Project Which Is Not a Project by OPA

This issue of Transcript brings you new poetry and fiction from Macedonia. Thanks to Igor Isakovski, book publisher and editor of literary magazine Blesok [Shine], who has selected material for this special issue, we are able to offer an impressive variety of content across our English. French and German editions.

Many of the writers featured here hail from Skopje, Macedonia's capital city, and for Transcript readers not familiar with the literature of this vibrant country, the best place to begin your navigation through this issue would be Tomislav Osmanli's essay, 'The Boiling Pot Called Skopje'. Osmanli describes Skopje as a melting-pot of histories and cultures which has been powerfully stirred from time to time: both literally, as the city has been subject to earthquakes (most recently in 1963), and more abstractly, as the once Ottoman-occupied city kept changing as it became part of another multicultural and multilingual 'empire', that of the former Yugoslavia, and re-gaining a contested independence under a still-disputed name after its breakup:

'The [boiling-up together of various immigrations] created an altogether new picture of the city: Skopje ranks number one in terms of the number of Macedonians who live there, but also of Albanians and Roma. // In the period of its most illustrious growth between the two Wars, and later in the period of growth following the earthquake, Skopje always behaved like a sponge: it absorbed as many new inhabitants as it could. At one time, it was evidently the city that did the choosing. After the earthquake, it lost this faculty.'

Osmanli argues that all of Skopje's 'new' generations, himself included, need to work together to contribute to a new Skopje, a Skopje that remembers the old but is built for future generations.

Elizabeta Bakovska, in her essay 'Stranstvuvanje and Provincialism', explores the diasporic situation of two female writers and intellectuals with Macedonian links: Kica Kolbe and Lidija Dimkovska, whose creative identity, she argues, rests 'in the space between the "fatherland" and "abroad", almost on a no-man's-land.' Poems by Lidija Dimkovska are included in German translation in this issue.

Also included are a range of authors drawn from different generations whose work creates a particularly energetic dynamic when read side by side: Blaze Minevski's short story, 'Words of Bile, Words of Sorrow', for example, although it appears to be narrated in the vein of traditional storytelling turns out to be challengingly postmodern, while Aleksandra Dimitrova offers in-your-face meditations on the subsuming of a female poet's talents in an obsession with plastic surgery: 'I want a new ass and new tits a new brain new me'. There is a taboo-breaking thrust in some of the younger writers’ work, as in Jovica Ivanovski's irreverent poem on the art of creating art, 'I do not paint, I make love to the canvas'. Taken together, the younger writers appear to challenge traditional literary expectations and forms, while older authors draw upon history and re-fashion it in order to create something new.

As Blaze Minevski's narrator says in 'Words of Bile, Words of Sorrow': 'Keep reading, for this is how it happened...'

Francesca Rhydderch

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