Musicians on the ”Titanic”
Information has replaced knowledge. Comfortable has been equaled with beautiful, popular with valuable. We have become a world of slaves with full stomachs. There is no return for the West, and there will be no return for us if we don’t wrench away from the leprous embrace of that patient. Reckoning with art in Europe began at the same time reckoning with God did. Literature still has the mission to save man. We are confronted with a global project of disintegrating humans. We know who is behind it, but we do not know enough about ourselves anymore. They are poisoning us through that crack

By: Bane Velimirović
Photo: Private archive

She is a descendant of white Russians who emigrated to Serbia after 1917. She was born in Belgrade, grew up on the Ibar near Kraljevo, with the sound of bells from ”red lady Žiča”. Ethnologist and anthropologist by education, she found herself in the center of defending the meaning of literature, culture, and man with her novels and texts. Established literary critics and champions of colonial culture are doing everything to overlook her. We are not.
Tajana Poterjahin (Belgrade, 1987) in National Review.

You are in favor of returning literature to its original verticals of value and truthfulness. What is the power and meaning of literature in the life of present man and society?
It is difficult for man today. They are cut off from tradition, while access to knowledge, earlier drawn from the collective unconscious, from the mythical and religious, is interrupted by secularization and rationalization. Information has replaced knowledge. Comfortable has been equaled with beautiful, popular with valuable. In such chaos, unbearable noise and obsession with images, words are marginalized exactly because they are the most powerful means of communication between man and environment. Human potential to ponder, feel, understand and transfer knowledge, experience, customs, faith, without using material means, is expressed in the ability to speak and listen. The mission of literature today is more important than ever: to preserve the ability of contemplation in mankind. It has to be better than ever, it needs to win over and keep distracted attention and almost destroyed power of concentration. Classical narrative literature, literally beautiful, is essentially marginalized because the potential is in its climax. Tendencies of dumbing down are ascended. Destruction of man begins with the devastation of the ability to be dedicated and to think.

Jameson says that this is a century of the new absence of depth” and new culture of image and pretending”. How do we preserve artistic literature from this evil epochal whirlpool of trivialization and commercialization?
Reckoning of the contemporary society with art began approximately at the time its reckoning with God did. Rationalization of art, followed by introducing market logics to the realms of spirit, logically led to spiritual numbness. However, we should shrug off pessimism and, without compromise, address those who have the ears to hear. There is always a number of conscious people. We should not exclude anyone, but we should also not condescend anyone. ”You are the salt to the earth. If salt loses its taste, how will the earth be salted?” Those thirsty for words, meaning, will find a source. It is also a question of motivation. Did you become a writer because of awards, glory, or led by the faith in timeless significance of a story you brought to the world and the world itself. You should be patient and believe that overeating entertainment will produce hunger for meaning. Create in spite of, when necessary. However, this is not the way for those who want quick success and glory. They will take the road of compromise.


Established literary critics invests huge efforts not to notice your works, so they would not have to take a stand about them. As if you have become more visible to a wider circle of readers only after your engaged texts about defending Serbs in Serbia”, pacifism as the war strategy of the West”, about what women on the right wing want”, the village and family in the jaws of globalism”, national dignity”… Is that the only possible way for a writer today?
It is evident, unfortunately, that most of our critics prefer to stay in the comfort zone. It is difficult to handle a book which speaks about great Serbian subjects in a classical manner, historically convincing, with authentic poetics, supremely and daringly ignoring the postmodernist and anti-literary canon of today, without premeditation. The classical surpasses trends and our critics today are largely turned towards analyzing and affirming political trends in literature, instead of dealing with contents, style and artistic achievements. My engagement as publicist is separated from the literary, but readers have connected them, which was inevitable, I suppose. My texts are a way to speak up my thoughts – in novels I give my characters voices of their own, I am absent. Texts, however, helped readers understand that I am not a ”female writer”. The female identity has done great damage to me as a writer. The assumption that a woman can write only love novels or feminist pamphlets in the form of a novel is deeply rooted here as a stereotype. That is why I am glad I said a decisive NO with my novels – not just to some patriarchal norm, but to the feministic circle which wants to articulate all female voices into one. That is unacceptable. I love to hear people say that I write like a man, because that actually means that my writing is gender-free.

