One hour with Vladislav Bajac

One hour with Vladislav Bajac

By Sidonja Manushi   Vladislav Bajac looks as if he could have been anything he wanted in life – painter, rock and roll star, zen master…anything; but he decided to be a man of the written word and eventually found

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Young pianists entertain passengers with ‘Chopin flying from Tirana International Airport’

Young pianists entertain passengers with ‘Chopin flying from Tirana International Airport’

TIRANA, June 22 – Dozens of young pianists performed at a marathon concert at the check-in area of the Tirana International Airport on Thursday, marking the International Music Day, a June 21 worldwide celebration of diversity in music. Named “Chopin

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Skanderbeg stamp collection book to be published in Albania

Skanderbeg stamp collection book to be published in Albania

TIRANA, June 21 – Albanian author Hysen Dizdari will publish a rare book on Skanderbeg featuring the full Albanian stamp collection of the national hero from 1913 to 2017, on the occasion of 105 from the issuing of the first

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Exhibition of communist persecution documents of Southern Albanians opens in Tirana

Exhibition of communist persecution documents of Southern Albanians opens in Tirana

TIRANA, June 21 – The Information Authority on the State’s former Security documents published on Tuesday a number of files containing thousands archived documents describing the former Communist Security’s persecution of many renowned individuals in Southern Albania. The exhibition was

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‘Angjelin Nenshati: A witness between two epochs’

‘Angjelin Nenshati: A witness between two epochs’

One of the legends of Albanian photography, Angjelin Nenshati, will be showcased at the Marubi National Museum of Photography in a retrospective exhibition that traces the late artist’s decades-long career, most of which under communist oppression and socialist realism. A

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Tirana celebrates Eid al-Fitr amid calls for charity and support for the vulnerable

Tirana celebrates Eid al-Fitr amid calls for charity and support for the vulnerable

TIRANA, June 15 – Thousands of Muslim adherents celebrated Eid al-Fitr – one of the most important days of the religion which breaks the one-month-long fasting of Ramadan- on Friday in Tirana. Eid al-Fitr comes after a month of abstinence

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Palace of Congresses to host Swan Lake ballet for two nights

Palace of Congresses to host Swan Lake ballet for two nights

TIRANA, June 14 – The Opera, Ballet and Popular Assembly National Theatre announced that Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece Swan Lake will return at the Palace of Congresses as the most popular and successful show of the ballet troupe from last season. Swan

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Tirana to celebrate World Music Day at Dajti Mountain

Tirana to celebrate World Music Day at Dajti Mountain

TIRANA, June 13 – World Music Day, celebrated on June 21 globally, will find the capital with a special musical event at the Bunkart 1 Museum, at Mount Dajt. The event, titled Bunk’Music, will start at 7pm in what is

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Polish archaeologists unearth ancient Illyrian city nearby Shkodra

Polish archaeologists unearth ancient Illyrian city nearby Shkodra

TIRANA, June 14 – Polish archaeologists in Albania said they discovered the over 2000-year-old Illyrian city of Bassania in Albania. The fortress discovered by the scientists was thought to be destroyed by the Romans at the beginning of our era

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Art takes on environmental crime in students’ exhibition

Art takes on environmental crime in students’ exhibition

TIRANA, June 11 – In Tirana, the OSCE and art students organized and participated in an activity devoted to environmental crimes – they created a visual arts’ exhibition expressing their concern about environmental damage in the country. Diplomats and artists

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                    [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi 

 

Vladislav Bajac looks as if he could have been anything he wanted in life - painter, rock and roll star, zen master...anything; but he decided to be a man of the written word and eventually found himself in Tirana, at a time visits from Serbs continue to be uncommon and are regarded with awe on the one hand, and a certain disbelief on the other.

Among the crowd of bibliophiles who gathered at the Tirana Times bookstore to hear him share bits and pieces of his life, Bajac is introduced as an author, translator and publisher. Later, he tells me he also worked as a journalist.  

