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Srbija 2020

100 Years Ago Hannah Arendt Was Born

HannahHannahExactly on this day, the year of fire horse according to Chinese astrology

Japanese women who were born that year (and the previous Fire Horse year, 1906) battle superstitions about themselves all the time. Fire Horse women are called dangerous, headstrong, and are seen as deadly to men. This may sound quaint to western ears, but the 1906 Japanese herd was subjected to poverty and starvation because they could not marry. The 1966 herd has it a bit easier, but they still fight superstitions. Chinese tradition also sees the Fire Horse as a special sign entailing either spectacular good luck, or terrible bad luck; they consider that nothing about the Fire Horse occurs in moderation. .

It is never too early or too late to read this author, in any language you manage and see for yourself if this supoerstition is true

This is what i wrote some years ago

Hannah Arendt in Belgrade

I am not a philosopher, I am not even an expert on Hannah Arendt, I just translated one of her books many years ago ( Men in Dark Times) , read another few and yes, published The Origins of totalitarianism during the bombing of Serbia in 1999.
H A was published first in Serbian back in 1972: at that time I lived and studied in Milan at the Universita Statale. I was reading Heidegger, Marx, Mao Tse Tung, Che Guevara. I missed her and it was a good thing I did. I was a red communist bourgeoisie coming from Tito’s false dreamland living on cold war between East and west. I was a  Movimento Studentesco activist, an  leftist  group fighting against the institutions for a utopian commune…I had only a vague feeling every now and then that something was deeply wrong with my life and ideology when it came to practical issues of my small woman’s life.
I wrote many years ago, when the first wars started here in my backyard: Ana Karenina in Belgrade. For the first time in my life I understood that poor woman whose beloved one went as a fool to fight for Serbia…as our men here did. Though I would not have thrown her under a train as Tolstoy did, I could understand her feelings. Feelings which today would have turned her into a  feminist, pacifist. Now I am writing with even more presumption, after the wars have ended in my backyard: Hannah Arendt in Belgrade.
But she was here, she really was, in the very crucial moments we needed her, of our misery that the Serbs called Glory. She was here as a terrible ghost from the front page of the Serbian edition of Men in Dark Times, a woman writing by the candle light with a skull next to her pen. I was there, I was writing while being bombed, with the skull in my head, be it Albanian be it Serb and I even made a film saying how Hannah Arendt was with me in Belgrade all of a sudden, against my own will. To be honest, I was a political idiot, until very recently, I was even a cultural snob when I translated her essay on Isaac Dinessen back in 1987 just because I have translated Karen Blixen first. I translated her as a woman who had my taste and as a woman whose husband said that Hannah Arendt was the greatest philosopher of 20 century. And I  paid the price of my snobbery and superficiality. When ten years later all those things she was talking about in The origins of Totalitarianism  happened in my backyard, my ignorance stabbed me . I felt guilty and I as my friend and translator of that book put it: maybe if only people have had read that book in advance we could have stopped the war. So we decided to publish that book. During the bombings of Serbia, after many years of translating it editing it, doubting of her and our knowledge and language. Our living Men here in Dark times told us: she would  have turned herself twice in her grave had she seen a feminist publishing house publishing her. Those men who admired her as somebody who is not a woman writing, those men however didn't dare publish her in our dark times.
Of course she would have been very surprised at the turn of the events: but not only of feminism,  but also of a third European war in the 20 century, right in the heart of Europe, of a global war, of Serbs standing out as nazis against the whole world as Massai tribe…she would have been surprised of the general situation much more I guess than that of two women publishing her during a fascist regime which was NOT totalitarian since we managed to publish her without serious consequences.
We managed to print only 100 copies and then our printing shop  suffered some collateral damaged: broken windows and men workers be it war deserters or drafted soldiers had to run off…So we had only 100 copies. My God we had paid so much royalties in advance…but never mind we had lost so many other things during the wars, money becomes the last yardstick of value or survival.
I remember the first hundred copies, they were cherished and praised, we thought, my friend and I: please leave us alone, we will get arrested….but that day, in the midst of ecological catastrophe, in Belgrade during the last days of heavy raids, no water, no electricity, no petrol… a man from Novi Sad,  ( 100 km away from Belgrade) came on a bicycle at our doorstep begging us to sell him two copies instead of one we promised and offering us 2 monthly pays. Of course we refused both, we gave him only one copy for a price of few deutsche marks  and we gave him a lot of water for free. We even offered him to take a shower since at that moment our part of the city had water. He went away somehow offended.
One example which H Arendt wrote came recurrently to my mind:
  she said that true solidarity and friendship between a Jew and a non Jew during nazi Germany in Germany was to ask your friend, the Jew, how are you as a Jew, not to be politically correct, polite  or whatever…To name the differences which matter on the ground when they do…she said it…I saw it work, with constructed enemies, with the sick…the difference that makes the difference is the only difference that has to be named and renamed if necessary…
For me, the difference of having read Hannah Arendt, even though superficially and passionately made me survive intact.

