During the BOOKSTAR 2017 – Festival of European literature that took a place in Skopje, we had an opportunity to talk with JELA KRECIC – ZIZEK about her first novel NEMA DRUGA and capitalism, utopia & fuccbois.

PIREJ: Does Matiaz’s character change in the story because he begins to develop feelings towards Brigita and the chauvinist, macho, Matjaz, who we see in relationships with other girls, is completely changed because of her or because they both decide to stay together – to settle down? (is there a true love or just a compromise?)

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: Well I think that the story works like this, I mean I agree with you totally, but I would just add that it starts like this abstract idea to find a new girl and then as further along as it goes the more complex it gets and even the character at the beginning is thinking that he just needs a girl and also develops this idea further. And so he and the story become more developed, more deep. But I think that the message of the book is definitely that true love exists, I don’t believe in compromise especially not in love so that would be my answer.

PIREJ: What’s the reason behind Brigita’s sexual orientation? It seems like she chooses to be a lesbian but let’s be honest she is not honest. (Why is that?)

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: What I wanted from Brigita as a character was that she is a very young girl struggling with her sexual identity not knowing to the fullness of what she is or what she isn’t, not even having any real experiences in love. But the point of the story is not that she converts from lesbian to heterosexual but only that there are different models of love that you know that don’t necessary include just heterosexual partners. One of them may as well be lesbian and still have a male partner. That was what I wanted to have, a love that is not even defined to the full extend, just functions as love because there is this moment and this situation where they click and fall in love.

PIREJ: The way we would explain your book in one sentence is as novel that captures  tragicomedy of love in Balkan, a novel that erase the gap between tradition and modernity. A very important moment for us, was the conversation between Matjaz and the priest (at the same time, we are aware of your ideology). Is the rationality in priest character, a way to present religion from a new perspective? )

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: Well you know in Slovenia you have people who are great believers, real passionate Catholics and then you have atheists. My main character Matjaz is obviously atheist. I just didn’t want to give a stereotypical depiction of priesthood because I as a girl had a lot of experiences with the church and I also developed some of these stereotypes and then I decided that I will not follow these stereotypes so I wanted a priest that functions much more like a psychoanalyst. If you follow this short passage between him and Matjaz the way he functions is not that he gives any answers to Matjaz, he doesn’t put him in right direction or he doesn’t tell him what to do. He just asks the right questions and by that he moves something in Matjaz, makes him see his story in a different way, from another angle. So, this is what I wanted – a priest that is not like a priest, that is a very special kind of a priest. Because I think that books should also offer models for society that in real life aren’t yet realized. So for young priests:

„if they read my book I want to make them feel like ‘why shouldn’t I be this priest, this kind of priest?  Why should I be that stereotypical, boring, uneducated priest?“

PIREJ: By reading the book, it’s easy to notice its fragmentation. Is this stylistic innovation a way to display the initiation motive by following Mattiaz and Brigita to the very end?

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: I was inspired by TV series the structure of quality television that we are watching today. I found that this structure is the right one to fill this story of a mаn who tries to find the right woman and has to go through this long process of finding her. Which is at the same the repetitious structure because it seems like a bit monotones because from chapter to chapter there is just another girl but at the same time something also develops through this repetition.

PIREJ: When reading your novel, the ambiguity, sarcasm, humor, and the need to read between the lines, are noticeable. Is this complexity (multiplicity), a necessity for modern (contemporary) art?

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: Well I am very glad that you found many layers in the book. My basic aim was just to write a comedy. I think that a comedy as a genre is a very important one and in the today’s culture I think we are seeing so little of comedy and comic approach that it was a sort of very conscious decision to make it a comedy. Because I believe that this genre is not the one that helps you or to make problems seem less of a problems, but on through comedy you can establish something as a real problem and go through it. I think comedy is a very productive approach in a sense that it requires that the theme, the subject and the character should develop, should gain complexity or becomes something else. This is how comedy usually works and I believe in emancipatory potential comedy.

PIREJ: Should the novel also be a critique of the “progressive”, artistic and left-oriented part of society?

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: Well , Yes, through some characters you can see that I was a bit critical of certain type of leftism but in general I think that I wanted to grasp also the devastation or the despair of the younger generations which is put in these precarious work conditions never being able to gain a real job and struggling for existence. They only get enough money to go out every other day and to get a bit drunk so in that sense it was critical depiction of current situation even in Slovenia and Ljubljana. But in the same time I wanted that urban feeling that actually exists in the city and the community of friends that make for original way to survive this situation.

PIREJ: Тwo biggest ideologies (right and left) – tried and failed, they both failed but in the different context.  where do you see the solution of this problem?

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: I think the problem with the Balkans is that after that nationalistic period that resulted in a war all we got was really robust. Capitalism, privatization that I think was terrible for all the countries including Slovenia. This is completely another scene, in the Balkans you have politicians that are all rooting and are enabling capitalism. I think that’s the tragedy of the whole region.

