March 20, 1995 Vreme News Digest Agency No 181

Stojan Cerovic's Diary

A Genius of Banality

Cosic said in Visegrad that no single man has the right to decide in the name of an entire nation. He wants to spite Milosevic, and because of this small personal vendetta, he is prepared to forget the people, unification, war, peace, Andric and the bridge. Compared to Cosic, Milosevic and Karadzic are moral giants

I believe that among people who care about their self esteem, there are no longer many who care what former Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic thinks, less still what he has to say. Everybody knows what it was he wanted and what he achieved. There is no polite way for him to return to public life, and I hope I won't have to write about him again. I just couldn't resist the challenge this time, even though I feel uncomfortable in writing about the masochistic wishes of an old man.

Dobrica Cosic managed to hold a speech in Visegrad, which in its indecency has he has yet to surpass. He went there with a few remaining friends in the company of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to allegedly mark some anniversary linked to Serbian Nobel Literature Prize laureate Ivo Andric. The manifestation was presented as a new reading of Andric, and a call for the unity of the Serbian people, but turned out to be criminal and barbarian, more so than the demolishing of Andric's monument by a Muslim fanatic. It will be harder to excuse and justify Andric from this intellectual, or rather political desecration.

Cosic discovers a link between Andric and Serbian unity and establishes it while standing in front of the Visegrad Bridge, a master stroke of banality. In the "new reading" he does not find any great metaphors or complex meanings. It turns out that the bridge stands where it does in order that Serbs might visit each other without getting their feet wet. And that this is the reason Andric won the Nobel prize, according to Cosic.

In fact, things are quite different. If it is important that the bridge is on the Drina river, and someone wishes to draw a moral on Serbian unity from Andric's oeuvre, it would be contrary to all that Dobrica Cosic and Radovan Karadzic have to say. There would have been no drama, no great novel, if Andric hadn't known that bridges separate and link different worlds. If it were so easy to cross the Drina and link the two banks, that bridge could have been on the Morava River, and the story would have been short and Dobrica Cosic would have written it. By calling on Andric, the ideologues and executors of Serbian unification are just annulling and underestimating Andric's novel and his views of the world and the environment he wrote of.

Cosic linked it all together superficially and in passing: the Visegrad Bridge, serving the people, "the land of hatred", Andric's alleged persecution from Bosnia, his alleged complaints to Cosic, Islamic fundamentalism, NATO warplanes and sanctions. Cosic is convinced that Andric, in the name of Serbian unification would stand side by side with him and Radovan Karadzic, right there in Visegrad.

He is speaking of a man who scrupulously avoided all public appearances and political actions for decades. Andric, unlike Cosic, knew how to draw a serious and consistent moral from experience. In one of his best prose works "The Zepa Bridge", Andric says that "Safety lies in silence". A man who claims that someone like Andric would rush forward and spit all over his life and work, just for the pleasure of joining Cosic and kneeling before Karadzic, such a man has only one dictum: "To lie, and lie and lie".

I don't feel bound or specially called on to defend Andric from deceit and sacrilege. He will do so himself, just as Njegos (Petar Petrovic, Montenegrin statesman and poet) managed to survive Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's anti-bureaucratic revolution, when it looked as if Gorski Vijenac (Njegos's most famous poem) had been written only in order to topple down Milosevic's opponents. I think that it is more important and interesting to see what it is that Dobrica Cosic still wants, and how he got where he is now.

In politics, or if you prefer, in the art of serving the people, Cosic's road has been reduced to an unusual and humiliating downward trend of serving increasingly worse, and at the same time, insignificant tyrants. He swore allegiance to Tito, then recognized the savior in Milosevic and here he is with Karadzic now. But, this is probably logical, in the past few years Cosic played one of the big roles, and along with Milosevic, embodies this whole misfortune.

At the beginning, if only because of Kosovo and the alleged returning of dignity to the people, practically the entire Serbian elite backed Milosevic. Some left him during the antibureaucratic revolution as a diehard Communist. Dobrica Cosic was not among them. When Milosevic entered the war, those who were opposed to violence distanced themselves, but Dobrica Cosic called to war. Then those who believed that the war would be a short one, victorious and without many victims dropped away. Cosic didn't agree with them. The number of victims was just a measure of the greatness of his national obsession. When the crimes in Bosnia started and sanctions were introduced, Cosic wavered and called in Panic (Milan, former Yugoslav PM), and tried to persuade the Bosnain Serbs to agree to the peace plan, and then tried to remove Milosevic, but Milosevic got him out of the way. Finally, Milosevic decided that he was giving up, and that's when Cosic decided that he was going on.

Cosic was the first to launch the idea in Serbia that Yugoslavia was a Serb delusion, but now claims that Serbia defended Yugoslavia persistently and that it was broken up by international power wielders. He had no illusions over the price of a Greater Serbia; in the circles he moves, the role of an insane Bismarck was very popular: plans were made and figures of tens of thousands of men were mentioned. Cosic can't have any illusions of the scope of the crime committed in Bosnia, nor of his responsibility, but he sees no reason why he shouldn't go there once more so that they can all see him. As far as he is concerned, the war is no longer an ethnic, religious or civil war, but a war of defence, even though Karadzic admits that he has captured more territory than he thinks is really his. Cosic does not say: "None in Bosnia are innocent" like Milosevic does. All justice is on the Serbian side, all crimes have been committed against the Serbs. This writer and moralist has no words of pity for the Muslims.

Dobrica Cosic stands in Eastern Bosnia, the scene of the greatest genocide, and accuses the victims. Does the Lord, God, the Almighty see this? Cosic encourages Karadzic to hold out and win, and, holding the late Ivo Andric's hand, signs and blesses all that he, Radovan, has done and will do in the future. He brings in another man's Nobel prize and confirms that the Serbs have the right to commit as many crimes as they need in order to unite.

It could be that Karadzic is a bit surprised and has been caught unawares. He probably faces a new, bigger and more difficult war, and this old man who could help him only by advising him how to avoid it, and when to yield, who has no tanks or divisions, has come to encourage and cheer him on. At the same time, Cosic said in Visegrad that no single man has the right to decide in the name of an entire nation. He wants to spite Milosevic, and because of this small personal vendetta, he is prepared to forget the people, unification, war, peace, Andric and the bridge. Compared to Cosic, Milosevic and Karadzic are moral giants.

Perhaps young author Vladimir Arsenijevic is right when he says that all this is like a soap opera. In the episode "Dobrica Cosic" we didn't understand everything, a lot of things remained to be dealt with in the following episodes. There were many false leads, tricks, puzzles and wrong trails, so that it isn't quite clear how Cosic changed from being "the conscience of society" to a bad guy. Was there a misunderstanding? Has the man changed completely? What if he's always been like that, and if he just embodies a society which has no conscience? What is conscience? What is its purpose? And, can the Serbs unite first, and then see what they'll do about their conscience?