Skip navigation.


Banka hrane

Srbija 2020

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

Imaginary ObjectImaginary ObjectSince moving into our stately new offices in Sarajevksa, I have had one nagging problem: my books keep falling down.

Stubbornly persistent, I line them up on my desk and, after an interval ranging between 5 minutes and 2 days, they all slide down onto the floor with an inelegant but highly eloquent series of thuds.

Inspiration, ever my traveling companion, suggested to me that what I needed were Book-Ends. Simple pieces of plastic, metal, or wood, they are placed strategically at the polar extremes of a small row of books (i.e, on my desk). The weight of the books firmly anchors the books in place and no series of thuds ever ensues after their application. Quite a marvelously simple invention, I think.

I have known book-ends all of my life. My father’s multifarious collection of art books was book-ended into regimental alignment; my mother’s record albums (see for those readers born after 1980) maintained standard perpendicular formation by means of book-ends. I had them in high school. I knew them in college. In short, I count on the knowledge of their physical existence.

That is, I counted on this fact until now.

As far as I can tell, and I have made a special study of this phenomenon, THERE ARE NO BOOK-ENDS IN SERBIA. This, naturally, brings me to a choice of several ontological conclusions: a) Serbian books do not fall down; b) gravity is only selectively applied in the Balkans; c) Serbian bookshelves are completely filled (no half rows requiring a book-end); d) my understanding of existence per se has become tenuous and untrustworthy.

Of this, only d) seems to conform to other patterns in My Life in Belgrade (an unpublished book consisting of pages which do not yet exist). Often have I tried to find certain objects or commodities in Belgrade which so far have eluded my grasp. Of these objects, more might be said at another time (although I am grateful to my friend Dan for causing Hellmann’s Mayonnaise to materialize on the shelves of grocery stores).

Existence is a knotty problem: if only I am aware of the substance of book-ends, can they be said to exist?

Jorge Luis Borges, in a story called "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," wrote about material objects that were willed into existence by thought. He called them “hronin.” Better still, he also spoke of objects which came into being through sheer hope: “Ur.”

In my mind, I fashion an image of the two L-shaped pieces of plastic which I need to hold up my books. I then transport that image into a shop. I enter the shop and ask about book-ends. No dice.

The nature of existence is quite fragile. I am much less certain today that book-ends ever existed at all. I am no longer sure if my father actually just stacked his books in a pile in the corner. The quizzical looks and raised eyebrows which greet my constant search for book-ends – and I am sure that I have seen 100 shops by now – make me question all of my initial assumptions about what IS and what IS NOT real. It is all very disconcerting.

And now, having said all of this, I can no longer remember where I parked my unicorn.

Soon and very soon

after many have read your blog, you may find what you need in Serbian country style.

Make them

Or bring the drawing to any carpenter craftsman in the old parts of the city, he will know by heart where you can go to have it made. "How is it made" - I love that show here; it's my only reminder that in this society (North America) some gadgets and thingamajiggers were actually made here before the "industries were relocated to maintain profitability". Ahem.

Ok, for a second I thought I should end it here, but, wait.

I really can't dig your philosophy ;) - and if there is one, let me know cause I'd like to read about it. It looks like Camus' absurdism here and there (I respect that one) but maybe I'm wrong... Anyways, let's see: if you do MAKE book-ends or have them MADE for you, that would be a pair of 1st Serbian book-ends ever. Then you photograph them and document them in this blog, thus - you immortalize yourself, Chris. ;)

Then one day you end up in Serbian history, maybe not as high as Dositej Obradovic who brought potato to Serbia, but certainly somewhere close by - that is, if we continue to read books as we keep eating potato, otherwise screw it.


There are two very distinct parts to your comment that both deserve a response: 1) your statement that I should MAKE them myself; 2) your question about philosophy.

In the first case, it needs to be said from the outset that I am a consumer. It is the nature of consumers to consume – not to create. I have been thus conditioned by years of exposure to marketing and advertising to the point where I believe that milk occurs naturally in boxes, eggs emerge in 10-packs from chickens (except US chickens that churn them out in dozens), and that spaghetti is grown on certain Italian trees.

