Pick Language

Stefan Bošković

 (ME) Stefan Bošković (c) Dado Ljaljević

Stefan Bošković was born in 1983 in Podgorica. His books include the short story collection Transparentne životinje (Transparent Animals, 2018) and the novel Šamaranje (Slap in the Face, 2014), awarded the 2014 prize for the best manuscript novel in Montenegro. In 2016, he won second prize at the Festival of European Short Stories for Fashion and Friends. Bošković has written scripts for a feature-length film, several short films, a sitcom series and a number of documentaries. Several of his short plays have been staged.

 

Winning Book

Ministar

The novel Minister follows the life of Valentin Kovacevic, Minister for Culture of Montenegro, during nine turbulent days in which he struggles with the difficulties of business pressures, cultural customs, administration, the inevitable bottom line of family history … and with himself. Bošković writes in a fast and filmic way which is, however, consciously literary, with elements of political thriller, noir, psychedelia and the melancholy of human beings and society in transition growing organically and unpredictably from each other, so that every now and then the reader will ask who is crazy here: the minister, society or the reader themself. There are no easy answers to such difficult questions, and as mesmerising as this book may be, its effect is dissecting and sobering: both human beings and society reveal themselves in all their misery and opulence, in disharmony and striving to attain the coveted normalcy and peace.

(ME) Ministar

Publishing House

Email Address: 
Organisation: 
Nova Knjiga

Excerpt

Ministar - Stefan Bošković - Language: Montenegrin

Savremen je onaj koji upire pogled u svoje vrijeme, ne zato da bi opazio svjetla, nego mrak. Biti savremen je, ponajprije, pitanje hrabrosti.

Đorđo Agamben

PRVI DAN

Jesam li kriv? Progonilo me je to tokom cijelog jutra. Lud, licemjeran, ležeran, lascivan, lomljiv, la, lu, lo – Landscape Džona Kejdža odzvanja u hodniku, između kupatila i spavaće sobe. Sve je u obliku slova L. Položaj ruke na koju naslanjam tijelo u kosom planku. Limun u čaši tople vode, lejzi beg i mejlovi. Sto trideset devet na koje moram da odgovorim. Bruno Kortone je prvi po važnosti. Lavež labradora se pojavljuje prije žutih zraka. Od mirisa lavande ježi mi se koža na dupetu. Lijepo je. Vježbam progon misli dok mi vrela voda peče ramena. Jesam li kriv? Kroz paru jedva nazirem nos i dio usana. Crni su. Kao krv iz njenih usta. Malo kasnije glancam cipele i naslućujem svoj odraz u srebrnom kljunu. Savjetnici su mi sugerisali da ostanem kod kuće ili otputujem na seminar u Poljskoj. Roditelje nisam udostojio njihova prijedloga. Ja sam morao da donesem odluku. Ja odlučujem. Ja sam ministar.

***

Jutro je bilo mokro, sjajno i trajalo je duže nego obično. Dok je provjeravao pritisak u gumama, Saša je gazio po svjetlucavim kapima i gušio svjetlost. Mirovao sam na zadnjem sjedištu sklopljenih očiju. Saša je protrljao ruke i dunuo u njih, zatim je pokrenuo motor, mrmljajući. Probijali smo se kroz gusti splet ulica Stare Varoši, koja treba da bude prečica. Progutao sam dva dijazepama, no uzbuđenje nije opadalo. Treskanje i naglo kočenje račvali su tenziju na elemente koji su se rastvorili po tkivu i kapilarima. Kad sam otvorio oči, napetost je nestala, a utroba je poskakivala prazna, od čega mi je došlo muka.

– Smanji brzinu i probaj da izbjegneš rupe na putu.

Saša je moj vozač punih osam godina. Prije nego što sam postao ministar bio sam dekan Fakulteta dramskih umjetnosti. Saša mi je tada dodijeljen za šofera. Kad sam napredovao u funkciji, i Saša je napredovao. Dobio je zeleni mercedes A klasu, zavolio ga je kao sopstveno dijete. Dok je gužvao lice smišljajući šta da kaže, klizio sam po kožnom sjedištu nadajući se da neće progovoriti. U retrovizoru je osmotrio moje oznojeno čelo.

– I ja sam napet – rekao je Saša.

– Ja nisam – odgovorio sam.

– Klima nije u redu danima.

Podizao je i spuštao ekvilajzere da bi prigušio neprijatnost. Obojica smo znali da je klima sasvim u redu. Saša je bio lojalan, prilično nesiguran i vaspitan stvor. Kao i ostali vozači, poznavao je ljude. Kad nisam želio da razgovaram, gledao bi me u retrovizoru, učestalo, ali nedovoljno dugo da bi me uvrijedio. Tokom tihih trenutaka upijao bi pogledom sve što nismo  izustili.

