|Part 1||Belgrade School of Life|
"We'll be Communists only when all our citizens are living in Belgrade"
exclaimed Serbian poet Matija Beckovic back in 1970s. He was referring
to the natural desire of many Yugoslavs to become citizens of their
national capital. But he was at the same time sarcastic, because
compared to the other big European cities, including some in Yugoslavia
itself, Belgrade didn't have much going for it.
||Travelers from the West always complained that Belgrade
was dirty and its services bad. Belgrade to them resembled
some locations in Asia and North Africa, but lacked the
charm and exoticism. Travelers from the East, in a hurry
to taste the real Central and Western Europe, stayed in
Belgrade only as long as their train did-usually the
famous Orient Express.
|Instead of writing THE BELGRADE QUARTET, Lawrence Durrell wrote letters
to his friends (he was press attaché to the British Legation in Belgrade
in the 1950s) complaining of Belgrade's drabness and "the curious stale
smell that the Yugoslav public seems to carry everywhere with them".
||It didn't help matters that Belgrade suffered heavy
bombardment in both world wars; the few preserved houses,
monuments, and cobblestoned streets suffered from the
speedy efforts of Communists city officials to turn
Belgrade into a "real socialist metropolis". Every Sunday,
the Belgrade daily POLITIKA would print a photograph or a
drawing of a long-gone "historical monument" under the
title "Belgrade that is no more".
||What it lacked in architectural wonders, Belgrade tried to
make up in people. During twenty years of Communist rule,
over a million people moved to Belgrade. They came from
all parts of Yugoslavia, and brought their habits, their
manners, their morals, and their relatives, as well as the
above-mentioned " curious stale smell ". Bearing in mind
Yugoslavia ("that is no more") had three major languages,
a number of dialects, three major religions, two
alphabets, and many ways of preparing and preserving food,
it's no wonder Belgrade became a Communist Babylon.
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|As the author is all for anonymity, we'll respect his wishes to stay unknown and omit
his name from this text. However, the above article appeared in Volume 17 #2 of the
San Francisco Review of Books, for Fall 1992. The author of TRUE WEST and some
other plays is on the cover, dressed as a cowboy.|