Somehow I have a feeling that neither Hannah Arendt, nor Karen Blixen would have approved of me or liked me: gaps of history brought us together and put them in my hands, and that is the best they could have got here. Only a big mouthed lamenting feminist could understand properly the amount of their courage in dealing with men in history and privately as their lovers, without one single sigh. Those women, as my mother, as courageous revolutionaries, suffragettes and humanists who denied their femininity as the first class issue in front of the general inclusive political issues paved our way to the second wave of feminism and women’ s emancipation. The famous Arendt's remark about what would women loose if they gain as women, the famous Blixen’s sentence: it is worth to get a syphilis to become a baroness,  in a diametrically opposed ways claim that there is not limit of price for  a woman to get what she needs: lenient lines of   gender constructed differences in the Arendt's  case, or false pride and shyness  on the road of desire and free will in Karen Blixen . Our second generation of  brave women absorbed it as water ,  as  a caryatid of emancipation but denying it as their method. Thus our daughters are doing the same, they are denying our work they absorbed as water, as a language as a culture from the second wave generation, that of women being women as the first issue, and are going back to their grandmothers closing the circle, but breaking it s vicious nature.

Hannah Arendt today  must be read not in her own times but by deconstructing her an applying ahead of her own times,  in our times.
The fact that we are reading her only now in Serbia is a clear sign of our Dark Arretrati Tempo is  at work.
We fell back into a gap in the history where all the refugees and outcasts from history meet: speaking different languages, ideas, performing different cultures which somewhere in sometimes were kicked out of he mainstream. That is our common political background.
The fact that Hannah Arendt and I met in the nineties in Serbia is actually a science fiction back to the future encounter, as her was with Isaac Dinessen, as Karen Blixen s was with many fine ladies and gentlemen from all the times. The two  story tellers of the gap in the time,  relentless witnesses of the crack of the systems and my personal account of them,  a dead end. But also a place where all their knowledge and experience flew into the troubled ocean of new age wars in former Yugoslavia: global world wars  and glocal petty tribal killings.
I had to deconstruct their tales and knowledge of humankind, violence, love and evil bound together, because I had no other options to survive but understand the complexity of human nature. And build a clear conscience and an active mind.
H Arendt would have never liked me as I said; a frivolous in-between  European leftist in high heels, with no conscience of class race or gender. Nor would probably I, had I been given the chance choose her as mentor among other philosophers. She would never chosen me as a student, I didn't speak Greek but sang Janis Joplin. And as her non representative student, illicit spokeswoman I must say that the first thing I did reading her was to deconstruct her: I had to safe her ideas and insights from quotidianity, from political current interpretations. Probably I did her a lot wrong, I misquoted her very likely here and there as much as I mispublished her. But since things worked in Serbia in those days  as a powerful manipulation of history of lies and deceit of nearly all political sides, paradoxes became a way out. Without a state,   double stateless  being women in a male patriarchal state, free of state, only women were free to publish her. Without a dottrina to fight for,  lands to die for, women had more chances to survive. Since language of hate became dominant, without a moral patria we all had to deny our first language: the use of the words became facultative, without reference or control. Everybody could say anything : be it truth be it a lie, it would pass unnoticed be it in good or in ill faith. Only power and killings mattered.
In the official propaganda Serbs, at the end of 20th century were proclaimed Jews of the second world war being at the same time compared to the nazis by the rest of the world of the third war in Europe in the same century.
I stripped H Arendt of concepts and words dating to her context and applied them to ours trying to follow her method for the dark times, be it only by a candlelight. Her concept of factual majority treated in a concrete political situation as a minority I applied to women in war in fromer Yugoslavia. Her concept that only once you transgress you become visible I applied to all those who refused the regime and  thus were made criminals, urging them  to transgress.
Her definition of totalitarianism different from fascism defined my country and my dictator so that I didn't flee leaving to him my country but made him flee. The easy parallel between the nazis and the Serbs actually was doing more good to the bad Serbs then to the good ones. All lies work that way . By making the subtle difference between different evils one can deal with it as with a sickness, the diagnosis is the decisive political moment here. Karen Blixen was close to dining with Hitler ,  saying later on that the most interesting man to spend a night with  would have been Stalin:
I realized that Milosevic is only a shadow of Tito, a pale continuity of a huge criminalized state which at that time nobody  cared to defy. And that Tito’s country was a fake of Stalin s crime…and so on backwards…
Seeing my ex president in Hague, seeing him preach with self assurance of somebody unjustly accused, of a hero, representing a celestial nation unjustly persecuted on earth….I must say I cry and shiver. The better he is the worse I am: I hear my father’s language in my mother tongue , my  once upon life and values as his standards and yardstick, my illusions set in an international court as those of a delusionial woman. Only once on screen, so far away from me I am close to him and responsible for his doings even though I was against them. They were part of me but they will not stay so, I will cry them out, sweat them out, wash them in salty waters. As one cannot see the good things in one’s life until they are over the same goes for the bad ones: but both the good and the bad ones have one thing in common, they both just go bye …and you are left on your own to be judgmental as much as possible when it comes to one’s own self and least of it when it comes to the Other. Only by becoming the Other one can be the First: we Serbs  who survived our wars are all most and first of all the dead Others from Otherlands. The only cure for one s own life is that which is made in one  own’s den out of the same plant; poison in small doses is a medicine.