PIREJ: Patriotism and nationalism, are they diferent and (if yes) how? How this “love” towards the motherland is easily transformed into an irrational and unhealthy relationship that creates problems in society?

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: I don’t think I have a very developed theory on that *patriotism – nationalism* for me is very funny.  And I have this very lovely story from Ljubljana:  few years back when I was riding with a bus not from a suburb but part of the city called Bezigrad to the centre which is a 10 min drive. there were 3 teenagers on this bus and they were talking about the forth teenager who was not present and the girl says: *where is that person?*  And the boy answers * I don’t know he’s probably in the centre with his girl* and she says> * oh, he has a girlfriend* and he says: * yeah but she is from the centre* and the girl goes or the other boy goes: * I would never  date a girl from the centre*. I think this is a great depiction of patriotism or even nationalism, it’s totally incredible how you can identify with that and be proud for that for being from Bezigrad or for being from Slovenia. Just ridiculous!!

PIREJ: The countries of the southern Balkans are countries where chaos, conservatism and nationalism ( through the policy of strengthening national identity) are dominant, is there a way out, out of the hypocrisy of the imposed ideals that one should (should not) strive for ?

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: You are asking a very difficult question. I really don’t know. Obviously something would be done and the answer is probably the same as for every other country that a new left vision of society is needed. I think that’s the only way out.

PIREJ: When Zizek tells that men-privilege story of “becoming working-class victim of his wife’s writing”, he actually touches the very important question of women and emotional labor. This problem becomes more complicated even outside the private sphere (where is considered “natural”), and at the work place, to be respected, women must remember birthdays and laugh at jokes. Are we hitting the glass ceiling in our century with smile?

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: I think things are changing in a way, women are getting better jobs or get better pay but still not the same as men but I think that when a woman gets more opportunities like men get the bigger chance it is that her role is not modeled or prescribed in advance so she can choose how she reacts. I am not that pessimistic, I don’t know what’s the situation in Macedonia but I think in Slovenia in certain part or fields of occupation, probably in the restaurant business and stuff like that woman get harrest much more then in journalistic field where I work, so I think that a woman’s struggle should go in a direction of gaining the same award of the job done and that is the device with which we can create new social position or social status.

PIREJ: The imposed believe that we are now leaving in post-ideological times, gives us the mirage of freedom, especially in the context of sexual relationships. But what do we do with the performativity of gender roles? Can we say that we won on the front where we mostly internalize patriarchy?

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: This is a really complicated question. I think that this tendency, the theoretical idea of changing identity through your life [at 25 you are a woman then and in 30 you turn man, then you turn lesbian, then you turn gay or I don’t know what]. I don’t believe that this is a very subversive kind of existence or ever-changing identities. Which also means that I absolutely endorse all the identities and I think that all the minority, sexual or otherwise should have absolutely the same rights as the heterosexual normativity enables the heterosexuals. I believe that if we go back to the novel, with Brigita I don’t think we are talking about this identity that will change from one year to another, I believe that love is an event you can be dedicated to for the whole life. I mean, in the best conditions or in best possible world. This is what I wanted to say, this idea of ever-changing identities it suits capitalism very well because capitalism is like telling the subjects ; you find out what you are;  find your own way of life because it is always prepared to create or gain more capital through addressing this individual who is prepared to change, it reminds me of flexible work force – I see it as a part of flexible work force ideology, as you are flexible and one day you are secretary next day you are an intellectual, so one day you are lesbian and the next day you are I don’t know what. So I think it is a part of the same ideology.

PIREJ: Alexandra Kollontai and Russian revolutionary women from the year of 1917 advocated not only economic and political, but sexual revolution as final battle for women’s liberation.  In that year the sexual revolution was something utopical. Is there some feminist utopian impulse in this century? Did we lost the ability to think of utopia?

JELA KRECIC ZIZEK: I will answer this question in two parts. First of all Robert Farrer. one Austrian philosopher, he has a very good point –  If you look at the movie *The graduate* which was made in the 1967, right at the time of the sexual revolution you can see that this theme which is quite heavy I mean young boy dating a mother of his future to be wife. It’s not a light motive but its grasped by direction and by plan in a very playful,  comical way. Robert Farrer says we cannot imagine that today the same theme and motive, would be filmed in the same way. Today we would film it as a big tragedy or melodrama, so something obviously changed from this great emancipatory idea of sexual and other liberation. What we got is a culture that is guite  shy and is afraid to be relaxed when grasping terrible family stories or other political stories. Here again I say that this is why I deliberately chose comedy as a genre because I think its dying slowly.

As far as utopia goes, here I agree with you totally because what I lack, what I find as a lack in today’s societies; I don’t see any political program that would be inspiring. With right side politics you get populism, you get hatred against any other otherness and in left politics at least with the official one you get this liberty towards identities but at the same time total submissiveness to the capitalism. This is as far as the official left field go, just expect all the conditions of neoliberal capitalism but in the same tame doing it with human face. And what we probably all are hoping for is political idea that would go beyond these. That would say no to the corporates appropriations of the state and that would offer a political liberation not just consumerist or identity liberations.

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