In this way, it would be anathema for me, the Consummate Consumer, to make the book-ends that I need. Moreover, as I could have done so months ago, it would make me feel exceedingly stupid to do so now. It is like the guy waiting an hour for the bus – after waiting so long, he cannot merely give up and admit he lost his hour…

As to the question of philosophy, your mentioning Camus is interesting. The Absurdist philosophy (which Camus eventually repudiated) is linked to existentialism. If ultimately nothing has a meaning, then all attempts to assign meaning are de facto absurd.

I tend to think of it from another perspective, however. Reality is not absurd, but rather reality adduces to the absurd. Every action of every man contributes to a universal tapestry of cosmic absurdity. From time to time in individual absurd events, we think we perceive the quintessential example of a completely absurd being. But we are mistaken. What we see is only a small fraction of the whole. If we could perceive the whole tapestry at a glance, we would see that our actions, individually and collectively, only underscore the absurdity of man’s attempt to assign his own values and reasoning to a universe which cannot be comprehended in human terms.

(I am bound to take a good deal of flak for this…)

Take Kafka’s great wall for example: a worker spends his whole life working on building a single isolated piece of the wall. The futility of what he is doing constantly niggles, although he cannot know what it is. In the meantime, when we look at the Great Wall of China, we also must scratch our heads and ask ourselves: what’s the point?

An absurd component of a Greater Absurdity.

What does this have to do with my book-ends? Nothing whatsoever: quod erat demonstrandum.


Philosophy of consumers

If you say

It is the nature of consumers to consume – not to create.

you might be wrong in a single detail, at least. Nowadays, consumers tend to create their own consuming "object". Or, for the beginning, just pretend to do so, according to the prevailing offer by competitive producers.

Let us start from the car industry. An average consumer is offered to "create" his own selection of engine type, body painting, upholstery, stereo, and many other details. As a result, the consumer/buyer is able to get, in a sense, a unique product- his/her own combination of offered choices.

Further, if you want to buy a carpet (a "handmade" one), you will be encouraged to design your own colour "arabesque", including, for instance, "CBF" logo, as per your request.

Moreover, you can go to the middle of nowhere (but still remaining in Serbia), Tutin, and order a sofa with particularly specified dimensions to fit your home or office corner, choosing between 20 or 30 upholstery design solutions.

Thus, as a consumer, you become a creator, too.

Consumer Creator

The fact that the consumer is more and more often invited to “create” his/her own products is indisputable. Bespoke tailoring, fancy-schmanzy BMWs, and Nike’s make-your-own-shoe are just three examples. I would like, however, to go back to the basis of such an approach.

The Consumer Creator is actually quite rare. Although they APPRECIATE the possibility of creating their own products, most opt for the easy pre-packaged and pre-cut. The reason is quite simple: the consumer has the impression of being able to do something extra, but the price tag for the auto-design input is often quite high. Moreover, modern marketing also relies heavily on the fact that while individualism is important, it is far more important to FIT IN and/or BE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE.

This does not apply to the highest-price luxury sector where price is no object, obviously. But for lower price goods, the Consumer Creator merely eats up all of the profit margin in indulging his creativity. Or pays mightily not to.

The perception of individual input, in my view, is mostly bait; the cold steel of mass production, on the other hand, is the hook.


PS: I could get my mass market CBF logo also from Club Futbol de Brasil – Ronaldo has one already…

Book ends?! I'm not sure

Book ends?! I'm not sure about book-ends. I've never had use for them despite possessing (too) many books. I have 'sides' making sure my books never drop.

How about bookshelves? In the spirit of 'less is more' I'm very keen on opposing the Serbian tendancy of wasting space (huge cupboards, cumbersome furniture, things stuck behind doors etc). So last year I decided to bring a guy in to wall mount some nice wooden shelves (with sides). After a while I realised why so few people wall mount shevles. Yes, I had two lovely holes in my adjoining living room wall.

I noticed Hellmanns mayo on the shelves some months back. Well now that you are based in Sarajevska you will be able to spoil yourself with that well equipped supermarket that I mentioned in a previous blog.

Any chance your pal Dan can bring black pudding onto the Serbian market? Just joshing, still, I have a feeling that black pudding would catch on in Serbia.

just a thought...

maybe there are no book-ends in Serbia because the majority of people does not read books?