The crucial streams of present culture, including literature, are formed in clans and coteries and project-tenders. Such are mechanisms of control (conditioning), as well as promoting favorable social and ideological patterns. What did that bring us and what will it bring in the future?
Dramatic degradation of the quality of books and consequently a permanently lowered capacity of the public to accept something valuable in the future. Readers accustomed to weak literature will not have the will to read meaningful literature, even when they come upon it. They will rather return to already known contents, because trends educate them to look for fun in books or self-identification in its most banal form. I would prefer if our publishers issued only valuable books, because that would guarantee that there is an audience that will accept my book, which I consider valuable, with pleasure and put it on a shelf next to hundreds of others. Literature is not a competition. Books naturally stand in libraries next to one another. The problem is in the tendency to degrade the quality of readers with bad literary production. In a world without criteria everything is possible, even receiving the highest literary recognitions, and knowing about writing only the thirty letters of the Cyrillic alphabet. Or even better Latin alphabet. That is the revenge of mediocrity. And their monopoly which has a wider function: deculturalization of Serbia.


In some of your texts, you have very convincingly defended woman, her dignity and the female principle in the modern world from ideological feminism. Why?
I am firstly a human, and I don’t allow anyone to tell me what I should thematize, feel, write, live, as a woman. Someone will say that exactly this is the first principle of feminism, but, if we don’t want to waste time on terminological games, female self-consciousness is much older than the feminist movement. It has been known in Serbian culture since the times of oral literature. Strikes on women, the propaganda they are daily exposed to are becoming more and more unbearable. Furthermore, no one will tell you that the violence we have today is a product of artificial modernization of the patriarchal society, which created everything we are living today – a monster in which both man and woman are disoriented and deprived of their rights, and the community devastated. I cannot stand the amount of ignorance and malice directed towards my nation and its past, therefore I am writing about it. I responsibly claim that we don’t know the patriarchate as well as we should. That is the crack through which the toxic, left-liberal, LGBTQ + feminist propaganda are flowing into our homes and families. We don’t know enough about ourselves.

Many great right-winged writers, from Malaparte to Kalajić, related the breakdown of Europe in 1945 with the destruction and desertion of its masculine element amidst the horrible proportions of war perils and targeted strikes on the masculinity of white Europeans. Today we see the late consequences of it. How does it all look like in the eye of a European woman, Slavic?
It is the end of a civilization which has lost its humane and then cavalier form a long time ago. I relate the beginning of the breakdown with the end of the masculine principle, but much earlier. With the French Revolution, Europe has renounced Christ, itself, and the divine hierarchy, thus becoming post-civilization. Christianity was replaced with humanism. That was its end, part of a natural process whose ending I hope we have the pleasure to watch now. Russians have also surrendered, in 1917. However, it seems that the Slavic man was stronger, spiritually more resistant despite horrible suffering, and that they will recover. For the West, I would say there is no return. My perspective is before all Christian and I am looking at the death of the West through a biblical metaphor. The West is Satan, carrier of the light, the most beautiful and most beloved in the creation, who despised all other nations, became ugly, surrendered to sins, thus becoming the very principle of evil. The man of the West proclaimed himself god. We should find a way to save ourselves from the leprous embrace of this patient. In the West, there is no freedom for women or men, it is a world of slaves with full stomachs. Since the beginning of the XX century, history has been accelerating, madly in the past decades. The fall of this rotten civilization is thereby becoming faster and more dramatic. Today that entire world is a mere caricature of the Europe we used to respect and love.


