There are summer days when the great heat prevents those living in high-rise blocks from doing anything useful, and when even air-conditioning is helpless. This seemingly commonplace summer complaint has nevertheless stimulated one writer to describe it in so to speak poetic fashion. The result is a prose poem with the title Serbia in the Summer Heat, which begins: ‘The great, almost unbearable heat in the stone sarcophagi – read apartment blocks – prevents the functioning of all serious activity, not just in the metropolis. The petrified material, seemingly taken from eternal Pharaonic constructions and packed with armature, furiously resists the installed machines designed to infuse the interior of the sarcophagi with crumbs of mountain ozone and traces of life’. The author of this poetic text is one Svetislav D. Božević, a professor at the Belgrade academy of music, a composer and man of letters, and the text comes from his book The Murmurous Summer of 2006, recently published byBelgrade ’s Foundation for Textbooks. I assume that the reviewer of the work, Rajko Petrov Nogo, and the Foundation’s director and editor-in-chief, Radoš Ljušić, had decided that this was a work that could be of service in the teaching of Serb language and literature.
The reviewer and publisher may have found such pedagogical value also in Božić’s inspired depiction of lepinja [flat bread] with kajmak [clotted cream], which goes like this: ‘Lepinja with kajmak, this holiday of the simple gastronomy of a noble nation that has surpassed its poverty with an archipelago woven of the most precious aromas.’ I am not sure, though, whether The Murmurous Summer of 2006 would have merited publication by such an important institution, commonly described as national, as the Foundation for Textbooks, had its author poetically articulated only the aforementioned and similar themes from everyday life. It is more likely that the Foundation accepted this work mainly because it contains poems about far more important and prestigious themes, themes from recent and more distant Serbian history, and indeed important issues too of the Serbian present.
Thus, for example, when teachers come to tell their pupils about the situation in Serbia at the start of the 19th century, they will find in Božić’s book the poetically presented information that the Serbia of that time, wealthy in pigs, used to feed the pretty exhausted and virtually famished Europe. ‘Snowdrifts of nutritious acorns’, writes Božić, ‘which rejoiced and fed the grunting families intended for transportation to the West European space, covered the floor of these decorated forests.’
History teachers will be able to find, in this publication by the Foundation for Textbooks, suitable material also on historical relations between the Serbs and other nations, and especially between the Serbs and the Croats. They will find a pedagogically appropriate articulation of the subject on the pages of Božić’s Murmurous Summer dedicated to Nikola Tesla. The teachers will read this, then instruct their pupils to come up with neat, summary and patriotically-inspired descriptions of Tesla’s homeland, which is Croatia. According to one description, this is a country born in Jasenovac; according to another, it is a state whose greatest courage consists of having no shame. The children will learn that the master of light, despite the torture inflicted on him by the Croats, was in constant contact with Serbia by means of his currents and his lightning. Tesla, in this book, is ultimately transformed into a prophet, who according to Svetislav Božić announces the second coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ with the great thunderclap of his celestial services. There is no doubt, thanks to Tesla’s lobbying and Božić’s services, that if Our Lord comes to this area he will choose to reveal himself first of all to the Serbs, ignoring the Croats, just as McDonalds did when it too bypassed the Croats not long ago.
Božić’s book also offers another suitable illustration for classroom handling of the crimes committed by the Croats against Tesla and other Serbs. The author thus reminds us that two of doubtless the most important monuments standing inBelgrade – those commemorating the Unknown Soldier and the Victor – were imposed on our capital, in that they were erected by a clever craftsman who, as is widely known, was a Croat. As a Serb and indeed a male, Božić is particularly affronted by the shameless nakedness of Meštrović’s Victor. It represents, he says, virility in self-imposed degradation. It seems that he is not so shocked by what the Victor displays in front as by his bare backside, or – as Božić expresses it with poetic delicacy – the fact of the naked southern part of his body, which he brazenly directs at the Serbian capital, so that (our poet grieves) it seems as if the Victor is making fun of all past and present males living in Belgrade.
Peščanik, Radio b92, 09.11.2007.