Kada izađem iz ministarskog zdanja, navike malih ljudi postaju i ministarske navike. Tako nalažu pravila premijera. Biće mnogo ljudi, telefona i upaljenih kamera. Njena kapela je treća po redu. Imaće vremena da me prepoznaju i smisle šta da dobace. Lud, licemjeran, ležeran, lascivan, la, lu, lo, napuštam male navike i probijam put prema trećoj kapeli. Prepoznali su me i uzvrpoljili se, stotine aveti šušte krilima, u plućima mi tutnja oluja, čašice ispadaju iz koljena. Podignutih ramena vrludam kao Pinokio u nil baret odijelu, poražen i naivan, spreman da se sručim pred vratima, kleknem pred ruljom i prošapćem: „Ja sam kralj na koljenima. Proburazite me sad, rogovima i objektivima, stisnite se u red za komentar i isčupajte mi kičmeni stub, tucite pleća i užarenu glavu. Ne zaboravite da objavite i cijenu odijela.“

U kapeli je tiho i hladno. Tmurne figure na uglačanoj površini mijenjaju raspoloženje i raspored. Kad sam zakoračio, utihnuli su jecaji. U koloni je bilo sedam žena, brisale su suze i zurile u mene. Stao sam ispred otvorenog sanduka i gledao u nju. Lice joj je bilo hrapavo, koža siva, malo krvi na mrtvim usnama. Posmatram taj komad mesa, koji ne daje nijedan impuls, nijedan podsjetnik na nemirne oči, gipkost ruku i zvuke koje je nekad proizvodio golemi ljudski mehanizam. Dišem otežano i glasno, dok se iza mene stvara gužva. Ne usuđujem se da napravim korak dok se suze ne počnu slivati niz moj naročito tužan lik. Izvadio sam maramicu, elegantno natapkao jagodice, duboko se naklonio i zakoračio prema vješticama. Žene kojima sam izjavljivao saučešće bile su u procesu zamrzavanja. Vjerovao sam da će ih suze iznenaditi. I jesu. Na kraju kolone čekala je njena visoka majka. Dostojanstveno i lijepo stvorenje u šezdesetim. Zastao sam i prvi put podigao glavu. Nazirali smo jedno drugom žute žice u očima. Tiho i razgovjetno sam rekao, da mi je mnogo žao. Vrlo kratko me je zagrlila i, prije nego što je postala svjesna svoje nepromišljene reakcije, bio sam vani, među muškarcima. Rukovanje je bilo na cijeni. Trudio sam se da ih presretnem jačinom stiska. Muškarci vole snagu drugih muškaraca. Čak i dok primaju saučešće od čovjeka koji je sudjelovao u ubistvu njihove ćerke. Sestre. Unuke.

***

U automobilu je bilo toplo, misli su mi uzurpirali mirisi koje sam ponio iz kapele. Klima nije uspjela da ih sastruže s kože, te sam otvorio prozor i dopustio vjetru da silovito jurne u njih. Treći put sam pažljivo čitao poruke Bruna Kortonea nasložene u inboksu Votsapa. Bruno je čuo za incident i izrazio je zabrinutost za moj mandat. Brže-bolje mi je postavio sva neophodna pitanja u vezi sa saradnjom koju smo njegovali u tajnosti. Nisam spremio odgovor. Morao sam da promislim o situaciji i okolnostima, ali ko je znao ishod mogućih posljedica, ukoliko bi ih uopšte i bilo? Samo premijer, do kojeg nisam mogao da dođem prije negoli me pozove. Prepušten sam čekanju – i dok čekam, gledam u mlado drveće koje ostaje za nama. Saša me je vozio prema Cetinju, gradu koji su mještani uobraženo nazivali Dolinom bogova, premda je bio zelen, mirišljav i otisnut među kršima. Kod Cetinjana je postojala neobjašnjiva ideja o velikom sebi, pa su se u jednom trenutaku i poistovjetili s božanstvom. Volio sam Cetinje zbog intenzivnog mirisa lipe i debele hladovine, no proljeća su sporo stizala, te sam u nekoliko navrata predlagao da se Ministarstvo kulture preseli u glavni grad. Cetinje je bilo suviše izolovano, s mnogo kiše i mnogo priče ni o čemu. Zgrada Ministarstva je štrčala na kraju ulice. Plemićka rezidencija, prostrana i tiha. Čim bih zakoračio unutra, pomislio bih da pripadam kraljevstvu, ne crnogorskom, već nekom znatno većem, neupitno starijem, možda polunebeskom. Onda bih dobio poziv od oca i vratio se u trnje. Zvao me je svakog dana tačno u jedanaest časova i obavljao dnevnu rutinu. Prve rečenice su pripadale majci i njenom zdravlju, zatim bi i mene upitao kako sam, bole li me pluća i da li pijem čajeve koje mi je poslao. „Nezainteresovano“ bi postavio niz kratkih pitanja o pojedinim ljudima iz partije, na šta sam ga više puta upozorio, o takvim stvarima ne razgovaramo telefonom. Uvrijeđen, završio bi blagom opaskom o novinskom članku koji se bavio mnome, na koji je, kao, slučajno naišao i ovlaš ga pročitao. Tada bih obično spustio slušalicu uz štur izgovor da je neko upravo ušao u kabinet. U dvanaestoj godini sam prekinuo verbalne izlive ljubavi prema roditeljima. U tridesetoj sam prestao da ih volim. Sad su mi četrdeset dvije. Život mi je bio pažljivo posložen i sve je funkcionisalo... sem njene smrti. Opsjedala me je ideja o krivici, iako je situacija bila naočigled čista i razriješena. Iskreno, mnogo više me je izjedala sumnja da će njena smrt uticati na moj ministarski mandat. Postojala su još dva čovjeka koje je zabrinula mogućnost smjene. Zovu se Bruno Kortone i Ranko Prediš.

