THE SOUND AND THE FURY

Anyone who had a chance to first live blissfully in abundance and then touch bottom, experiencing at least some of the shit we went through, will surely remember it for the rest of their life because the formidable hurdles we were facing daily in 90s Serbia bordered surreal. Those who managed to keep their head above water were like skydivers who survived a 12,000ft (3660m) fall without their parachutes.

In order to explain the political climate in Serbia in the mid 90s, I need to go back in time. The late 80s witnessed squabbles between the Serb minority and the ethnic-Albanian majority in Serbia’s (ex-) southern province of Kosovo, considered ‘the Mecca and Medina of the Serb people.’ Many Serbs left never to return, while the remaining ones felt oppressed and abused by the Albanian leadership. The Kosovo issue dominated Serbian politics. Slobodan Milošević, a rising Socialist Party boss (SPS), became an overnight sensation, being ‘the first politician to break official party taboos about embracing nationalism. Jumping on the nationalist bandwagon and making himself the public champion of the beleaguered Serbs of Kosovo’ proved to be his ticket to absolute power. He said: ‘I will defend your rights.’ They cheered and nodded. He said: ‘I will restore prosperity.’ They cheered and nodded. He said: ‘I will protect you and defend Serbdom.’ They cheered and nodded. He said: ‘No one has the right to beat you.’ They cheered and nodded. Soon he was to become a hero of angry Serbs everywhere. Erratic time.

In 1990, Yugoslavia started following the model of political transition from a one-party system to a multi-party democratic one. The opposition openly rejected the communist and socialist regime and was strongly in favor of human rights, democracy and market economy. In June, it called for a street protest against SPS control over national media which ignored opposition altogether while glorifying Milošević’s ‘peace-loving’ initiatives. Over 70,000 peaceful protesters were dispersed. In the fall, mass protests were again organized in Belgrade, demanding a free and fair electoral campaign, the media coverage of opposition activities and the round table. Despite the charismatic leaders who were getting more and more popular and rallies across Serbia, the democratic opposition lost the battle (but not the war). Minimized time for opponents of the regime on TV (being denounced as Western stooges) and the absence of united opposition forces also contributed to the overwhelming victory of SPS in both Parliamentary and presidential elections.

In March ‘91, another street protest against President Milošević and his total control of the national media was organized in downtown Belgrade. Fury followed, the rally turning into a riot featuring vicious clashes between the protesters and the police and military, deployed in the streets to restore order. 100,000 citizens against tanks. Two people died and a few hundred were injured. Several prominent opposition officials were badly beaten and detained by the police and two media outlets considered unfriendly to the government banned. Civil fury grew high and the following day more people were in the streets. The government supporters responded by organizing a counter-protest. The rallies ended a few days later, after the opposition leaders had been released from police custody. Both the state TV director and the Minister of the Interior resigned. One victory at a time. Thanks to his fiery nationalist rhetoric, and total control of the national media, along with the JNA operations in Croatia (Yugoslav People’s Army), the popularity of President Milošević continued to grow. So did the fury of the conscious ‘few.’

