A country on the edge of time


Belgrade’s motorists hit the accelerator hard but they’re not so heavy on their horns. They speed through the city, but they don’t hound the pedestrians. Then again, these two species barely come face to face in the city centre. The city fathers, as if possessed by the spirit of Corbusier, have rigidly separated the bipeds from the quadrupeds. On Brankova Street a line of cars snakes its way into a tunnel that passes under a tower-block to emerge in the maze of streets that comprises the city centre. At every other step there are passages for pedestrians to make their way between the concrete tower-blocks or tunnels under the roads. Everywhere in these ground-level and underground thoroughfares, small trade sprouts its luscious blooms; each pore of this unexpectedly gained public space is exploited. It takes a while for pedestrians to find their bearings after emerging from these artificial merchandise paradises. The streets of Belgrade are tortuous and winding. And not just the streets. “I publish a series with alternative Serbian authors,” says author Igor Marojevic, born in 1968. His punky hairstyle and T-shirt imprinted with “Boss” in skewered writing on the front somehow just refuse to fit in with the tastefully decorated rooms of the Serbian PEN centre in Terazije Street this morning. Which authors? “Sreten Ugricic for example,” says Marojevic, whose novel “Cut” investigates the Nazi past of Hugo Boss. “Sreten Ugricic, the director of the National Library, is an alternative author?” “Oh yes!” Vigorous nodding. Apparently quite a few things are different here in Serbia.

more from Jörg Plath at Sign and Sight here.