stayed, or more precisely I was put up, in a brand new private hotel, built in accordance with all the principles of the European story as we imagine it today, as we bask in the benefits of capitalism. My room was a huge 100m2 apartment. Next to the door was a giant table with eight leather armchairs, as if I were going to hold meetings there, or divide up the loot if I were a criminal. In the corner, a bar with high stools and a glass cabinet with empty cardboard whiskey cases. A mirror over the bed, à la James Bond. Heavy curtains, like in a boudoir. All made with the best of intentions – the migrant worker has returned home from the big world, he wants to import it, but ends up bringing cold, empty, kitsch forms. The soul has come here to die. Should I laugh or should I cry? Where are the traditional rugs? Woolen blankets? Floor boards? That would be a real European sensation! Where is my Prilep? Through the window I can see tobacco strung up to dry. I can see the jagged cliffs above the town. I’m both here and absent.

It’s the same story in Debarmaalo, Skopje’s heartland. High rise shoeboxes are being built where small houses with gardens once stood. In line with which plan, which story? Where is my Debarmaalo? Are we constructing from scratch something falsely new, or something falsely old? Where is our true house? Where is our home?

Last summer we witnessed the unfortunate events at the Struga Poetry Evenings – events that have not yet been resolved and whose consequences will be felt in our cultural and social soft tissue for a long time to come. Events related to our understanding of the concepts of Home and Culture. In every traditional Macedonian house there was always a guestroom in which none of the inhabitants entered. I grew up in such a house. Life was lived in the kitchen, the place where one cooked, ate, wrote homework; the place where it was always warm. Whereas the guest room was dark, empty and cold. This concept of a house is created along the lines of the story and culture of the bourgeois reception room in which the guest is kept at a distance; we show him our way of life as in a shop window, as a representation, as a screen behind which we hide the shame of our everyday lives.

Is it not time that we join the guestroom with the kitchen? That we receive guests on our home territory, and offer them to eat the same thing we are eating that day, rather than laying out something that we assume is their home territory, along which we tread carefully as if on thin ice. Is it not time that we say to them and to ourselves: here we are, this is who we are! To accept ourselves, to unite with our own selves, to first see who we are, before we start considering who we want to be. Culture is the everyday technology of our lives. It is where the deep structure of our social contract is presented on a plate: who’s carrying and who’s baking, who’s cooking and who’s eating, who’s washing dishes and who’s napping after lunch, who’s giving orders and who’s serving.

We are in the midst of a conscious and unconscious schism with the world, but also within ourselves and between ourselves. It’s a merciless battle, impatient, full of poisonous hatred, measuring everything by way of double standards. The story of Siljan the Stork is a story of just such a division, of loss, of wandering, of disorientation. A story of trauma and breakdown. In short, a story of an identity crisis. Siljan is cursed: “Oh my son, may you turn into a bird and fly away from our house, go off into the fields, into the thorn bushes, and look for yourself, but never find yourself!” Sometimes I feel that our country, just like the birds Sive and Chule in the story, can be heard singing, but cannot be seen, nor found, nor embraced, nor healed, nor find peace.

However, Siljan the Stork is also a story of initiation, of bravery, of achievement, of self-discovery. An example that alienation can be overcome with desire and work, and that lost innocence can be superseded with maturity and experience. That form can return through the painful metamorphosis of rebirth. From the clash of the epic and lyrical principles is born a new dramatically substantiated Siljan. A person who does not wallow in self-pity, but recognises his guilt and takes responsibility for his life.

But that’s enough about our maladies! We’re all aware of it and are tired of the diagnoses. We’re constantly picking at and opening the wound.  It’s hard for us to suffer the illness because we know what it means to be healthy, because we are proud and because we long to find a cure.

Here are some of the ingredients from our story of which I am very proud:

I am proud of our living principle of paradox: anti-logic not as irrationality, but as a principle to live by. The freedom provided by unrestrained shrewdness, cunning and resourcefulness. The freedom provided by foolishness. The inversion of the perspective. The awareness that life cannot be understood with the mind, nor can its meaning be exhausted through rational means.

I am proud of our rituals of living. Family, seasonal celebrations, embracing, open emotions, acceptance, the power of atonement, playfulness, physicality, tactility, the closing of eyes when singing, the ‘zurla’[3] and drums, ‘sarma’[4], watermelon, ‘pindzur’[5] and burek, internal labyrinths of kinship and circles of love, a permanent kind of child’s joy and excitement about small things.

I am proud of the holy rigour and humility of our icons and frescoes. Everywhere you look, magnificent palimpsests, treasures of artistic articulation. A divine aura.

I am proud of the depth of our historical memory, gentleness and respect for diversity, Talmudic schools in Skopje and Bitola, the wisdom of coexistence, a certain historic resignation and maturity, and an intuition that life is a serious phenomenon, that it makes sense to speak only about metaphysics, only about meaning alone.