As an author, Bajac has brought seven novels to life, as well as two books of poetry and three books of short stories. The first, Which way Leads To People, was published when he was 18-years-old and his face still slightly cringes when being asked about it. He stayed away from writing for sixteen years after that. 

“It is difficult to say something more about my long life; when I write I realize how long it has been,” he replies, when asked whether he’d like to add something to his short introductory bio for the public.

 

As, during that same evening, we are facing each other at the lobby of his hotel over a sugar-free, objectively bitter macchiato, longer parts of his life start being shared and I realize it must indeed be difficult to say all that much about such an artistically rich life in a few concise sentences. After all, life cannot be made into a Japanese, short-form haiku and Bajac knows that better than anyone else, having received two international awards for his poems in the genre in Tokyo at the start of the nineties.  

And yet, some themes start surfacing as he expands more on specific areas, such as his 25-year-old career as a publisher at the Geopoetika publishing house, his way to Eastern religions and the way they influenced his personal and professional life, some of his best stories with other internationally known authors he has the luck to call friends, and how to remain optimistic in a tense global reality. 

Stories about the Geopoetika Publishing House start naturally when, having visited Belgrade only a few days ago, I tell Bajac the number of bookstores in the Serbian capital is impressive. 

Bajac says his journey as a publisher started simply as a way to stay connected with the world in what then was the very end of Yugoslavia. In a city where the bipolar rule of two major publishing houses “doesn’t leave enough space for other, brilliant publishers anymore” however, he and his team decided to give life to new books, mainly from young Serbian and international authors, that could appeal to both populism and elitism.

“At the very beginning I only had two ideals: not to be ruined, to continue to exist as a publisher,” he says, half-heartedly entertained by the fact writers and publishers now have to think twice before taking up the art-form, “and the other was choosing books that were not that popular, but would reach a big audience while retaining the same, high publishing standards.”

He managed to do that by picking up on young unrecognized writers through his sixth writer’s sense - he tells me his latest find is a 26-year-old girl with a brilliant novel - and by using his network of existing and upcoming writers, many of which have become an exclusivity of Geopoetika in translation. 

“In the end, we are in the position to be proud of something. It might not be a best-selling story, but at least it’s good literature.”

After saying that, Bajac goes on to share a story about Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish 2006 Nobel winner whom he’d known and translated before becoming globally famous, convincing that, with the right outlook, sometimes good literature can become a best-selling story.  

Another element that helped him excel as a publisher by separating it from writing, kill his ego trips as a writer and spotter of other people’s talent and go through life caring about the ideal, rather than the business of writing, has been his early interest in far-Eastern philosophies. 

“Buddhism is a shortcut to becoming a wise guy and I became wise, I think so, much earlier than usual. It’s not praising myself, but it’s a very practical thing that happened to me. It helped put myself aside as a writer. That’s why, in general, writers are not good publishers. They cannot control their ego - but I do that. What is more important, I deal with the ego trips of other writers. It is difficult to deal with those who are famous, or important, because I often see my possible self in them and because, very often, they cannot control their ego!” 

The death of the ego, as he describes it, has caused divides between him and his friends throughout, but also seems to have offered him the best point of view in life.

For example, when Allen Ginsberg, the beat generation representative who also turned to meditation and Eastern philosophies at a later time in his life and who was a personal friend of Bajac, visited him in Belgrade, the world literature scholar turned haiku poet turned prominent literary figure in Serbia, told him that he was commercializing the way to the zen.

“He didn’t like that. He was quite angry and we fell apart for awhile,” Bajac reminisces. “After some year, however, when he came back to Belgrade for a book promo, we met and he told me: ‘Vlado, you were right.’ It was nice to hear that, although, it was never the point,” he smiles.

For Bajac, the point to being happy, partly learned from his involvement with Buddhism and partly, I assume, from growing up in a region like the Balkans, is to be naive and to be ‘stupid’.

