More Dishonest than Most
Author: Mirko Kovac
Uploaded: Thursday, 23 June, 2005
Leading writer who abandoned Belgrade in protest at Serbia's war policies provides a corruscating survey of the career of Dobrica Cosic - novelist, 'father of the Serb nation' and former FRY president
Rade Konstatinović - the author of Filozofija palanke [Philosophy of the boondocks], that seminal study of the mentality of the small Serbian rural towns and of the sources of Serb Nazism - in his other capital book Biće i jezik [Being and language] analyses, among others, the poet and monk Mitrofan Matić. He begins by saying: ‘Mitrofan Matić searched for God and found Dimitrije Ljotić.’1 This lucid remark could be applied to many Serb poets who suffered ‘the destiny of non-culture’ and offered their verses to the glory of an earthly God, or a ‘deified tribe’.
Dobrica Ćosić did not tread any metaphysical path in order to reach his God, as Mitrofan Matić had done, but promptly found deities in this world. He was devoted to them, was on intimate terms with them, and after abandoning his faith besmirched them with the same passion with which he had once adored them. He tossed aside his deities on the political marketplace, without suffering any consequences; he washed his hands and embraced a new cult with the same ‘energy of delusion’ [Shklovsky].
The writer tells us that very early on, while still a member of the central committee of the Serbian Communist Party, he began flirting with Orthodox priests and bishops; that already in 1967 he planted a vine at Hilandar [Mt Athos], and meditated together with the monk Mitrofan Hilandarac, a former opponent whom the Partisans had blinded in one eye, after which, at the end of sleepless nights, the two brothers made peace, united ‘in God and Serbdom’. Moving from one monastery to another and mulling over matters in the company of priests, Ćosić could not come to know God nor enter into His world, since at such sessions the only spiritual discussions to be held concerned ‘the Serb national question’. No other meditations took place on these occasions, nor were holy books read then.
When writing the introduction to Tito’s book Četrdesetprva [Nineteen Forty-One]2, an ‘exceptional book by an exceptional author’, Ćosić fashioned an ode to the Marshal with the same ecstasy with which the above-mentioned Mitrofan Matić wrote marching songs and cheap verses to the glory of Ljotić’s Zbor [Rally]. D. Čosić wrote it in a surging rhythm, powerfully inspired, albeit with much too froth for my taste, I don’t know whether sincerely or not, since he would later say that he was not in fact such a sincere Communist and did not believe in many of the things he was doing; but this is no longer of the essence, the text appears sincere enough, and its literary faults may be subjected to other, primarily aesthetic criteria. Ćosić wrote in this introduction: ‘There existed a Croat, a metal worker, a revolutionary, a secretary of the Communist Party, who entered with firm step into the history of Yugoslavia, the Balkans and Europe, bringing new ideas, his voice now angry now gentle, a man different in every way from all previous leaders, military commanders and politicians in the Balkans; there existed a man created to change the destiny of this country, to mark with his name and deeds its most decisive epoch.’
Ćosić stressed in his introduction that this ‘exceptional book by an exceptional author’, was ‘Our Book’, i.e. a book for every home, something akin to the Bible. He wrote about Tito’s greatness, Tito’s independence and self-reliance, Tito’s democratic nature and humanism, only to reveal himself at the end, somewhat in contrast to the form of the introduction, as a talented AgitProp man: ‘To follow Tito means to have a Titoist attitude to life, to think like a Titoist, to fight like a Titoist in one’s own time, in the present, forever.’ This was written by a man who without a tremor in his voice now calmly states that ‘Titoism beheaded the Serb nation’, as if he had never had anything to do with the business of beheading. To be able to say this is to be more dishonest than most.
In his interview with the Italian Il Tempo on 27 July 1989, Dobrica Ćosić declared that he had abandoned being ‘Tito’s forever’ as early as 1960 and become an oppositionist - even though the book Nineteen Forty-One with his introduction was published in 1961, while in 1960, the year in which he says he became an oppositionist, he was sailing with Tito on the ship Galeb in the capacity of a court writer. He nevertheless tells this to a foreign journalist, trusting that the latter will never check up on the facts - though he is not too bothered either when caught out in a lie back home. It is not a sin, after all, to lie to a Western paper, and it is useful too to project a picture of oneself which one wishes were true.
He nevertheless later corrected for his domestic audience the year in which he awoke as an anti-Titoist, shifting it to 1963 or 1964, but without wishing to explain in any detail how it came to be that he, though an anti-Titoist, managed to become a member of the central committee of one of Tito’s parties. Or maybe this too lacked sincerity, was perhaps only an opportunity to undermine the party from within, as is claimed today by so many ‘Communist moles’. Ćosić is a liar who frequently appeals to the truth, which is a good way to turn truth into parody. Such petty peasant guiles have made Gedža3 himself usually appear as a grotesque figure.
The episode in the biography of the ‘great writer’ that he once joined Tito for a cruise on Galeb used to be something of a taboo for his critics, at least while the ship’s owner was still alive. For who would dare to make fun of the cruise, especially since Ćosić’s colleagues envied him for having enjoyed the emperor’s grace, while his countrymen admired his political seafaring, which had so quickly led him to the emperor’s side. With the hindsight of today, now when everyone is so wise and astute, Ćosić and his lot try to present the cruise as something quite artless, insisting that cruising with the dictator involved no sycophancy. According to the retired Marxist ‘thinker’ Ljubomir Tadi