Perhaps the most important thing I learned from Kiš is the responsibility to the time and society in which I live. That is, his ethics and his morally uncorrupted stance. Everything else was less important. The style, metaphorical language and story line, all these are just patterns on the covers of encyclopaedia of decay that we will never finish.
I found a green globe full of water and the golden sands of Una in a lilac shrub near Unadžik. The river bank had the scent of river weeds and fish. Of sedge that suddenly burst out above the water surface when the water level lowered. The smell of fish that spread around the banks was not tangible. We just imagined that was how fish smelled and that this smell soaks into the lush vegetation full of grasshoppers, mosquitoes, plant lice and night moths. The smell was strong and I could imagine the fishy world that was later inhabited by people and their lives.
The first closeness are fish, frogs and turtles. To hold a fish in one's hands is the most genuine of sensations. Afterwards its smell remains on your hands and you smell with contentment. The most beautiful is the trout: streamlined fish bone with red and black specks covering a muscular body. They have a fatty fin just like grayling and salmon. The one with the fatty fin is the fish nobleman - distinguished and different from the ordinary bleak, barbel and nase. The one with the fatty fin has always been tastier than the other fish. This admiration of fish is a strange sensation. And the wish to put this sensation in your stomach is even stranger. The most interesting organ fish have are their gills. They are red - almost bloody - and sharp with small teeth that can cut you. Then there is the swim bladder, with which they keep in balance when in motion. And of course, let us not forget the scales. These scales are everywhere when you are cleaning fish in the water. They are on your hands and sticking to your skin. They are all over you clothes as if trying to prolong their short-lived memory. The scales are small mirrors in which people can see themselves, the river and all things inhabiting the river banks, limy embankments, sandy shallows (pjeskari), deep hollows (dubljaki) or green pools (zelenci) that are formed in parts of the river. In them, we can see how awkward we look when sliding through the water because the body of a fish is irreplaceable, athletic and exquisite in comparison with the human body.
If you are a true fisherman, it is difficult to await the morning when you go to the river. In particular, if you love fly-fishing, buoy fishing and using the surface fly, which is almost impossible at night unless you have the sight of a kingfisher or when the moonlight illuminates the water like in Disney films. The passion for fishing is a special one and it marks you for your entire life.
The green globe was full of water and the golden sands of the Una river. It was an Aleph in which I placed the world of my childhood. It is a point in time and space where we meet all the events, live beings, objects and other phenomena in natural harmony. First of all, there is the river: water and fish. Grass, trees and frogs. Turtles that I encountered on the banks of small streams some hundred meters before they converge with the rivers Una or Krušnica. Snakes come later when I move away from the water and start exploring the land. Later when I climb the Hum hill, where they excavated silver once long ago, according to Lopašić. To the hilltop of Ravnik, which is on Hum. There where they dug out deep tunnels for the means of the partisan film. When filming was finished, the tunnels were overgrown with grass and accumulated rainwater teeming with tadpoles. Someone once said that they are holes that were created by aircraft bombshells from the World War II. It was an undisputable truth and we believed it like in the presence of the Sun, Moon and the Una river. I borrowed the green globe from Borges. When I say Borges, I think of Danilo Kiš. When I say Borges, perhaps I also think of that scene from May 1992 when we stood behind freight wagons riddled with holes at the railroad station in Bosanska Krupa gazing at the burning and shot-through building of the railroad station. The bullets have two colours on them: red and black. We should not confuse the colours on the silver shirt of the bullet with those covering the body of stream trout. They are two separate and unrelated worlds. Before that building was burned down, I took the Selected Poems by Borges, which I have been reading for the last 19 years.
When I say Kiš, it reminds me of my parents' bedroom and their wedding bed, on which I read 7000 Days in Siberia by Karl Steiner in just one day. This was in the year 1983. First I read Steiner and then I heard on the third programme of the Sarajevo radio station some excerpts from Kiš's radio novelette or radio novel. What fascinated me most was the phrase he is repeating throughout the novel: Dear Lord! It is the glitter, wonderment (as Kundera says) which is felt by the reader when reading although they do not want and are they able to explain the sensation.
The voice of the actor was deep and impressive. Exaltation, pathos and sincerity. The story was extraordinary and its atmosphere spurned me to start looking for other books by Kiš. It was a long time ago and since then I have read an entire sea of superfluous books, which I quickly excommunicated from my memory. As I later found out, all written and important books (including those from the very start) are compiled in one great encyclopaedia. Just like the stations on the Yugoslav railway, bus, ship and airport timetables of Eduard Sam. I can only come to the rock bottom of things and live through the nineteen nineties on the Balkan hills in Bosnia and Herzegovina with such new encyclopaedia. To live through war and its atrocities by hunting continuity with the past. And this past will from now on, for everyone who has taken part in the war, be the period until April 1992. A miraculous borderline even higher than the Berlin wall. This a most utopian feat: a bridge through time and space. It is a bridge inaccessible to anyone. It is a virtual bridge constructed of words, with the help of which two time periods will meet as water. For the bridge is nothing more than a temporary accommodation. You cannot live on the bridge.
Perhaps the most important thing I learned from Kiš is the responsibility to the time and society in which I live. That is, his ethics and his morally uncorrupted stance. Everything else was less important. The style, metaphorical language and story line, all these are just patterns on the covers of encyclopaedia of decay that we will never finish. Like the ten-fold colours of the river Una that further divide into hundreds of nuances. Like the colours in the green globe with room for the missing world. With its fish, frogs, turtles and snakes. There will be little room for people and their biographies. It will be a personal and perhaps irrelevant story in which irrelevance is interwoven with the tendency to present everything – with the most powerful creative impulse, just as Bruno Shulz wrote in his book The Republic of Dreams. In short - it will talk about fish in the city, about fish and the evil of humanity, It will talk about grass and barges on the river Una, about war crime since it is impossible to write a book only about the river and plants. I tried to escape ethic literature because I grew tired of it but I had no success. Additionally, I have even realized that this is (for me) the only possible way to write after Omarska and Srebrenica. That is, if I want to be sincere to literature. It is my Aleph, Timetable and Encyclopaedia. It sounds almost fictitious: Kiš, the river Una and Bosnia. The Encyclopaedia of trauma.
pjeskar – part of the river with a yellow-coloured sandy bottom
dubljak – river depth
zelenac – at some places the river makes pools – small green-coloured ponds