Until the generation of authors that began forming during the 1990s, Montenegro had never had a group of writers of similar age who shared attitudes but also brought something fresh to its literary scene. Yet after years of war and the country’s independence, there came a line of authors whose actions and creations have rightly earned them recognition as a true generation of new voices. Not so much due to their shared poetics, but to the modern values they have introduced to Montenegrin literature and by their social activism: a univocal condemnation of war and the social anomalies of their country, and those around it.
“Although this generation has voiced clear criticism against the reality of the 1990s, their works are not overburdened by a fascination with the grand events of the transitional processes,” Marinko Vorgić, a literary critic from Podgorica, told Southeast Europe: People and Culture.
“They have touched on these [issues] merely occasionally,” says Vorgić, “observing their repercussions, but always without a fatalistic sentimentality, relying on the post-modern scepticism towards a world gauged by big stories.” In his opinion, it is this broadened viewpoint that puts Montenegro’s new prose ahead of past generations.
Milieu was central to the recognition of Montenegro’s new literary generation, as always seems to be the case in small environments: until someone from the outside takes notice of you, it is hard to be loved at home. The decisive role for Montenegro’s new wave of authors was played by Duirex, a Croatian publisher who undertook publishing new Montenegrin prose – books that would have otherwise been difficult to release given their home country’s poorly developed publishing industry.
Among others, Duirex published Ognjen Spahić’s debut “Hansen’s children” (Hansenova djeca), which garnered the regional “Meša Selimović” Award in 2005 for the best novel in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and Croatia. This brought attention to other young Montenegrin writers, whose literary careers, like Spahić’s, began in the turbulent nineties: Balša Brković, Andrej Nikolaidis, Aleksandar Bečanović, and Dragan Radulović.
Brković works as an assistant editor, cultural editor, and Saturday columnist for the Vijesti daily newspaper. He began his literary career as a poet, and has published five books of poetry, a novel “Private Gallery” (Privatna galerija), and a recent collection of stories entitled “The Berlin Circle” (Berlinski krug). Nikolaidis has, among his peers, published the most novels. His first, a novel on suicide called “Why Mira Furlan” (Zašto Mira Furlan), was received very well, while some critics have hailed his book “Mimesis and Other Scandals” (Mimesis i drugi skandali) as one of the most important South Slavic novels published in the past 15 years. Nikolaidis, who recently published the novel “Arrival” (Dolazak), regularly contributes to newspapers and magazines in Montenegro and the region. His colleague writer Aleksandar Bečanović is similarly active among the printed media, although the focus of his articles and commentaries is mostly film.
“In both subject matter and style, the majority of authors from this new wave show a marked desire to fit their literary experience within the larger context of post-modern prose expression. Their works offer an urban sensibility, a critical view of local myths and myths in general, an emphasis on discourse, while placing their point of reference primarily in post-modern world literature, but will also show how experiences from pop culture, twentieth-century theoretical and philosophical dispersion, and film are relevant to contemporary literary creation,” says Marinko Vorgić.
In the past few years, Montenegro’s literary scene has been growing mostly in young poets. One of the best known among them is Vladimir Đurišić, 27, whose collection of stories “Nothing Will Explode” (Ništa ubrzo neće eksplodirati) won the “Risto Ratković” award. The award was named after the renowned Montenegrin poet, in 2007.