I mean, when you go to a library in novi Sad, there are book-ends. metal ones, and quite old, but they exist in reality!

But why don't you

make book-ends using - books? So you can have a row, where on the sides books are placed horizontally, one over another, while the center of the row consists of books placed vertically. No need for book-ends at all. Of course, you need more than few books for this to work, but if you have a small quantity of books, why puting them vertically in the first place? Sort them horizontally in that case. :-)
Oh yes, I suppose you don't like the look that way? Never mind, then you can make a photo of a perfect book shelf, and stick it on a wall. And put one you read on a table, for example.

Shaping Reality

This is probably one of my favorite solutions.

What I really require is not to actually find the book-ends such as I perceive them to be, but rather, to alter my own conception of book-ends as a form. In this way, I could use books (as you suggest), or my telephone, or any of the odd bits and paraphernalia strewn about my desk to suit the purpose. The end result would be the vertical alignment of books which I have been seeking in the first place.

I have tried the same principle with parking spaces. I adjusted my mental conception of what an actual parking place could be, posited a new image (i.e., a sidewalk, a garage entrance, etc.), and applied my car to the new space.

Unfortunately, the parking service was unable to make the same adjustments.


But why don't you

put your mental conception about parking lots on a paper, make a project and speak with the parking service. Considering the quality of people working there, I'm quite positive you could become master planner in parking service! :-) And once you achieve that, no worries that your mental adjustments will go unimplemented! :-)) (but the trouble is Belgrade is somehow built to accomodate 10% of its real population, I think we need to surface down and rebuild much of the city if we intend to solve the traffic & parking problems :-))))
Well, Mr. Chris, some nice hobby you have! :-)
P.S. If you're not already familiar with the Sim City video game, I suggest you try to play it. There you can plan the whole city as much as you like, no limits there at all! :-)


"Sarajevksa" iz Sarajevska

Fact and Fiction

Thanks for pointing this out.

From my side, however, I should point out that in positing the existence of a street called “Sarajevksa,” I am actually conjuring up a Faulkneresque imaginary landscape, like his Yoknapatawpha County in “The Sound and the Fury” and “Absalom, Absalom.”

The act of recasting an actual Belgrade street in the guise of a fictional locus is part and parcel of the main expostion in my posting. If I seek an imaginary object on an imaginary street, then I shall only be able to buy and display it in an imaginary office on an imaginary desk.


or maybe

it was just a typo :)


for the explanation Mr. Sichr Ramfer



Falling books

talking about books, are there any books about Kosovo on your bookshelf and what's your take on what is happening there?

Faith and Hope

Although the contents of my bookshelves have not been called into question here (and I shudder to think what the collective wisdom of the blogosphere would do with such a catalogue!), I will say that – yes – there are a few books about Kosovo on my shelves between the book-ends which I am sure to buy at Merkur soon (see Milan’s note below).

As to what I have learned from these books and from the daily news, commentators, kafana philosophers, and various interested and non-interested points of view to which I have been exposed about this question, I am at a loss to make any comment.

What I can say is that I know that I do not know. Behind this Socratic hedge lies no clever wisdom. The point of the matter is that I, as a media consumer, know a broad range of opinions on the subject, such that if I were to add one of my own, its validity would have only an infinitesimal relevance.

I can only go back to Borges and attempt to use the power of hope to cause, if at all possible, an Ur-Solution to materialize within the minds of the negotiators in Vienna, in the hearts of all parties affected and touched by the question. A solution in which everyone may be satisfied and one which will replace violence and accusations with cooperation and peace.

It is a matter of hope and faith that a balance in all things can be struck.



I think that the reason why

I think that the reason why book-ends are nonentities in Serbia pertains to culture. Think about it. Book-ends are the perfect exemplar of Anglo-Saxon culture.
While the Serbs would simply lean the last book on a semi-filled shelf against other books as a prop and not think about it anymore, the Anglo-Saxon will think about how books that fall down are an aggravation for many other people and that it would be great if something were invented to combat this terrible menace. Businesses pick it up, and there you go. If there is an aggravation - there is a market, and its remedy is the generator of money.
However, I think that a much more perceptive question would concern the fact that somebody can move to live in another country and lament the absence of book-ends. I do not mean to be insolent nor to offend you, but I find that level of alienation and dependence on mass produced artifacts of minor importance extremely disquieting. I mention alienation to refer to the alienation from authentic creativity, which is caused by the utter reliance on already produced objects and DIY thinking to solve even the most trivial and insignificant obstacles in life.