His answer to this very difficult question of how one remains happy in a cynical world convinces me with its simplicity, because real things are inevitably cliche, and simple.

“People ask me how I’m doing and when I say ‘I’m fine,’ they are really surprised. So, I tell them ‘Don’t worry! It’s only because I’m stupid,’” and he immediately shakes his head, wanting to reassess his claim about himself as if it’s the highest praise.

“It’s just an energy; if you are eager to know, if you don’t think you picked up all the knowledge and that there is a lot of things that you don’t know and there are brilliant people everywhere - not many, but enough - it makes you positive, like it’s all worth doing.”

Bajac is planning to translate his most awarded and globally recognized book, Hamam Balkanija, in Albanian as well. The story, which evolves in two timelines, plays with two different forms of narratives and styles: the 16th century Ottoman Empire, and the present, and is even written in two different alphabets in the original Serbian language. Another one of his books, Hronika sumnje, is also being eyed by the Tirana Times publishing house for translation and publication in the country. When we talk about his visit here, doing literary work between the two countries seems to be the thing to excite Bajac the most, a man who, as I was proved, could have been anything, but luckily decided to be a man of the written word! 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 22 - Dozens of young pianists performed at a marathon concert at the check-in area of the Tirana International Airport on Thursday, marking the International Music Day, a June 21 worldwide celebration of diversity in music.

Named "Chopin flying from Tirana International Airport," and led by Albanian maestro Zhani Ciko, the concert showcased performances by more than 60 pianists, some of whom as young as four years old.

At a marathon performance of 11 hours, the first of this kind at the Tirana International Airport, TIA, the young artists drew attention for their originality and entertained passengers leaving Albania as the airport carried on with their routine daily operations.

TIA is Albania’s sole international airport and one of the country’s main hubs handling more than 2 million passengers a year.

In addition, the concert, also attended by Polish Ambassador to Albania Karol Bachura, also marked Poland's Independence Day, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Poland's sovereignty.

A NATO ally, Poland is one of the key supporters of Albania's EU integration with diplomatic relations between the two countries dating back to 80 years ago.

The Poles have also made it to the top ten foreign tourists by nationality in Albania in the past couple of years with regular charter flights linking Warsaw, Gdnask, Kotowice to Tirana during summer.

Maestro Zhani Ciko and Klodi Zheji, the President of European Piano Teachers Association in Albania, described the piano marathon as a unique initiative that “should be embraced by other such events, more often, because music brings people together and airports can be an excellent arena to provide us with special memories.”

TIA’s communication director Arlinda Çausholli said “the airport is very appreciative of art and sensitive to, especially, young people, whose sacrifice to develop music and art in this country is underestimated.”

“Chopin flying from Tirana International Airport” was staged as part of a Piano Marathon organised by TIA, in collaboration with the Frédéric Chopin and EPTA associations and the Albanian Music School, with the support of the Embassy of Poland.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 21 - Albanian author Hysen Dizdari will publish a rare book on Skanderbeg featuring the full Albanian stamp collection of the national hero from 1913 to 2017, on the occasion of 105 from the issuing of the first Albanian stamp on May 5, 1913 by the Ismail Qemali government.

The first stamp featuring Skanderbeg’s portrait was issued on December 1, 1913 and continued its way through the 105 year history of the Albanian stamp until May 5, 2018.

George Castriot-Scanderbeg in Albanian Stamps encompasses three historical periods of over a century and represent the great personality of Skanderbeg as manifested in Albanian stamps.

Skanderbeg's personality is represented in all its grandeur through the author’s collection, attained by the high artistic skill of famous Albanian and foreign painters.

The book will be published in both Albanian and English and will provide ample information for all Albanians locally and abroad.

Ultimately, the book fully complements the interests of collectors and foreign tourists who are interested in learning the history of Albanian national hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg through the development of the 105-year history of the Albanian stamp.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 21 - The Information Authority on the State’s former Security documents published on Tuesday a number of files containing thousands archived documents describing the former Communist Security’s persecution of many renowned individuals in Southern Albania.

