Beer Kingdom
Part 2Belgrade School of Life
The new Belgrade citizens had two things in common: they wanted to stay so their children would be "real Belgraders" and they shared a resentment of the Communist government. If it weren't for Communism, believed the majority of Belgraders, their beloved city would look and smell like Vienna or Milan, with the same standard of living. However, the communist system, combined with the mentality of Yugo-people, produced a symbiosis of "a nation on welfare".
Working as little as possible for salaries that ensured a fairly comfortable existence, Belgraders behaved very much like free citizens of ancient Athens. They indulged themselves in coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, and endless discussions . Every bus, every bar, every street corner in Belgrade became a free tribunal where everything was discussed, theories were introduced, ideas pitched, jokes exchanged, stories told and retold. Visitors (from the West, of course) could never understand this enormous waste of time, money, and talent. Observing the behavior of Belgrade citizens, they wondered how jobs were done at all in the atmosphere of constant teasing, outwitting their neighbors, and mind games of all kinds.

Thus Belgrade citizens earned their reputation for being unproductive and unpragmatic, always more interested in process than results.

In this atmosphere of uninterrupted leisure, a group of writers and filmmakers developed what was aptly named the "Belgrade School of Life". Its practitioners-at times called an unofficial political party, at others a spiritual movement aimed at individual self-growth and improvement-followed similar paths in development. They all established themselves in their respective fields, and sooner or later, stopped writing. In the beginning their explanation was: "We can't write freely, so why write at all!" . And when this excuse wore thin, someone introduced the "Pasolini Principle". To connect the stories in his movie version of THE DECAMERON, Pier Paolo Pasolini used Giotto, the Renaissance painter, at work upon a grandiose fresco. The movie ends when the fresco is finished and the painter turns towards the camera and exclaims: "What good is finishing a work of art, when it's so nice just dreaming about it?"
On the other hand, most philosophers from Aristotle on suggest that the duty of a gifted person is to use her or his gifts to produce work that will enrich the lives of their fellow women and men. Erich Fromm, whose ESCAPE FROM FREEDOM was among the most popular nonfiction books in Belgrade, stated in MAN FOR HIMSELF that a man who is not productive is not living his life. What now: to write or not to write? Arthur Koestler has been credited for providing an answer to this dilemma. Someone claimed that Mr.Koestler wrote in THE ACT OF CREATION that all the thoughts in someone's head, due to the magnetic fields and waves, are able to leave the head of its origin and wander around ready for the receptive soul.

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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.
Copyright 1996 Bahus Enterprises