Authentic Creativity

“Nihil sub sole novum nec valet quisquam dicere ecce hoc recens est iam enim praecessit in saeculis quae fuerunt ante nos.” Ecclesiastes, 1:10.

By no means am I offended, as you suggest. On the contrary, I find that seeking a creative solution to my predicament is the best course of action.

What I find troubling, however, is the fact that you imply that book-ends are a fully exogenous anomaly. Surely all cultures which include written word and books will have adapted a means to store them or display them. In which case, these same cultures will have arrived at the same conclusions which all of the commentators here above and below have averred. That is, books may be displayed horizontally or vertically. If horizontal, no further supporting appliances are needed. If vertically, however, and in defiance of Gravity, some kind of support must be employed.

Let’s call them book-ends.


You are to be troubled

1. I wasn't aware there is an item which serves it's purpose, the "book-ends". This simple, yet powerfull gadget is really fascinating - the first look at the image you uploaded suggests it may solve the book storing troubles.
2. You made an information leakage - there is NONE of the gadgets solving book storing problems in book stores in Belgrade.
3. Is there anyone who can give me information where to raise some funds... I have some plans in organising a small manufacturing plant... :-)))

Exogenous Anomaly

Chris Farmer wrote:
What I find troubling, however, is the fact that you imply that book-ends are a fully exogenous anomaly. Surely all cultures which include written word and books will have adapted a means to store them or display them. In which case, these same cultures will have arrived at the same conclusions which all of the commentators here above and below have averred.

Let us consider another example. I am sure that many cultures have as part of their cuisine lettuce, or in Serbian "zelena salata". Moreover, I am sure that you have eaten lettuce in Serbia from a salad bowl on a plentiful dinner table. Taking a piece of lettuce from a salad bowl in Serbia is usually done by way of a fork or spoon, or the combination of both. This has always seemed a legitimate way of eating lettuce to me. However, in certain western countries, I have come across a special plastic tool designed especially for moving a piece of lettuce from the bowl to the plate. It is essentially a scissor-like mechanism, which supposedly makes eating lettuce much more comfortable as opposed to the strenuous use of forks and spoons.
My question is: How far will this go? Will there be a special tool and prop for every mundane activity in life? What is wrong with simple spontaneity?
We need more "bricolage". Bricolage is a postmodernist term used to describe the way language operates. It refers to the use of objects or tools in order to achieve tasks for which they were not designed. For example, it refers to using a brick in order to pin down a nail, rather than a hammer.
Perhaps you find that I am writing in an out-dated manner, bringing up issues that are irrelevant in today's gadget-oriented world. But our reliance on these gadgets must not become a given. It needs to be questioned and examined.


in nature, it usually end up with species extintion during abrupt shifts in environmental conditions. read Marovic's blog in Serbian to get a hint :)

Laisse les bricoleurs bricoler!

There is true passion in your plea for more DIY, and I am strongly in favor of it. However, what if I don’t WANT to do it myself? I have identified a personal need (i.e., book-ends) and now I wish to pay money to the craftsman and his company who will line the shelves with them…

I have been told (thanks Tony) that my rating as a consumer is somewhere between “oddball” and “marginal”. But I don’t believe that only I, among the millions of Serbs around me, have wondered how to keep my books from falling down.



Oh, you have opened up a Pandora's box, to use Koštunica's favourite syntagm. There are many problems with DIY in relation to authentic creativity, but that deserves a topic of its own - not merely a comment.
I did not mean to belittle your sincere craving for book-ends. But you have to admit that you have approached the topic somewhat pretentiously. You did not simply try to depict your despair as a result of your lack of book-ends; you sought to put it in a wider context and analyze the situation from a philosophical perspective. Thus, you should not take offence when somebody tries to challenge your parochial, consumerist purview.
We do not need book-ends in Serbia. We need to be nicer to each other.

Two quotes

"Thus, you should not take offence when somebody tries to challenge your parochial, consumerist purview."


"We need to be nicer to each other."

What's wrong with this picture?