#memoari #pisac #literatura

Ja sam Valentino Kovačević, ministar kulture Crne Gore. Dvije godine i šest mjeseci uspješno obavljam ministarsku funkciju. Odnos prema kulturi mi je častan, s obzirom na to da moja profesija dolazi iz umjetničke oblasti, za razliku od nekolicine prethodnika. Diplomirani sam dramaturg i magistar komparativne književnosti. Diploma koja asocira na bijedan život, zar ne? Moj život nije bijedan. Primijenjena dramaturgija mi je obezbijedila i više nego lagodan život, poziciju i ugled. Ali oduvijek sam sanjao da postanem pisac. Oštar, bezvremen i temeljit pisac, poput Vitolda Gombroviča, Danila Kiša, Bruna Šulca... Saznanje da nisam mogao da postanem ni piskaralo osrednjeg značaja paralisalo me je i svelo na hvatanje bilješki, pisanja nacrta i skica koje su mi rezale produženu moždinu. Poslanička karijera mi je uzletjela na kondorskim krilima, a iz oblaka su se ispilili nasmijani poznanici. Bili su uviđavni, lizali su mi peruške i sugerisali isto: „Napiši memoare!“ Vrlo rano sam osjetio da moja priroda godi ljudima, najčešće kad ne progovaram, a uglavnom ćutim. Od premijera sam naučio da slušam, mada se nerijetko isključim i odlutam, jer ljudi koje srećem uglavnom barataju ispraznom retorikom, oglodanim frazama i floskulama, koje na kraju uokvire projektom i zakucaju na moja ministarska vrata. Nekad im dodijelim sredstva, nekad ne. Memoare ću objaviti onog dana kad napustim ministarsku stolicu, da bih se spasio od zaborava. Sada ih držim u tajnosti, u procesu sam otkrivanja društvenih mreža i sajber jezika, i malo je reći da mi se najava memoara kroz haštagove nadasve dopada.

Telefon me je trgao iz misli. Poziv od Dragutina, bivšeg ministra kulture.

– Halo?

– Kako je prošlo na sahrani?

– Dobro.

– Je li bilo kakvih reakcija?

– Nije. Ne znam šta se desilo nakon mog odlaska.

– Sjedim s premijerom.

– Dobro je prošlo... reci mu.

– Kako si ti?

– Reci mu da je prošlo dobro.

– Reći ću mu kad prekinem vezu. Pitao sam kako si.

– Ne znam... valjda dobro.

– Za vikend igramo. Jesi li u sastavu?

– Naravno. Potrebno mi je da se istrčim, znaš... više zbog psihe.

– Javi se kasnije. Ostavio sam sto u Juti za večeras.

– Važi. Čujemo se.

Translated Excerpt

Minister - Stefan Bošković - Translation by Will Firth

The contemporary is he who firmly holds his gaze on his own time so as to perceive not its light, but rather its darkness. All eras, for those who experience contemporariness, are obscure.