Your ancestors emigrated from Russia to Serbia after the horrible 1917. What do you think about the Slavic tragedy which is currently taking place in the Malorussian lands?
My great-grandfather emigrated as a boy. His father and older brothers stayed, and they all died. This is important to say so that someone wouldn’t think that I take war easily. I see it as a tragedy, but that is how I see the entire fate of the world. It is a fact we must reconfront, since we have forgotten, lulled by the fake comforts of modern age, that this world is not a beautiful and safe place, although there is beauty in it. Of course, I have my stands about the geopolitical aspect, but I think the question is more directed towards the metaphysical level. I am glad Russia is showing itself again as the carrier of the principle of light. It has risen, and that is the only important thing. Russia is not fighting against its brothers; it is fighting against evil. Someone big has finally risen up against evil. We haven’t seen it for a long time.

In one of your texts, you have presented interesting arguments in favor of Dostoyevsky is more important than ever”. Why have Slavs been rushing into the deadly embrace of the West for three centuries, instead of creating a united and powerful gravitation field of their own high culture?
The cultural complexes we have with the West can be anthropologically explained by centuries-long turbulences in the Balkans, but its survival was enabled by the supremacy of materialism over spirituality. That is a new-age ideology, and its objective is to keep us enslaved forever. We have also betrayed the principle of our civilization and chosen promised paradise on earth. Dostoyevsky cannot be grafted onto anything except Christ. I am sorry, but it is so. Not even Tolstoy can, despite his diverse relation towards the Church. We cannot catch the continuity with our own history without our Christian Middle Ages, which we accepted to call dark. Can broken ties be connected again? Yes, they can, but it doesn’t mean they will. The disintegration of man and their identity is a global project. If we do not step out of it, we will disappear. Russia is trying to isolate itself from malignant influences. However, it seems that we are persistent on the road of our destruction. We are repeating delusions we have learned by heart like mantras, while our previous world is falling apart before our eyes. We are now musicians on the ”Titanic”.

Both around us and in our conversation, dark shades and deep anxiety are dominant. Is there light anywhere, is there hope?
I am an optimist, actually, because I don’t believe that time for the end of the world has come. Until the end comes, a group of people will survive, the small flock which will resist and fight. Do I believe in a renaissance which will reestablish values which I stand for? Let’s say that I’m not completely certain that it is impossible. We have to fight. Without calculations, like the apostles, testify what we believe in. Authenticity is always attractive. The world is aspiring towards a generic anti- and transhuman man. We just have to remain opposite to it by nature. Our humaneness is a potential for sermon and survival.


Elements from the Biography
Tajana Poterjahin (Belgrade, 1987) grew up in Konarevo near Kraljevo. She graduated ethnology and anthropology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade. Authors of novels ”Tormentor” (Novi književni krug, 2012), ”Town Legend: The First Snow” (Čigoja štampa, 2017; Dereta, 2021) and ”Town Legend: Devil’s Notebook” (Dereta, 2021). She is writing for several popular Serbian internet portals. She lives and works in Novi Sad.


The Story is Inviting In
In your novelistic trilogy Town Legend, after the First Snow and Devil’s Notebook, we are waiting for part three?
I despise rationalization of art and model of a worker-writer. It means legitimization of mediocrity, which is the worst thing for art. Thus, I never try to write until I feel that my story and I are ready. It is the creative impulse. I know that many writers don’t have it. I am not saying that their writing is worse because of it, but I have it. When it happens, nothing can deconcentrate me. I am finalizing the third part, three years passed since I wrote the previous one. My heroes have their characters, fates, circumstances. It just takes a bit of intelligence to choose the best possibility of the few allowed by reality and use the great amount of data and collected knowledge right. Essentially, it is all a song, a river that carries you. I don’t believe I would be a writer if that were difficult for me. It is exhausting, emotionally mostly, but it is not difficult. The story invites you in, it is more difficult for me to exit from it when I’m already in, than vice versa.

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