I am proud of our resilience. Despite all the violations to the identity, the hands tied behind the back, rags in the mouth, defacement and fragmentation, I’m alive and I’m hungry for life. I know that I exist because of all the attacks by those who want to make sure that I don’t. I know that I am because of the persistence with which they are trying to show that I am not. My resilience emanates out of the mortar in which I am being crushed and from the pan in which I am simmering. It is precisely that mortar and that pan which are my positions of power.

Of course, these Macedonian questions are a double-edged sword. Тhe terms I am using are contaminated, and can easily pour oil on the fire. The passion that we possess is both sustenance and poison, it can warm our home and also set it alight, it is jet fuel for both love and hate. Our best features are able to easily turn their backs on us and work against us. But in our problems lie our solutions. Grandad Cepenkov teaches us: Where a man falls, there he must get up again.

Last year we celebrated the centenary of the Ilinded Uprising:

That is out meta narration. Why does that story continue to survive and fascinate us? Undoubtedly because it assures us that even though we are small, we can raise our head, let our voice be heard, fight for the right to our historic destiny. In a word, that we want to exist, that we have the volition for our own selves.

Until just over a decade ago, Macedonia was in Eastern Europe. Eastern it may have been, but it was nevertheless Europe. But that story crumbled and Eastern Europe no longer exists. We now find ourselves in the Balkans, and in the Western part of it, pushed into the third world, not only not complementary with Europe, but also somehow opposed to it, like an oriental annex, a dark mirror onto which it projects its fears. This is a new, ugly and dangerous page in the story.

And how are we to now think of ourselves? How are we to re-Europeanise ourselves, when Europe is intent on Balkanising us? How are we to look upon ourselves, measure ourselves, diagnose the situation, set our sights? We are in the middle of an intense and exhausting debate on these issues.

Some say that Europe is exclusively to blame for our unenviable situation, that we should turn our back on that harlot, that we don’t need her alienation and futility, in relation to which we embody wholesomeness, potency and spontaneity.

Others say that it is us who are solely responsible for everything, that we should turn our back on ourselves, kiss Europe’s hand and go to embrace her on the first plane, with a one way ticket, the further the better from this chaos, anarchy and violence, in relation to which she is order, wealth and purity.

Both attitudes are inferior and only serve to nurture the exotic European cliché about us: in the first story we are self-absorbed pompous arseholes, while in the second, slimy uncritical epigones. Both stories are mutually exclusive – offering all or nothing, hell or heaven and nothing in between – no possibility for earthly life. They are despondent and are based on negative identification: I do not know exactly who I am, but I know exactly who I do not want to be. Such stories are lazy and passive, they avoid analysis, work and responsibility, and melodramatically claim that we deserve more.

However, in politics, as in business, (or even as in the judging of theatre festivals), you don’t get what you believe you deserve, but what you manage to negotiate, bargain for and agree on.  Democracy implies the continual and patient bargaining with those that do not think the same as you, with those with whom you are diametrically opposed. Democracy is negotiation, adjustment, compromise. Something that is totally alien to the Charshija’s spiteful, stubborn and fixed view of the world. That view which measures only in bulk and does not recognise any individuality, which operates like a closed vilayet and despises all otherness, which would rather accept history and politics as fate and a natural disaster, rather than as a duty and civic responsibility.

We need hard work in order to establish and reconcile our authentic and sovereign story. We need an uprising of vision, will and mind, of persistent effort, media cunning and negotiating skill. States are made with steel and blood, but they are maintained with work and intelligence. One hundred years ago, the Ilinden heroes affirmed their desire for a state by way of an authentic and convincing death. Today, we must reaffirm our desire for this country by way of an authentic and convincing life.

Their victory was in their defeat. Our victory must be – in our victory!

In closing, allow me to return to the reason of this gathering. It is with great joy that I accept the membership in Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences outside of the executive board. For me this is an exceptional honour and recognition of the highest order. I see it as an official acknowledgement of my work, by you, my contemporaries, experts in their profession – those who know and know how. At the same time, I consider it as recognition for my family, for my wife Patricia, my son Igor and my daughter Jana, for my extended family and my associates. In anticipation of close and fruitful future cooperation,

I thank you.



(Translated by Igor Stefanovski, 2012)

[1] His village

[2] From the Turkish ‘çarşı’, meaning market-place or old bazaar. However, here it is being used to refer to the Balkan wisdom of the street. This phenomenon was best described by Radomir Konstantinovic in his book “Filozofija Palanke” (“Philosophy of Provicialism”), 1969

[3] Traditional oboe-like woodwind instrument

[4] Minced meat rolled in cabbage leaves

[5] A traditional pepper and tomato appetiser