march protests.PNG

Fast forward to mid 90s. Upon enrolling in the university and spending a wonderful summer with my longtime boyfriend and friends, partying, loitering and dreaming (4 months without school), I moved away from my parents in the fall of ‘95. The war just finished (crime didn’t, though). The sanctions weren’t lifted until the next year, which meant more power outages accompanied by the calming effects of candlelight. The post-war period was no less challenging. It was a time of scarcity and supporting two students financially was not easy. Students who pay for college fees themselves are extremely rare in Serbia. It is your job to study, pass exams and have fun, whereas it’s your parents’ duty to pay your bills. Things get tougher if you’re a big art lover who didn’t want to miss a single movie, festival, exhibition, concert or theater performance. Unfortunately, my sister and I were not among the lucky bastards whose tuition was covered by the state, but were fee-paying ones. Even though the fees were not that high (no loans, no debts), the price of printouts most definitely was. We didn’t have the convenience of the Internet back then, which would surely make things cheaper and our life easier. Books and textbooks, on the other hand, were either way too costly or hard to obtain so we’d spend hours in the library reading dozens of them so as to copy/paste a few useful pages, which required hard manual labor. Once the work was done, we wouldn’t stay there to study as we preferred the comfort of our home. The library atmosphere never grew on us. There’s nothing cozy, agreeable and intimate about it. Watching other people staring at their books, while you can’t concentrate yourself since you’re too busy checking out their backpacks, glasses, their hair and clothes, and being distracted by a fly buzz, is utterly depressing and unproductive in the long run. Our bodies are so not made to be sedentary. Besides, deafening silence for studying was never my thing. I needed noise, I needed the fridge, the kettle, the sounds of the street, our room overlooking a most peculiar neighbor. I needed our saggy cushions and old ugly sofa where I’d assume most unusual positions for studying you can think of (back down, legs up the wall, headphones on). I missed the radio, shared laughter and friends stopping by for a chat, a cup of coffee or our aunt’s hot tomato soup. I craved my common workplace distractions.

Oh, the bliss of student life! Socializing, partying, and having fun day in day out, meeting new people all the time, pairing up with the best and the worst, the most generous and the most envious people you will ever meet, the best of the best sharing the same premises with the scum of the earth, daring to be different, finding your tribe, befriending a withdrawn Bosnian girl in the last row who lost her dad in war and had no idea where her mom and brother were, sharing food, dreams, books, passions, ideas, thoughts, showers and beds, dropping the mime, learning to ‘be yourself (everyone else was already taken’), living in a tight-knit community buzzing with life, sleepovers, inducing euphoria with all things available, Bowie’s Earthling 24/7, resetting perspectives, learning from and exchanging views with brilliant professors and assistant professors, putting up with mediocrity and an inferiority complex impossible to treat, student discounts, fare evasion, mom’s parcels with sour cabbage rolls, stuffed red peppers, money, and crepes with honey and walnuts sent regularly by bus, resorting to scratchcards when broke, winning (big enough to cover the costs), losing, taking part in every single radio game show in the city (answering questions about literature and film, being rewarded with the best prize ever: a book or a concert/theater ticket otherwise impossible to afford), mastering negotiation skills and sweet talk: talking our (read: my) way past bouncers every fricking time, cramped trains back home: using bribery, students and railroad officials in the same sentence, early English literature, an introduction into Canadian-Australian studies, Romanticism, American writers, contemporary literature, the (almost) Complete Works of Shakespeare, cooking your own food, having others cook for you, leading a life without a washing machine, giving up on the idea to kill the black mold, continuing to hope it won’t kill you (too soon), placing mouse traps around the house, thinking of the ways to outsmart a smart mouse, being outsmarted, enthusiasm, attending lectures worth attending, missing those worth missing, catching up, lacking motivation, a recommended daily intake of lecithin for focus, attention and concentration improvement, resorting to cleaning the house from top to bottom to let off steam, scrubbing the grout lines in the bathroom with a toothbrush because every nook and cranny needed to be clean (read: finding yet another excuse not to study for exams), workload, duties and obligations, procrastinating, locking ourselves in before exams without leaving the house for days (it was about time!), stress before a midterm, learning to cope with anxiety, meditation: relieving pain by changing your mind, making room for more happiness, reading and writing, listening and turning a deaf ear, passing and failing, facts to remember, facts to learn and forget, making your own decisions, flunking semesters on purpose to have more time for having a good time (infuriating teachers and pleasing yourself), standing by your choices, prioritizing, living your life, temptations, learning the hard way, dealing with emotional memories, being taught not to bottle up emotions (then forgetting), finding people keen for a talk anytime, joining a hiking club, going hiking, going swimming, first job, first salary spent on a ski trip and a bike, biking in and around the city with sis on a daily basis, getting in shape, sharing super sweet dessert combos afterwards to boost our energy levels (fuck getting in shape!), stage diving, lighters held up at concerts like fireflies in the dark (his hand around my sweaty waist), the addictive darkness of freezing movie theaters (a weekly/daily hotshot), a peaceful sense of intimacy, legs touching under the table, pulling the blanket over our heads, enjoying the silence interrupted by grunts, sighs, and groans, the noise of impetuous passion, climaxing, being present and fading to black, sinking into speechless oblivion, sharing an enthusiastic neighbor’s choice of music and boyfriends, investing in good earplugs, regular coffees under a linden tree, staying up all night, sleeping in the following day, a regular knock on our window, pressing the social ‘refresh’ button. Lifelong friends and memories. Feeling adult, feeling appreciated, feeling worthless, feeling like a piece of shit. Rebuilding self-esteem. Morning chats over coffee, late night dinners by the old wood burner, cigarette smoke filling the kitchen, and crackling fire on a cold damp evening. Don’t fall asleep. We need to keep the fire burning.