Giorgio Agamben 

DAY ONE

Am I to blame? That question dogged me all morning. Loony, lip-serving, laid-back, lascivious, languid, la-lo-lu – John Cage’s Landscape resounded in the hall between the bathroom and the bedroom. Everything was shaped like the letter L: the position of my arm on which I leaned my body in a diagonal plane; the slice of lemon in the cup of hot water; the beanbag and the emails. There were 139 I needed to answer. Bruno Cortone was the first and most important. The barking of the labrador came before the first yel-low rays. The smell of lavender raised goosebumps on my rear. It was lovely. I practiced dispelling thoughts while the scalding water burned my shoulders. Am I to blame? Through the steam I could hardly see my nose and the shape of my lips. They looked black. Like the blood from her mouth. A little later I polished my shoes and saw a hint of my reflection on their silvery points. My advisers suggested I stay at home or go away to a seminar in Poland. I didn’t consider what my parents proposed. I had to make a decision. I am the one who decides. I am minister. Stefan Bošković 

***

The morning was wet, bright and lasted longer than usual. As he checked the pressure of the tyres, Saša trod on the glistening drops and crushed the light. I rested on the back seat with my eyes closed. Saša rubbed his hands and blew into them, then he started the mo-tor with a mutter. We made our way through the thick tangle of streets in Podgorica’s Old Town, which was supposed to be a short-cut. I took two Valiums, but the agitation didn’t subside. The bounc-ing and sudden braking sent the tension off into elements that dis-solved in my tissues and capillaries. When I opened my eyes again, the tension was gone, but my empty insides jumped and brought on a bout of nausea. 

“Slow down and try to avoid the potholes.”

Saša has been my driver for eight full years. Before I became minister, I was Dean of the Faculty of Drama. Saša was then as-signed to be my chauffeur. When I was promoted, Saša was too. He got a green Mercedes A-Class and fell in love with it like it was his own child. As he wrinkled his face and tried to think what to say, I slid about on the leather seat and hoped he wouldn’t say anything. He examined my sweat-beaded brow in the rear-view mirror.

“I’m tense too,” Saša said.

“I’m not,” I replied.

“The air conditioning’s been playing up for days.”

He raised and lowered the equalizers to muffle the unpleasant-ness. We both knew the air conditioning was perfectly OK. Saša was a loyal, rather insecure, well brought up creature. Like other driv-ers too, he knew people. When I didn’t want to talk, he’d look at me in the rear-view mirror, repeatedly, but not for so long as to offend me. In those quiet moments his eyes would take in everything we didn’t say. 

When I leave the minister’s building, the habits of the small peo-ple become mine. That’s what the prime minister’s rules prescribe. There would be a lot of people, with phones and cameras poised. Her chapel was the third in the row. They’d have time to recognize and heckle me. Loony, lip-serving, laid-back, lascivious, la-lo-lu, I abandoned small habits and made my way to the third chapel. They recognized me and squirmed, hundreds of ghosts rustled their wings, a storm raged in my lungs, my kneecaps fell out. I traipsed with raised shoulders like Pinocchio in a Neil Barrett suit, smitten and naive, ready to plump down at the gate, kneel before the mob and whisper: “I am a king on his knees. Stab me now with horns and camera lenses, queue for a commentary and wrench out my spine, thrash my shoulders and incandescent head. Don’t forget to report the price of my suit.” 

It was quiet and cold in the chapel. Gloomy figures on the smooth-worn surface changed their mood and order. When I stepped for-wards, the sobbing died down. Seven women in a column wiped away their tears and stared at me. I stopped in front of the open cof-fin and looked at her. Her face was rough, her skin grey, with a little blood on her dead lips. I observed that piece of meat, which had no spark of life – there was no reminder of her restless eyes, supple hands and the sounds that the large human mechanism once pro-duced. My breathing was laboured and loud, and a crowd formed behind me. I didn’t dare to move until the tears began running down my especially sorrowful face. I took out my handkerchief, elegantly dabbed my cheekbones, bowed low and took a step to-wards the witches. The women, to whom I expressed my condolenc-es, froze, one more icily than the other. I thought my tears would surprise them. And they did. Her tall mother was waiting at the end of the column. A dignified and beautiful person in her sixties. I stopped and raised my head for the first time. We discerned the yellow streaks in each other’s eyes. I said softly and distinctly that I was so sorry. She embraced me very briefly, and before she became aware of her ill-considered reaction, I was outside among the men. Shaking hands was the done thing. I tried to meet them with the force of my handshake. Men like the strength of other men. Even when they accept condolences from the one involved in killing their daughter. Sister. Granddaughter.