The exhibition was brought to life as a collaboration between the Dossier Authority and the General Directorate of Archives.

Head of the authority Genta Marra said that although seemingly local documentation, the files are of great national value as they prove the brutality of State Security towards important and respected individuals at the country’s South.

Family members of persecuted and formerly convicted politicians attended the opening ceremony, as well as associations of political convicts, scholars, politicians and local government representatives.

Head of the national archives Ardit Bido said the exhibition is important because it enlightens the process of discrimination and marginalization of Konispol - but also all Southern - citizens, as well as Cam Albanians, as part of a predetermined position against them.

The fates of Cham Albanians and the violent acts committed against them are also featured in a number of other publications by Kastriot Dervishi, Robert Elsie, Beqir Meta, Luan Malltezi, Sherfi Delvina, or Kaliopi Naska.

Meanwhile, the thousands of pages exposed on Tuesday for the Albanian public are a further enrichment of the data available on persecution in Southern Albania, and especially in state border areas.

 
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                    [post_content] => One of the legends of Albanian photography, Angjelin Nenshati, will be showcased at the Marubi National Museum of Photography in a retrospective exhibition that traces the late artist's decades-long career, most of which under communist oppression and socialist realism.

A self-taught photographer, Nenshati was the type of author who followed the most important events of the city of Shkodra, northern Albania, the various democratic movements of the '90s, moments of important turn of events, the resumption of religious celebrations and the reopening of churches and mosques.

In 1993, Nenshati photographed the visits of Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta to Albania.

In an interview with U.S photographer Stan Sherer who pictured Albania's transformation in the early 1990s as communism was collapsing, Nenshati described working as a photographer under communism as the most difficult part of his life because of lack of freedom.

"I have always made photos. But I have never been free. We were always told what to do. We had to work with the pickaxe in order to build socialism, and to fight with the rifle to protect our country from the capitalists and revisionists surrounding us. We couldn’t create anything. We were exploited, as if we were merely tools," Nenshati is quoted as saying in Sherer's book.

The exhibition opens on Friday, June 22 at the Marubi museum in Shkodra, northern Albania.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 15 - Thousands of Muslim adherents celebrated Eid al-Fitr - one of the most important days of the religion which breaks the one-month-long fasting of Ramadan- on Friday in Tirana.

Eid al-Fitr comes after a month of abstinence and sacrifices from believers. Religious leaders of the Albanian Muslim Community called for charity and support towards those in need, the poor and the vulnerable.

The Martyrs of the Nation Boulevard, at the centre of Tirana, became the gathering point for a big number of believers to listen to their religious leaders.

“The believer with the utmost confidence is the one with the highest moral,” Skender Brucaj, head of the AMC, said in a public speech.

Brucaj, in calling for the protection of the elderly, poor and unprotected, also told Muslims in the boulevard that “no one is a true believer until he’s taken care of others like they do themselves.”

Believers prayed again this year at the main boulevard, while the new Namazgah Mosque, or Great Mosque of Tirana, which is also going to be the biggest mosque in the Balkans once completed, is being built a few blocks away.

Muslims in Albania have access to their objects of cult in every neighborhood and nearby every community, while their numbers have increased in the past few years.

Nonetheless, Albania is famous in Albania and the world for its religious tolerance and cohabitation, while its history has yet to see any religious-based conflicts.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 14 - The Opera, Ballet and Popular Assembly National Theatre announced that Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece Swan Lake will return at the Palace of Congresses as the most popular and successful show of the ballet troupe from last season.

Swan Lake was first staged in Albania on May 29, 2004, when it came from Russia to Albania to convey the immense emotions from the best known piece of Tchaikovsky’s trilogy.

