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The Songs I Don't Dance to

- Essays & stories of love, war and music -

The Book of Revenge

Category: Essays, Stories
Publisher: Naklada Uliks, 2009
ISBN: 978-953-7306-37-3
Language: Croatian

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This book is a collection of stories mostly published between 1985 and 1989 in the Rock Magazine, in Belgrade, fortified (weakened?) with some previously unpublished pieces. There are 17 stories in the book, varying wildly in length, unified by the general idea and the form. Each of them is talking about one particular song, and each is somewhere between an essay and a confessional story.

At the time when these stories were published they achieved some reputation, but — to my surprise — they continued gaining readers even afterwards, after I stopped pubshing them, after the Rock Magazine was shut down, and in spite of the war that came and the complete breakdown of Yugoslavia (in both political and cultural sense). People photocopied and exchanged them as if they were collectable items.

For many years after the last story from this series was published I was getting letters from unknown people. I even got one from a young woman living in Sarajevo, written just before the siege of her city started, and miraculously arriving to Belgrade when the siege was already imposed. The series itself inspired at least two other serials, published in other magazines and by other writers.

It stayed like that for two decades. At one point, a folder with the old typed stories fell on my head while I was writing something else and, taking that as a warning, I gathered the stories, retyped them, cleaned them up a bit, and offered them to a publisher in Belgrade, but he showed no interest, and then I gave up completely. There were other books to write, other things to do.

Then, several months ago, I got an email from an unknown man from Croatia. Mr Miro Bo?i? sad he was a publisher and asked me if I was interested in having The Songs collection published with his company. I still did not pay much attention, but did send him the material he asked for. From there, it all progressed very smoothly. Two months later the book was already in production, and now it is in the bookstores. As far as I know, it is sold in Croatia and Bosnia.

I wrote the original stories in Belgrade, in what was then still Yugoslavia. I published them in a magazine that was Yugoslav by its orientation and ideology, and covered all the republics of Yugoslavia — today all independent states. When it happened that the book, containing all those stories, was published first in Croatia and not in Serbia — as I would expect — it just showed me that my generation was right in believing in the unity of that cultural space. I said it once, and I will keep repeating: borders are not where politicians draw them, borders are where languages change. For me, there never was a border between the Balkan states where people speak languages that need not be translated. Yes, my book is in Croatian, not Serbian, but I still understand every word in that “translation”, and so will every reader in the Balkans.

—Summer 2009, England

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