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News 07 Jan 15

Montenegro's Politicians Keep Poetic Tradition Alive

Following in the footsteps of the great ruler-turned writer, Njegos, politicians in Montenegro are flooding the shelves of bookstores with literary and poetic musings - of variable quality.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica

 

Enter a bookshop in Montenegro, and your eye may well fall on a novel or collection of poems penned by a current or former politician.

The former prime minister, Igor Luksic, is a published poet. The current Foreign Minister published two volumes of poetry in 2011, the Book of Fear and the Book of Laughs.  

Whether it was because of the author's political profile or not, both of Luksic's love poems were the most wanted books in 2011 at City Bookstore, the main bookstore in the capital, which is unusual for a poetic collection.

Like most books written by Montenegrin poet-politicians, the poems were published by one of the largest publishing houses in the country, New Book of Podgorica.

Moreover, poetry collections and novels by politicians are often sold out and republished, which is mission impossible for the majority of local contemporary writers.

The most prolific of the crop of politician-writers is the former Minister of Culture and Tourism and a current deputy in parliament, Predrag Sekulic.

Over the past ten years he has published five novels. The last, Mating Swans (Parenje labudova) was controversial on account of its explicit language.

Sekulic, a former journalist, published the novel in 2013 but it has been marked with the sign "18+" -meaning  adults only - owing to the raunchy sex scenes and violence.

This novel, about a Montenegrin emigrant in the Spanish Civil War, is a prohibited work for minors and has been designated as erotic fiction.

While some critics judged the novel easy to read and enjoyable, others slated it as trite and lascivious, scorning the former minister as talentless.

In response to the deluge of criticism, the writer-politician noted that the novel had also been published in English and turned into a movie script.

Politicians turning poetic thoughts to paper is very much a Montenegrin tradition. In 1847, Njegos, the prince-bishop of Montenegro, published a celebrated poetic epic, the Mountain Wreath, which remains a classic among readers of Serbian.

Kenneth Morrison, an academic and Britain's leading Montenegro-watcher, says that historically, Montenegrins saw themselves not just as warriors but as poets with a soulful side.

Being a poet was a natural part of Montenegrin male culture, alongside fighting the Turks, and was not seen as effeminate, he observes.

However, the poet and journalist, Jelena Martinovic Nelevic, says politicians in Montenegro find it easy to get into print because there is no real objective literary criticism.

As a result, few publishing houses have the will to say "No!" to  big names in politics, she remarks.

Referring to the literary oeuvres of Montenegrin politicians, Nelevic Martinovic said that in most cases it is only about turning a profit for both authors and publishers. "What are those writers? Poor. But their name will sell a book," she remarked.

Montenegro's chief negotiator with the EU, Aleksandar Andrija Pejovic, is also published author.

In 2010, the diplomat who has served in Brussels for years published a novel, Amabor. Unlike the works of most other politician-poets, his offering mostly won respectful reviews.

"The novel is dedicated to what I know best - movement and the constant discovery of various places, events and people," Pejovic said at the launch in 2012.

One of the leaders of the pro-Serbian opposition, parliamentary deputy Goran Danilovic meanwhile released a collection of poems, Words and Words, in 2012.

At the promotion of his book, Danilovic criticized what he called hyper-production in the Montenegrin publishing world in recent years.

"Today in Montenegro it is easier to write than to read," he remarked.

 

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