At the time, it was a co-production with Bulgarian ballerina Dilyana Nikiforova, Yasen Valchanov, the decor was made from the Opera Theater in Rome, with Albanian artists on stage, staged by the choreographer Agron Aliaj and conductors Boris Spassov and Edmond Doko.Tchaikovsky was a great Russian composer of the romantic era, as well as a conductor and a professor.

His music is known for its Russian character, rich harmony and energetic melodies. His work has a more Western inspiration than his contemporaries, as they embody international elements intertwined with popular national melodies.

Tchaikovsky based his creative work on the legacy and traditions of Western Europe’s classic and romantic artists, particularly in that of German and French composers.

His most renowned ballet works include Swan Lake (1876), Sleeping Beauty (1889) and the Nutcracker (1892).
                    [post_title] => Palace of Congresses to host Swan Lake ballet for two nights 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 13 - World Music Day, celebrated on June 21 globally, will find the capital with a special musical event at the Bunkart 1 Museum, at Mount Dajt.

The event, titled Bunk’Music, will start at 7pm in what is known as the Bunkart Room Hall, where artists such as Marsela Cibukaj & Band and All In Band will perform.

Further on, at 8pm at the Bunkart Park, fans will have the opportunity to watch live the Argentina-Croatia match lon a giant screen, accompanied by cold beers and barbeque for those staying.

After the match ends, the event will be transferred to the Bunkart1 forest, where live entertainment will be performed by live rock band Jericho and Vitmar Basha & Band.
                    [post_title] => Tirana to celebrate World Music Day at Dajti Mountain
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                    [post_date] => 2018-06-15 13:32:14
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 14 - Polish archaeologists in Albania said they discovered the over 2000-year-old Illyrian city of Bassania in Albania.

The fortress discovered by the scientists was thought to be destroyed by the Romans at the beginning of our era and its ruins were considered to be natural rocks until now.

The city was unexpectedly found in Shkoder, Northwestern Albania.

Although not completely sure yet, scientists have reason to believe the ruins belong to the city of Bassania, which was described by Roman historian Livy (59 BC - 17 AD) during Roman battles with the last King of Illyria, Gentius.

During May archaeologists uncovered part of the city’s walls and gate.

“The defensive structures were erected from well-fitted, huge stone blocks,” said Prof. Piotr Dyczek, head of the extradition and director of the Antiquity of Southeastern Europe Research Centre of the University of Warsaw.

Three meter wide defensive walls also led to two bastions, which were also uncovered - their external parts were made of profiled stone blocks while the space between them was filled with small stones and earth.

Dyczek said this kind of defensive construction discovered is typically Hellenistic, while the dating is also supported by other objects discovered near the walls, such as coins and ceramic vessels from IV-I century BC.

From these findings, archaeologists have deducted the city functioned at the time of the Illyrian kingdom, which ceased to exist after Roman invasion.

“In recent years, we have begun to look around Shkoder for settlements and fortresses that were its economic and military base. Thanks to the use of various methods, including non-invasive ones, we have located relics of a huge ancient city,” described Prof. Dyczek.

To researchers’ surprise, the city appears to have been quite bigger than the ancient Shkodra, as massive stones surrounded an area of about 20 hectares.

However, researchers said they wonder about the lack of information from travellers from few hundred years ago for the city.

“This silence of the travellers, who described the other, even small sites and individual ruins with extraordinary meticulousness, is quite puzzling. The reason could be that the city had ceased to exist so long ago that its name was forgotten,” one of the archaeologists said.

According to the archaeologists, the city had so far escaped attention due to its specific geological structure made of conglomerates and sandstones.

“After centuries of erosion, the remnants of stone structures looming on the surface resemble a natural geological structure coming out onto the surface, rather than structures intentionally built by man,” described on of the scientists.
                    [post_title] => Polish archaeologists unearth ancient Illyrian city nearby Shkodra
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 11 - In Tirana, the OSCE and art students organized and participated in an activity devoted to environmental crimes - they created a visual arts’ exhibition expressing their concern about environmental damage in the country.