fire.PNG

It’s the fall of 1996. Days are noticeably shorter, while nights are getting colder and colder. Serbian local elections held in November are followed by allegations of widespread voter fraud. It seems very likely President Milošević will reject the accusations as preposterous. Again. However, students have something important to say this time.

Fury and frustration have been piling up for quite some time, seeking ways of breaking free. The long sound of silence gives the impression of ripeness. We are ready, willing and able to speak up. ‘The sound is the fury’; the fury is a change. ‘The grave hopeless sound of all voiceless misery under the sun’ is about to break away.

Author: Blogging_with_Bojana

I'm diggin' Need to grow, have to push Flicking through vinyl and feeding the rush I dig for that one and I open the haunt It's takin' all day from the back to the front I'm diggin' and diggin' You know Sorry baby I'm gone diggin' www.bloggingwithbojana.com

82 thoughts on “THE SOUND AND THE FURY”

  1. This is one of the most amazing things I have ever read, like nothing before. It is the blood of motion, the bones of anguish, all of it stripped and thrown on the table. Sometimes, I can hardly believe you are real. With all you have seen and done and all that you feel, everything that lives within you, you rise again and again, not through the fire or into the fire, you are the fire! You are a whirlwind of wonder, my friend! You leave me speechless, in awe….time and time again.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I’ll paraphrase Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist, who said – we don’t need light but fire…, the storm and thunder instead of a warm shower. A whirlwind and an earthquake.
      Who says I’m real. I could be a walking ghost, right?
      Love you too, my sunshine.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. “learning to ‘be yourself (everyone else was already taken’)” …bojana
    I have a new favorite quote.

    I am breathless after reading this.

    The way you wrote this pulled me slowly up hills and then plummeting down into valleys. I watched this play out in my mind’s eye like few other things I have read. Each new piece of this time in your life you reveal to us is like another gem in the crown of your life and its story. You gift us with these and with your writing that us so unique.

    I am fucking breathless.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I fucking love leaving you breathless. Stay tuned for more.
      As for the quote, I’d love to say it’s mine, but I’m not as brilliant as my beloved Oscar Wilde. To compensate for the lack of it, I follow his motto to put all my genius into my life and leave talent and skill for my writing.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I get anxious every time I see that there is new installment. Each one hits me more and more, so you must be VERY happy based upon my reaction.

        You have a shitload of genius, Bojana. And talent. And skill.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Danke der Nachfrage Bojana! Ich lebe noch! 🙂 Ist das Arbeit bei mir? 🙂
        Ich bin eigentlich den ganzen Tag irgendwo irgendwie an Bildschirmen. Da fällt mir abschalten (technisch) manchmal schwer.Ich hoffe Du konntest den heutigen – hoffentlich freien Tag – genießen? LG Michael

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I have never known much about the history of former Yugoslavia.
    The only thing I heard was so much hate coming from strong emotions. It disguisted me how badly people can talk about each other, while we are all the same once.

