Introduction by Jim Kacian
It may seem out of the question that an art-form so off the beaten track as haibun might actually have some play in the media mainstream—and in English that's probably a correct assertion. But curiously enough, in Slovenia the largest daily newspaper out of Ljubljana is taking a chance on it, and that chance seems to be paying off. Well-known poet and filmmaker Dimitar Anakiev is publishing occasional pieces, not in the Travel or Life sections, but on the Op-Ed pages—in other words, current affairs, matters that everyone should take note of immediately. And these pieces are being read by tens of thousands of people, with a very active response rate. Dimitar has published a score or so of these pieces, and we offer a few of them to you (translated by the author, with editorial advice from Noragh Jones and Jim Kacian) over the next few issues. We are not necessarily advocating that you turn your attention to writing haibun as polemic or advocacy, but thought this might broaden the dialogue on what is—and is not—haibun. Happy reading!
Noragh Jones (Editorial Advisor)
Faleminderit (thanks to) a Boxer Champion
I've been to Priština three times altogether: the second time in 2008, shortly after Kosovo became independent, the third time now, in December of 2010. I enter a dynamic city of some 600, 000 inhabitants that, like Beirut, unites religious and historical opposites.
I first came to Priština at the beginning of the 1980s, as a student taking part in the exchange of students from the Niš and Priština universities. I remember well how shocked I was to see, on the Priština Corso, the Albanians and Serbs walking on opposite sides of the street, practically not meeting each other, as if an invisible wall was placed between them. The shocking atmosphere of apartheid could be felt in the dormitory too, that could, by no means, fit into the socialistic slogan of "brotherhood and unity" surrounding us.
What was then called Corso, is today called Mother Teresa Boulevard at whose entry is a monument to the post-Communist Kosovo national hero, Zahir Pajazitiju (1962-1997), one of the founders of the guerilla movement KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army). The monument is made in the socialistic style and closely resembles monuments to partisan soldiers killed during the NOB (Yugoslav War of National Liberation), so that it leads one to thinking of how every time has its heroes. Probably today, in Kosovo, Zahir Pajaziti takes the place held in the near past in Yugoslavia by his fellow countryman, the national hero, Ramiz Sadiku (1915-1943).
Zahir Pajazitiju is a hero of the Albanian people in Kosovo, while Ramiz Sadiku was the hero of the Socialistic Yugoslavia. He was killed by the Fascists because he was unwilling to part company with Serbian comrade Bora Vukmirović. However, despite our wishes and desires, it seems no time with its heroes can represent eternity. Eternal is only human struggle, and who knows, perhaps love can be eternal as well.
in his right hand, a rifle,
in his left – icicles
Around the time when Priština Street in Belgrade was renamed after the Russian czar, Nikolay Street, Vidovdan (St. Vitus' Day) Street** in Priština was renamed after the US President, George Bush Boulevard. At the place where Bush Boulevard meets Garibaldi Street, is the famous Priština Grand Hotel. This luxurious building was opened in 1978, and during more fortunate times, the hotel employed as many as 570 people, and was always the center of occurrences in Priština. Once a public hotel, is today privatized and the number of workers considerably reduced. This winter, Grand Hotel is a little bit cool, but still very noble. The monolith stone facade is being renovated and transformed into a modern, metallic, facade.
In room # 420
of the Grand Hotel
the sound of a grinding machine
During my morning coffee in the hotel barroom, I meet a waiter named Šefki Osmani. We are chatting in Serbian, and Mr. Osmani tells me where he used to work in Yugoslavia. He mentions the Niš Pantelej and Makarska, and says he's been well received everywhere. At the beginning of his career, he was declared in Baške vode to be the fastest waiter, while this year he was chosen to be the best waiter in Kosovo. "From this world, man can bring with him nothing but his honor . . ., " says Osmani, complaining about today's greed for money, while I, contented, as if because of some high privilege, continue to talk with the eloquent waiter resembling a monument or a unique Priština ambassador. Waiters in western countries are usually dancers as a representative role is not intended for them. Continues Mr. Osmani, "Look, if I took this street now", he points to the snow-spotted Mother Teresa Boulevard, "I'd be immediately approached by at least 20 to 30 people wanting to shake hands with me. Is there anything more beautiful than people respecting one another?"
At that moment on the first channel of the Kosovo TV is a program in Serbian and I redirect my attention to the LCD screen placed against the wall next to the bar, but the sound is getting lost in the large space so I cannot follow the program despite my moving forward, all up to the screen. "The amplifying button is sideward," calls out another voice in Serbian, a man in a green jacket, as if chiseled in stone, sitting in the opposite corner... I look at him gratefully, but fail to find the button. Then he gets up immediately from a chair, walks up to the screen and turns the TV up. "Faleminderit," I express my gratitude in Albanian. "You're kind of familiar to me," says the kind whacker. "Could you be a journalist?" When I indifferently confirm, he says, "Then you surely know who I am?" I observe him confused, and he asks me, "Who was the best heavyweight boxer in Yugoslavia?" I look at him once more, then utter, "Aziz Salihu?" He now smiles, offering me his firm hand and returns, content, to his table.
Aziz Salihu turns
the TV up
I ask Osmani about where I can buy burek* in Priština and he explains it to me. I ask him if they will understand me if I speak Serbian. "Yes, surely," says Osmani, "every shopkeeper in Priština will serve you if you turn to him in Serbian." After a while I find myself in George Bush Boulevard before a shop on whose window is written Burektore. I enter it, and, really, I have no problem communicating in Serbian. The Priština burek surprises me with its longish shape, but it tastes good.
Later that day, I drive toward Gnjilane and afterwards toward Bujanovac. Between prefabricated barracks of the border police stations of Kosovo and Serbia, I enter an Albanian village where I notice no sign of life. The roads are empty, stores closed, doors padlocked, blinds lowered on all the windows.
the north wind stirs up
* a type of pastry (usually filled with meat or cheese)
** Vidovdan is a Serbian holiday commemorating the battle of Kosovo in 1389.