Oh, come on!

I meant "parochial" in the sense of "I WANT BOOK-ENDS! I AM A CONSUMER".

I apologise if my comment insulted you. It was not my intention. Honestly.

Close Parentheses

My dear Doppelgänger (and I get the sense of talking to myself when I write this...),

No offense taken. No insult perceived.

In fact, I share your sense that we are overly dependent on gadgets and small inventions to carry out our daily lives. I, for one, do not remember how life was possible without the mobile phone or computer.

But I also acknowledge that while I am indeed dependent on them, I somehow enjoy this minor dependency.

I rely on the genius of others to provide small conveniences. And they rely on us to use them!


Wrong direction, Chris

You don't need to look for book-ends in 100 more shops throughout Belgrade. You might go in one particular place to order them. If you like acrylic glass (in Serbian: klirit), just type "klirit" in the, go to the shown address in Zemun, choose your favourite colour and thicknees you request, give them your drawings of L-sahaped pieces with dimensions you want...and come the next day to pick them up.

Btw, thanks for reminding me to do the same provision, because I'm aware of the same problem I have with my bookshelves, now.
For your surprise, I am having one singular, "prehistoric" piece of book-end, made of aluminium, lying forgotten somewhere with my very poor collection of carpentry tools (L-profile useful as right angle tool).

PS: What do you think of anglo-american type of waterbasin, with left faucet for hot and right faucet for cold water only? I still have one (originally mounted in late 1950-s) in my flat in the middle of Belgrade! (of course we use only the right facet, because the left/hot one had been disconected before I was at the age of two).
Until I replace the above mentioned waterbasin (with a modern one), I'll remain deprived of its facility completeness, imagining what an experience must be when you wash your left hand with hot and your right hand with cold water.

This I saw

at the army base in Kingston, Ontario. I worked for the CF for a couple of weeks with another bunch of 'balkanians' and this waterbasin was by far the most mysterious thing we found in the army life here. Positioned strategically in the officers' washrooms, large and bright, very clean, with about six sinks in each, all with two-spout basins. We didn't bother to ask anyone credible where this invention came from, but I figure it's a legacy of old Irish building construction.

It's a wicked experience for sure. Especially shaving: you wash the blade with cold water, then warm it up. Besides, the taps were pointed outwards, so whoever made it didn't really think that mixing hot & cold water would make any sense.

Life must have been simpler and more philosophical back then.

Chris, the book ends on the

the book ends on the serbian market don't exist because the books in Serbia used to be bought by the length unit, ie one would first buy a shelf and then buy appropriate quantity of Tolstoy to fill it...very simple, you go to the shop and buy 1.2m of Tolstoy :D:D...and people who buy books to read them usually don't care to put them in order (like me ;))

oh, yeah, try Thomy mayo (preferably with olive oil) to make coleslaw. It's heaven :)


For me, book ends were somthing you saw in movies. I first saw one reading a Mickey Mouse comic. I guess that means that even if they exist in Serbia they are owned by Special People.

Tolstoy by the Meter

"A Truckload of Art
From New York City
Came rollin down the road
Yeah the driver was singing
And the sunset was pretty"
- Terry Allen Truckload of Art

And by the way, a Comparative Study of Mayonnaise is in the works...


Please, don’t question

Please, don’t question your perception of reality

so, everything is in order :)


Serbs have too many books and too little shelves, that's the problem, they usually stack them all over. I remember having seen bookends 20 years ago, but God knows if they still exist, perhaps some fancy ones (in the form of busts or what have you.

PS, try Simpo, the furniture store, they seem to advertise some "držači za knjige" on their site.


...but let's celebrate after we see if they have them in stock.


Oh, I've had the very same problem...

...with my tons of books (I've have some book-ends brought from Oxford!), until I discovered "MERKUR" - they have about 10 or more different sorts of book-ends. Just go to Bežanijska kosa to their ultra-hyper-mega-hype market and shop till you drop, or however that stupid slogan goes.

Dear Milan, dear Malesevac,

Bewteen the two of you, I think that my sense of Reality might be completely restored.

Unfortunately, it will not prevent my future attempts to will new and different hronin into existence, but - as the preponderance of evidence posted here above seems to indicate, I can make the rest of it myself...

Thank you.