    Your posts are informative, as well written from a wonderful perspective without using any hate but true reality.
    Amazing piece of art, once again!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You portray a particular ‘student’ mentality so well, and the contrast with the growing violence in ‘the real world’. This is a timely piece since we’re into the 50 years since ’68 and the students are protesting again…

    Liked by 3 people

  5. It was so long ago I remember the peril and the pundits, but not the details. Maybe I never knew them. The radio guys I listened to back then talked about it, but did I pay attention? Did I listen?

    In 1990 I was just awakening to politics. I was trying to become a responsible adult after a couple of years of massive irresponsibility. I wanted to know something. I wanted everyone to know I knew something. I didn’t know anything important about this.

    By 1995 my ducks were all rowed up. I had my own business. I hated Bill Clinton and thought sure he’d fail in ’96. By 1996 I was just about to own my first home, just about to get married. I was still years from waking up. While you were enjoying that amazing summer I was purposefully forcing myself to be a homebody, purposely stressing the mundane. I was learning to be dead while you were learning to live. I remained dead for years after that.

    I can’t wait to read the next chapter. You’re amazing cubed, Bojana. Thank you for letting us be a ghost in your story. You make us feel like we were there, somewhere…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your massive irresponsibility is perfectly legitimate. We didn’t really have a choice. We were sleeping and forcibly awoken by politics so we had to play it by ear. I wish sometimes I had lived in some boring country (I’ll avoid naming it/them for fear of offending some fellow bloggers I think highly of), in countries where the top news used to be chasing a runaway snake.

      Where I come from, the birds on the wire know the names of each and every politician, let alone kids. It’s no exaggeration if I say our three-year olds know who our ministers and members of the parliament are, which is very sad.

      I want you to be there, to go back with me and see what we went through. Once we come back to today, we’ll know much more about each other and understand more.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. And again, just to be able to talk about these posts with you, post for post for a day over coffee would be amazing. This is as close as I’ll get and I am absorbing every snippet, every urge, every want, and wail. “…relieving pain by changing your mind…” I’m excited to read more. Incredible writing, Bojana. ~Kim

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s very rare that i find a piece of writing on wordpress that can subjugate me from start to finish. This is everything and so much more. It felt like I was watching a european film. This is the kind of content I’ve been looking. Thank you so much for writing this.
    A.G.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the Cinema of Europe is very specific. Our movies can be quite violent and nerve-racking as you can see, and unfortunately we can’t make anything different, it seems.
      Thanks for your kind words A.G., I’m so glad you liked this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. GUAU…GUAU…GUAU…(WAGING MY TAIL AND WATCHING YOUR MASTERPIECE WITH A HAPPY TONGUE OUT)

    As you already know ( by having read, and liked, the comment I left in our dear friend Wolfie’s poem about howling to the moon) I decided to exit my human condition and embrace my canine nature wholeheartedly. Yes ladies, dogs have hearts too… So this is the best canine exclamation of approval to your great Joycian-account of those students years . Besides being extremely exhausting to follow you ( I interrupted twice to sip my mate amargo and find courage to go on) I feel terribly envious that you have managed to deliver this literary feat without a hint of any artificiality. It does feel natural and real as you transport us to your very own skin in those years (even feeling your mate’s amourous embrace of your sweaty waist) It reminded me of our arduous days as a medical student in La Plata when money was tight but we had the full support of our parents and the enthusiasm of unbridled youth. Bravo!!! Please tell your Mom to save a few cabbage rolls for moi next time she cooks some (send her a kiss for Mother’s day… don’t you forget)
    Un grosso baccione. Arrivederci!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, my dear.

      Of course dogs have hearts. What makes you think women don’t believe it?

