Beer Kingdom
Part 4Belgrade School of Life
The Belgrade School of Lifers were doing both there and then. Magic realism in that thick atmosphere impregnated by plum brandy vapors was an everyday occurrence, yet nobody paid much attention. In spite of all their efforts, every now and then some members would publish their work. If they could prove that it happened while they didn't know what they were doing, there would be no penalties.
Any other excuse would not work: it meant two things for the offender, expulsion and contempt! Publishing under assumed names was tolerated providing the author didn't go around telling everybody. Another mortal sin was seriousness. Member were notorious for their ability to introduce a lot of irony, sarcasm, and self-deprecation into their discourse. A designated joker would be assigned at the beginning of the meeting to ensure that the discussion did not get too serious. One of the thirteen commandments for the members was (picked up verbatim from some old Rock Hudson movie) "Never let unimportant things become important". And nothing was important.

The greatest of all sins was envying those who published! A member who came back from a trip abroad whined about the fact that "every corner of London is celebrated in some work of fiction." Before the evening was over, he was persuaded to admit that the best novels about Belgrade are those that were not written.

Now there is a civil war raging in Yugoslavia. Although still spared from destruction, Belgrade is growing less tolerant. The characters of my three novels still walk the streets of Belgrade (okay, they were actually published, but it's obvious I didn't know what I was doing). It's been almost ten years now, and it's becoming more certain that when, or if, I ever go back, I will find some other Belgrade. The Belgrade I knew and wrote about before becoming a member of the Belgrade School of Life will become "Belgrade that is no more".

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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