Sathington Willoughbies from Novi Sad

/ by Srđan Srdić

Some dear people, forever craving for company, often organize themselves on different levels, including the political one, all for the benefit of community development and the common good. Now, a branch of a genuinely grandiose association operates in Novi Sad, the future European Capital of Culture, grandiose in terms of their profound and far-reaching ideological vision, which would lead us all to a new Golden Age. This firm is called the Democratic Party of Serbia or DSS, and its total contribution to the Serbian political life is indeed immeasurable. Isn’t the founder of this, almost apocryphal cult, Dr. Vojislav Koštunica, who triumphed over the wild beast embodied in Slobodan Milošević, then became president of Serbia, and after that, the Serbian prime minister, a personality only spiteful troublemakers would have anything to object to? Devoid of his help, their retired guru, this group of primarily free progressive thinkers spend part of their precious time on making us wiser and rousing us from the unwary lethargy in which we dumbly eke out our days.


Let me also say that there is, in the middle of nowhere on the continent of North America, a good man called Les Claypool, father of numerous songs. Way back in 1990, immediately before the death of the demonic socialist dungeon of Yugoslavia, this troubadour sang an ode to an imaginary guy whom he called Sathington Willoughby. In this lyrical epistle Old Sathington was depicted thus:  


The legislator

That penned us up a bill

That banned the use of certain things

Like this and that

(this and that)

This and that

(this and that)

This and--.

I don’t know myself why Sathington Willoughby has occurred to what little is left of my mind. Here, I apologize and go back to the main topic.


So, on 23 February 2017, the Novi Sad board of the Democratic Party of Serbia made an announcement. No one was expecting them, no one was anticipating them. What do they say in the mentioned body, where do the wise men hold their sessions?


“The initiative for erecting a monument to Taras Shevchenko in Novi Sad is completely inappropriate and unacceptable.”


Then they spice it up, in a democratic, Serbian fashion:


“Taras Shevchenko became famous as a fighter for the independence of the Ukraine from Mother Russia, much more than as an artist and a cultural worker,” the Board reveals. And says: “The proposition comes from the Ukrainian city of Lviv, the stronghold of Ukrainian neo-Nazis,” you see...


But, this isn’t the worst thing!


“Less than two days after the death of the proved friend of this country, Vitaly Churkin, Novi Sad shouldn’t disturb its relationship with Russia (read: Mum) and, by means of hasty acts, cause disappointment (read: Mum’s) and potential anger (read: of otherwise gentle and righteous Mum) of the biggest friend and protector (they don’t say whose, probably theirs) in the international arena as Russia has proved to be.”


Oh dear, I shuddered as soon as the signals rightfully transmitted by DSS reached my big empty head. Now what, my buddy, I wondered. And I felt Taras Shevchenko’s phantom occupying every inch of my mental field, frightening me to death.


Aha, I’ve figured it out, DSS has got a living mother, Russia is her name! This is the old lady Shevchenko set his heart on, all the while aiding the perfidious aspirations of Ukrainian notorious tribes of vandals. The uncultured Ukrainian idler Shevchenko might have scribbled something somewhere, but what’s that compared to his malign neo-Nazism, whose supporters reside in the Sodomic city of Lviv? So I’ve come to my senses, as far as this is possible for the likes of me, and consulted the big old book Poetry of European Romanticism, published by the former Serbian publishers Nolit, Prosveta and the Institute for Textbooks and Teaching Aids, edited by prominent ethnic Serbs such as Svetlana Velmar Janković, Nikola Bertolino, Dušan Ivanić, Čedomir Mirković, Borislav Radović and Vidosav Stevanović, and with them Miodrag Pavlović, in the year 1982.


An entry says: “Taras Shevchenko, a big poet...”


Madre de Dios! And the reliable Wikipedia says that there’s also a monument to Shevchenko Taras in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg, erected on 22 December 2002, “the modern monument,” as it says there. As for the neo-Nazi dungeon of Lviv, I was there six months ago, for the fourth time in my life. If only I had known that my books were translated there by neo-Nazis, if only Serbian and Yugoslav publishers had had DSS to advise them, we would sing a completely different song today. Romanticism would exude a different romance! It’s good that I saved my empty head in that neo-Nazi stronghold, disclosed by the strong DSS forces.


In the year 1997, the American singer-songwriter Les Claypool also composed “The Return of Sathington Willoughby.” So it goes:


It is my hope that we can utilize this meeting of the minds to successfully convey the essence of our platform to you


Paranoia is the disease unto itself


A mind is a terrible thing to waste


They will come around, and embrace our philosophies and become model citizen in their own right, God bless this great nation.


Finally, why did I write all this? What connections do I assume exist between phenomena? None. That’s the good, old DSS. No-one has any connections with them. No-one decent. Such as they are, even Sathington Willoughby would renounce them, without blinking an eye.

Srđan Srdić

is a novelist, short-story writer, editor, essayist and creative reading/writing teacher. He has published two novels, two short story collections and a book of essays. From 2008 to 2011 he served as the editor of the international short story festival Kikinda Short. He returned to this position in September 2015.