      Thanks for your canine exclamation of approval. I knew you’d find Joyce here. I’m glad you found courage to read the whole post, with or without your mate amargo. I told you already my mom loves you, as I’m sure you’d like her and her cabbage rolls.

      I see today’s kids and I’m afraid I don’t see this enthusiasm characteristic of the young. They are tidy and their tummies are full. They go shopping for fun and (alas!) lack any idea of what to do if the shops are closed. Can you imagine my shock when I found out in a single day they had never heard of Che Guevara, Sid Vicious, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Paul McCartney Prince Charles and Princess Diana? I’m sure you get the idea…
      They want to change sth, but are not really sure what. My student days were very challenging but we knew exactly what we didn’t want.

      Those were strenuous days, indeed, but, as the song says, everything’s easier when you’re young.

      Dans les cafés voisins
      Nous étions quelques-uns
      Qui attendions la gloire
      Et bien que miséreux
      Avec le ventre creux
      Nous ne cessions d’y croire
      Et quand quelque bistro
      Contre un bon repas chaud
      Nous prenait une toile
      Nous récitions des vers
      Groupés autour du poêle
      En oubliant l’hiver

      La bohème, la bohème
      Ça voulait dire
      On est heureux
      La bohème, la bohème
      Nous ne mangions qu’un jour sur deux

      Quand au hasard des jours
      Je m’en vais faire un tour
      À mon ancienne adresse
      Je ne reconnais plus
      Ni les murs, ni les rues
      Qui ont vu ma jeunesse
      En haut d’un escalier
      Je cherche l’atelier
      Dont plus rien ne subsiste
      Dans son nouveau décor
      Montmartre semble triste
      Et les lilas sont morts

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad you liked my comment. As far as Millenial’s ignorance of basic cultural facts of our civilizations, I don’t think it’s that bad (yet) Just wait until the next worldly financial crisis (one is already brewing due to the availability of easy yet volatile funds for so many years and it has started in the periphery of the American Empire: Argentina) and you will see the portrait of El Che appear in the barricades.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Let’s drink to that.

        I remembered my German teacher who shared my passion for François Truffaut, Buñuel and Golden Age Of Hollywood (40s/50s) and her reaction when she realized we were the only ones laughing: ‘Oh, damn, I always forget you young guys haven’t watched or read anything which wasn’t produced in your lifetime.’

        Liked by 1 person

      1. How about you and I going to the Moon together in a small capsule? So tight tbat you won’t be able to avoid my slithery hand gliding on to top of your sweaty, suave skin and opening up every pore for loving..

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m looking forward to the next installation – perhaps it’s already up but I’m new to your site. I just edited a book called Living and Dying with Dogs written by a former aid worker who spent sometime in Bosnia during that time period and has some tragic stories to tell. Let me know if you want to check out excerpts. Nice to “meet” you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. amazing. As tough as the times were you seem to have made the absolute most of it. You didn’t just survive those times, you lived!
    Incredible post, I am better for having read it

    Like

    1. I knew you’d like it.
      You know, the kids I work with (I mean, they are kids for me, but they are big enough to know…) are always bored, and the only idea of having fun is going shopping. I wish there hadn’t been for war but regardless….I wouldn’t swap with their starry skies for anything in the world.

      Like

  11. “Anyone who had a chance to first live blissfully in abundance and then touch bottom, experiencing at least some of the shit we went through, will surely remember it for the rest of their life because the formidable hurdles we were facing daily in 90s Serbia bordered surreal.”

    While a different experience than yours, I have had blissful abundance, and then touched bottom. I needed to touch bottom. I was selfish, interested in only serving myself, and did I mention selfish? And blind to it – so I could continue without problems of conscience.

    I takes me 35 minutes to give as a speech, much less to read, and it talks of my “touching bottom.”

    https://i-m-4-u.com/2017/11/04/broken-to-do-something/

    Thank you so much for the follow.

    Looking foward to reading more posts of yours.

    Jim

    Liked by 1 person

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