Diplomats and artists demanded the cooperation of all parties to protect Albanian nature from irresponsible construction works.
A concrete mixer that blends flowers and trees - this was Monday’s main message in the exhibition titled "Environmental Crime," hosted at the University of Arts.
By choosing this theme, the capital’s emerging artists aimed to express their concern over the shocks the Albanian environment and nature is receiving from unplanned and redundant construction works.
The Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, Ambassador Bernd Borchardt, assessed the state Albania’s environment finds itself today as problematic and called for the commitment of all parties to fix it.

“United Nations reports show that environmental crime is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world. The young people reflected on it and turned it into artwork with a strong message that something is going wrong. By supporting this competition, we are supporting the government in this show, and we hope we can support all ways that society can deal with this crime,” said Borchardt.

He said that as far as Tirana is concerned, the environmental situation has both positive and negative sides.
“On one hand, the city has been cleaned a lot since I first came here. On the other hand, heavy traffic of vehicles causes more pollution. It's not as bad as in the winter of 2007-2008, when generators took over the city with noise pollution and many cars polluted the air we breathe,” said Borchardt.

“Concrete is penetrating the capital. Most people in Albania want to live in Tirana and need accommodation. But their plan has not been respected over the years. In the last 25 years, at least 160,000 illegal buildings were built, stepping over construction laws and affecting the city, and this can be felt to this day. I feel the heat that concrete mixers release,” said Borchardt.
Borchardt spoke about Tirana’s environmental situation at the exhibition’s inauguration, at the FAB Gallery of the University of Arts.
“The messages in student works are strong and clear. These are events that affect and revolt us. Damage to the environment is a local challenge that requires global response, but students have brought their own experiences and this makes their works very tangible,” said Ardian Isufi, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts.

This is the second year in a row that the University of Arts becomes a host of competitive exhibitions with prominent themes - last year’s themes were “Coping with the Past” and “Violent Extremism.”

As the students present in the exhibition said, artists believe that visual arts can better attract the attention of citizens.
Last year, the exhibition was about the necessity of facing extremism as it works against art by destroying sculptures, libraries, and paintings.
Art, they claim, can send their messages against crime and violence, just as it has done through the centuries.
                    [post_title] => Art takes on environmental crime in students’ exhibition  
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            [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi 

 

Vladislav Bajac looks as if he could have been anything he wanted in life - painter, rock and roll star, zen master...anything; but he decided to be a man of the written word and eventually found himself in Tirana, at a time visits from Serbs continue to be uncommon and are regarded with awe on the one hand, and a certain disbelief on the other.

Among the crowd of bibliophiles who gathered at the Tirana Times bookstore to hear him share bits and pieces of his life, Bajac is introduced as an author, translator and publisher. Later, he tells me he also worked as a journalist.  

As an author, Bajac has brought seven novels to life, as well as two books of poetry and three books of short stories. The first, Which way Leads To People, was published when he was 18-years-old and his face still slightly cringes when being asked about it. He stayed away from writing for sixteen years after that. 

“It is difficult to say something more about my long life; when I write I realize how long it has been,” he replies, when asked whether he’d like to add something to his short introductory bio for the public.

 

As, during that same evening, we are facing each other at the lobby of his hotel over a sugar-free, objectively bitter macchiato, longer parts of his life start being shared and I realize it must indeed be difficult to say all that much about such an artistically rich life in a few concise sentences. After all, life cannot be made into a Japanese, short-form haiku and Bajac knows that better than anyone else, having received two international awards for his poems in the genre in Tokyo at the start of the nineties.  

And yet, some themes start surfacing as he expands more on specific areas, such as his 25-year-old career as a publisher at the Geopoetika publishing house, his way to Eastern religions and the way they influenced his personal and professional life, some of his best stories with other internationally known authors he has the luck to call friends, and how to remain optimistic in a tense global reality. 