***

It was warm in the car, and my thoughts were usurped by the odours I had brought with me from the chapel. The air conditioning couldn’t erase them from my skin, so I opened the window and let the wind blast into them. I carefully read all of Bruno Cortone’s mes-sages filed in my WhatsApp inbox for a third time. Bruno had heard of the incident and expressed concern about my ministership. He jotted out all the essential questions regarding the collaboration we cultivated in secret. I hadn’t prepared a reply yet. I needed to think over the situation and the circumstances. But who knew the upshot and the possible consequences, if there would be any at all? Only the prime minister did, whom I couldn’t reach before he rang me. I had no choice but to wait – and as I waited, I watched the young trees flitting past. Saša was driving me to Cetinje, a town that the lo-cals pretentiously used to call the Valley of the Gods, although it was green, fragrant and tucked away among limestone outcrops. The people of Cetinje had the inexplicable idea of their own grandeur, and at one point they even equated themselves with a deity. I liked Cetinje for its intensive linden aroma and deep shade, but spring was always slow in coming, and on several occasions I proposed that the Ministry of Culture move to the capital. Cetinje was too iso-lated, with a lot of rain and a lot of talk about nothing. The building of the Ministry stood out at the end of the street. A former patrician residence, spacious and quiet. The moment I stepped inside I’d feel I belonged to a kingdom, not of Montenegro, but one considerably greater, unquestionably older, perhaps semi-celestial. Then I’d get a call from my father that brought me back to earth with a crash. He called me every day at 11am sharp and reeled off his daily rou-tine. The first few sentences were always about my mother and her health; then he’d enquire how I was, if my lungs hurt and if I drank the teas he sent me. After that, he’d ask a series of short, “disinterested” questions about particular people in the party, which led me to warn him several times that we shouldn’t talk about things like that on the phone. Snubbed, he’d finish off with a gentle remark about a newspaper article dealing with me, which he claimed to have just stumbled across and read perfunctorily. Then I’d usual-ly hang up with the flimsy excuse that someone had come into the office. I ended all verbal outpourings of love for my parents when I was twelve. I stopped loving them when I was thirty. Now I’m for-ty-two. My life had been carefully arranged and everything went according to plan... except for her death. I was obsessed by the idea of guilt, although the situation was obviously clear and resolved. Honestly, I was much more consumed by worry that her death could impinge on my ministerial career. Two other people were also con-cerned about the possibility of me being replaced: Bruno Cortone and Ranko Prediš. 

#memoirs #writer #literature

I am Valentino Kovačević, Minister of Culture of Montenegro. I have been discharging my ministerial function successfully for two and a half years. My attitude towards culture is honourable if you consider I have a training and background in the arts, unlike several of my predecessors. I received a Master’s in dramaturgy and comparative literature – a degree generally associated with a life of poverty. My life is far from that. Applied dramaturgy has ensured me a comfortable life, a position and prestige. But I always dreamed of becoming a writer. A sharp, timeless wordsmith like Witold Gom-browicz, Danilo Kiš or Bruno Schulz. The realization that I couldn’t become even a middling hack paralyzed me and relegated me to making notes, writing drafts and sketches, which carved into my medulla. Yet a ministerial career took to the air on condor’s wings, and smiling acquaintances emerged from the clouds like birds of a feather. They were considerate, licked my plumes and all suggested the same: “Why don’t you write your memoirs?” I noticed at an early age that my nature flatters people, particularly when I don’t speak, and I’m silent most of the time. I learned from the prime minister to listen, although I often switch off and wander because the people I meet mainly toss around empty rhetoric, trite phrases and plat-itudes, which they ultimately use to frame a project and knock at my door with. As minister, I sometimes allocate them funds, some-times not. I’ll publish my memoirs the day I leave the helm so as to save myself from oblivion. I’m keeping them secret for now. I’m in the process of discovering social media and cyber language, and to say that announcing my memoirs through hashtags appeals to me greatly would be an understatement. 

My phone jarred me out of my thoughts. It was Dragutin, the for-mer minister of culture.

“Hello?”

“How did it go at the funeral?”

“Good.”

“Were there any reactions?”

“None. But I don’t know what happened after I left.” “I’m sitting here with the prime minister.” “It went well... tell him that.”

“How are you?”

“Tell him it went well.”

“I’ll tell him when we’ve finished. I asked how you are.” “I don’t know... Good, I suppose.”

“We’re playing on the weekend. Are you on board?”

“Of course. I need the exercise. You know... it keeps me on an even keel.”

“Call me again later. I’ve reserved a table at the Juta for this evening”. 

“OK. Talk to you soon.” 

Contact Details

Watch Stefan's video