It’s You Who Have Done This

/ by Srđan Srdić

Thus stands Pablo Ruiz Picasso in his own studio – the city in question is Paris, the war is World War Two, the Nazi occupation is under way – in front of Guernica, one of the most successful paintings he’s ever done. A German officer appears from somewhere and allegedly asks the maestro, as together they contemplate the work that dramatizes scenes from the Spanish Civil War:


            “You’ve done this?”

            To which the genius responds, laconically:

            “No. It’s you who have done this.”


Here I would dissociate myself from the truthfulness of the story, even though it’s not my way, when we are inside historical flows. It’s much more advisable to deal with the symbolic potential of the anecdote, in terms of meaning and the message conveyed, than to question whether Picasso really performed this, on account of outstanding civil courage. It’s important that the anecdote expresses a clear attitude of the talented and intelligent not agreeing to assent to the criminal scum, no matter the cost.


Let’s see what’s been going on these past days, in peacetime Serbia, ruled by a genuine and complete incarnation of the legendary Saparmurat Niyazov, popularly known as Türkmenbaşy. Here’s an excerpt from a nice piece of agency news on 24th June 2017:


“The Niš projection of the documentary film Albanian Women Are Our Sisters, from the cycle of five films Real People, Real Solutions, recorded in co-production by the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina, BIRN Kosovo and Forum ZFD was postponed due to numerous threats directed at the organizers by a group of right-wingers.”


And then a press conference took place, where the organizers of the projection of the disputed film that never occurred showed recordings and evidence of incidents, and in the recordings an individual appears who claims to be a “Chetnik voivode” (although the Second World War ended long ago). This Chetnik-like individual, it says, “threatened the gathered with slaughter, beating, breaking down the premises and burning the flags,” so, all in the best tradition and manners of such forms of life. The police of the city of Niš, as we’re hearing, did nothing to prevent the “voivode,” but an officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia also happened to be there, and he warned the person in question with the words: “Voivode, take it easy, you know your health is poor.”


Similar incidents have been noted, with the same motive, in Novi Sad, but we were denied any comment by the local Türkmenbaşy, forever willing to comment on all aspects of reality, from livestock breeding to astrophysics. The spiteful will say that, in the past few weeks, the man has been inaugurated several times as president of the beloved homeland, so he doesn’t have the time for any kind of street shenanigans, so dear to the hearts of a certain number of Serbs. I myself would subscribe to the fact that the Niš “voivode” is of poor health, especially if we take into consideration his mental processes as a whole.


Again we shouldn’t forget the fact that, because of the installation of the recent prime minister of Serbia, president of the fabulous organization called the Serbian Progressive Party, coordinator of all security services, as president of the country, or Sultan, Tsar, Khan, whatever he wishes, there ensued a forced and reluctant search for a new president of the Government of the Republic of Serbia. The person that seemed most adequate to Türkmenbaşy for such an ungrateful position is Brnabić Ana, about whose address to Parliament we don’t know much, but we know that the person in question is openly homosexually-oriented. Praise came rapidly from different parts of Europe for the genial reformatory move of the Emperor, who in no time turned Serbia into a liberal Dutch heaven, in which even notorious homosexuals can deal with high politics without hiding their privacy under tons of Persian carpets. Here you go, Region, it’s all in vain, to paraphrase FC Partisan fans, no one is more progressive than us.


A farce, the informed know, most often counts on the absence of elementary logic. There’s the president of the Republic of Serbia, who was a functionary of Dr. Vojislav Šešelj’s Serbian Radical Party for almost twenty years. 80% (if not even more) of voters of this extreme right-wing party have been following their new leader on the “European road” in the past years. One of them could easily be the “Chetnik voivode” from Niš. As soon as he leaves the polling place, where he circled the list with the name and surname of the current president of the Republic of Serbia, the voivode could easily start moving about, slaughtering, burning and beating wherever anybody mentions the good Albanian neighbors, people like us. This is what he’s been taught for decades, as a Šešelj-type Serbian radical, so even today no progressive radical will find fault with him. As soon as he fulfils his fascist drives, there goes the voivode in the peace of God, supporting LGBT Prime Minister Brnabić, who the Leader provided as the only possible choice.


A cynical voter of some imaginary Serbian liberal political party could wait for the angry voivode, point a finger toward the place where a projection of the above-mentioned film didn’t take place, but toward the figure of Ana Brnabić as well, and call out to him: “You see, voivode. It’s you who have done this.” Once upon a time, a singer of Serbian folk music, Andrija Era Ojdanić, sang: “Hey, Serbia, mother, it used to be even harder.” Harder, yes, Andija. More stupid, meaner and more untruthful, no. Not even in a dream.

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.