Stories about the Geopoetika Publishing House start naturally when, having visited Belgrade only a few days ago, I tell Bajac the number of bookstores in the Serbian capital is impressive. 

Bajac says his journey as a publisher started simply as a way to stay connected with the world in what then was the very end of Yugoslavia. In a city where the bipolar rule of two major publishing houses “doesn’t leave enough space for other, brilliant publishers anymore” however, he and his team decided to give life to new books, mainly from young Serbian and international authors, that could appeal to both populism and elitism.

“At the very beginning I only had two ideals: not to be ruined, to continue to exist as a publisher,” he says, half-heartedly entertained by the fact writers and publishers now have to think twice before taking up the art-form, “and the other was choosing books that were not that popular, but would reach a big audience while retaining the same, high publishing standards.”

He managed to do that by picking up on young unrecognized writers through his sixth writer’s sense - he tells me his latest find is a 26-year-old girl with a brilliant novel - and by using his network of existing and upcoming writers, many of which have become an exclusivity of Geopoetika in translation. 

“In the end, we are in the position to be proud of something. It might not be a best-selling story, but at least it’s good literature.”

After saying that, Bajac goes on to share a story about Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish 2006 Nobel winner whom he’d known and translated before becoming globally famous, convincing that, with the right outlook, sometimes good literature can become a best-selling story.  

Another element that helped him excel as a publisher by separating it from writing, kill his ego trips as a writer and spotter of other people’s talent and go through life caring about the ideal, rather than the business of writing, has been his early interest in far-Eastern philosophies. 

“Buddhism is a shortcut to becoming a wise guy and I became wise, I think so, much earlier than usual. It’s not praising myself, but it’s a very practical thing that happened to me. It helped put myself aside as a writer. That’s why, in general, writers are not good publishers. They cannot control their ego - but I do that. What is more important, I deal with the ego trips of other writers. It is difficult to deal with those who are famous, or important, because I often see my possible self in them and because, very often, they cannot control their ego!” 

The death of the ego, as he describes it, has caused divides between him and his friends throughout, but also seems to have offered him the best point of view in life.

For example, when Allen Ginsberg, the beat generation representative who also turned to meditation and Eastern philosophies at a later time in his life and who was a personal friend of Bajac, visited him in Belgrade, the world literature scholar turned haiku poet turned prominent literary figure in Serbia, told him that he was commercializing the way to the zen.

“He didn’t like that. He was quite angry and we fell apart for awhile,” Bajac reminisces. “After some year, however, when he came back to Belgrade for a book promo, we met and he told me: ‘Vlado, you were right.’ It was nice to hear that, although, it was never the point,” he smiles.

For Bajac, the point to being happy, partly learned from his involvement with Buddhism and partly, I assume, from growing up in a region like the Balkans, is to be naive and to be ‘stupid’.

His answer to this very difficult question of how one remains happy in a cynical world convinces me with its simplicity, because real things are inevitably cliche, and simple.

“People ask me how I’m doing and when I say ‘I’m fine,’ they are really surprised. So, I tell them ‘Don’t worry! It’s only because I’m stupid,’” and he immediately shakes his head, wanting to reassess his claim about himself as if it’s the highest praise.

“It’s just an energy; if you are eager to know, if you don’t think you picked up all the knowledge and that there is a lot of things that you don’t know and there are brilliant people everywhere - not many, but enough - it makes you positive, like it’s all worth doing.”

Bajac is planning to translate his most awarded and globally recognized book, Hamam Balkanija, in Albanian as well. The story, which evolves in two timelines, plays with two different forms of narratives and styles: the 16th century Ottoman Empire, and the present, and is even written in two different alphabets in the original Serbian language. Another one of his books, Hronika sumnje, is also being eyed by the Tirana Times publishing house for translation and publication in the country. When we talk about his visit here, doing literary work between the two countries seems to be the thing to excite Bajac the most, a man who, as I was proved, could have been anything, but luckily decided to be a man of the written word! 

 
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