On communism and nationalism, literature and politics, Slovenia and Yugoslavia, pain and God
translated from Slovenian by Erica Johnson Debeljak
Boris A. Novak: Despite the generational difference, we have a common heritage: your childhood and youth were also marked by the radical political engagement of your father, one of the best known Slovenian leftist intellectuals of the first half of the 20th century. Although Dušan Kermauner was one of the founders of the Slovenian Communist Party, the Party later marginalized him, probably because they could not fully trust critical intellectuals. In your autobiographical books, you have written a great deal about the long-term influence that your father had on the formation of your own fundamental characteristics. How, from today’s perspective, do you see the paradoxical, dramatic, and probably tragic fate of your father? Allow me to publically say here that, during the Second World War, your father saved my cousin, Leo Čepič, who we used to call Moric in family circles, then barely out of childhood, from death in a German concentration camp. For that reason, I feel a sentimental gratitude to your father, though I never met him personally.
Taras Kermauner: My self-reflection, the backbone of my thought process, relies on radical self-criticism, and also on the critique of the ideas, stances, and people that I value. As a child I adored my father, as an adolescent I rejected him, and later I found him difficult; when he died, I was relieved, because an unpleasant burden had fallen from my heart. I will never have a serene relationship with my father; he defined me too much, hurt me too much. Only now when I’m as old as he was at the time of his death do I dare to admit that he never liked me. I was not a child who was easy to like; but I fear that he couldn’t – and didn’t – like any child. He couldn’t tolerate children. He wanted to have listeners and followers. I, of course, knew how to be an excellent listener – I listened to the playwright, Ivan Mrak, for hours and hours in total silence – but a follower never. Because the Party expelled my father before the war, he no longer had people to lead. The Party, which jailed him after the war, so pressured and disoriented him that he no longer knew who or what to serve. He resorted to historical positivism, to the archives, to information and facts; but this didn’t satisfy him. By nature he was a man of faith and, by preference, a prophet.
Because I am similar to him, I try to succeed where he failed; also in the role of a prophet. He assumed this role when he was twenty years old as the Party made every member a prophet; between the wars they were like members of an apostolic elite. I, on the other hand, needed half a century to find the proper role and stance of the prophet. In the same way that he was an absolutist, I was reticent; I clung to relativism, search, destruction; I searched with myself and reconstructed myself until the very end. I wanted to go through all of his defeats, I wanted to consciously absorb them, experience them, think them through, and then turn them around so I could achieve what he did not: not a victory over surroundings and society, but a victory over myself, over my lack of faith.
Was my father my primary competitor? Maybe; it is possible to think that this is true. I did not like him, but I always loved him. He is my consciously accepted destiny; I need to achieve his redemption. Not an easy task, as he was strongly unhappy, and experienced the maximum lack of redemption in his life. He lived defeat. Thank God that my redemptive theology allowed me an exit from the binary opposition of life-death, defeat-victory. Or else I would have remained trapped in the hellish circle created by my father and the Party. Many people do not understand how I am not an anti-communist. I am not because I conquered both my hatred and my love for my father. I went through both passions-emotions and came out on the other side. To a place where the Party can no longer define me. To a place where I am free in my redemptive God. To a place where I am his co-creator, which is the only proper freedom, as God exists beyond the world and oppositions that restrict man to cyclical thinking.
In Buchenwald, my father saved more than a few lives, mostly young people. After the war, some of them paid him back with interest, naming him as a Gestapo agent. Because he was not trained in the art of stoic scepticism, and too anchored in the naiveté of Marxist and domestic Slovenian eschatology, he was injured by human nature; he was mortally wounded when his then friends and colleagues completely ostracized him. (Only three remained loyal to him, and they deserve mention here: Vlado Kozak, Stane Krašovec, and France Klopčič.) We must not forget that the Party was not suspicious of everyone; some bought off their suspicion by becoming reliable executioners of their comrades. When the Ljubljana political police interrogated me in 1958 and 1959, a former Dachau inmate headed the organization; this was the same fellow who personally interrogated Veljko Rus.
My father spoke very little about his memories of Buchenwald; it was too painful for him. Allied bombs killed his last friend, an inmate, when he was picking turnips in a field near Weimar. When they brought in the shattered body parts of the dead, Dušan took into his hands each head, each torn apart and bloody piece of the many bodies, in order to find his friend and put him back together again. In fact, it’s strange that people who experience such things do not go mad.
For me, the German killing camps have been a central theme since I was small; since the summer of 1945 when I waited day after day in Congress Square for the truck that would bring my father back from Germany. Does it not seem unusual, characteristic of one-dimensional Slovenian anti-communism, that there were so many plays written on the theme of the Dachau trials and the post-war jails, but so few about the German camps? For home guard writers, the camps to which Rupnik’s men sent the partisans do not exist nor do the Germans or the occupation. Today’s Germany echoes with self-critical self-reflection about the German persecution of the Jews and the concentration camps; did Slovenians not persecute Jews? We were also responsible for the liquidation of Jews during the war. As long as we attribute all the guilt to the masters – to the Germans – then we are serfs. A serf is always innocent because he is, by definition, not the responsible party. Only when we renounce the values of Purity that inspired Fascism, and the Innocent-Victim paradigm that inspired hypocrisy, do we have the possibility of becoming free autonomous individuals.
B.A.N.: In the book of memoiristic essays Zdrobljena zrcala [Shattered Mirrors] (1981), you described with great literary attention the atmosphere of the first post-war years in Ljubljana. You wrote about the friends of your youth and their intense personal, intellectual, and spiritual maturation in the midst of a gray socialist society demanding subordination to one over-riding truth. Because those years, in many ways, defined your relationship to the world, in which your deep critical stance is most characteristic, I would ask you please to briefly describe your internal turbulence during these decisive years.
T. K.: Here I would just like to point out a few details about the post-war era. I wonder: was the socialist society of that time really only gray? It was gray, but not only gray. The journalistic-political style-world was bland, tortuous, boring, one-sided, subservient, and without inspiration, but it did not succeed in suppressing all other elements. Communism was not only Stalinism; it also emerged from a grand dream of humanity after and about the New World. The Soviet model dried up that dream and made it rigid, and yet under the pressure of violent dullards, a certain vitality and determination flourished. The youth brigades were more than just Polpot-like exercises. They were an explosion of will, enterprise, force, mostly collective. It is probably safe to say that Slovenians never experienced such communal pride before this time, at least the portion of the population that was victorious, and that was the majority, or at least the most visible. May 1 parades and similar performances were not just bad theatre and caricature. For me and my friends, Primož Kozak and Dominik Smole, they were almost exclusively absurdity, violence, caricature, but this was not true for everyone. Today we forget about the variety immediately after the war; this means that we ourselves use standards that are too one-sided, black-and-white, dry. While such simplification was understandable at the time we were fighting against the Party, it is a shortcoming today; anti-communism is simply a weaker reproduction of anti-Fascism.
It is true that the Party as a totalitarian instrument narrowed, squeezed, and reduced me; I dedicated decades to hating it and to hating communism. Whoever is oppressed preserves his interior life by hating. And yet if I look at the post-war years in that first light, I am grateful to the Party for giving me such a tough upbringing. It didn’t want to perform that role, but it did, because I managed to harness it. It broke my father and many others; which is another thing. They were probably too close, too sincere as believers. But I, in contrast, always maintained an ironic distance to everything and everyone, even to myself; my attitude has troubled many because they think I am playing the clown. For me, being a clown means that every object is devalued, impugned, made into an object of mockery; even myself. If I am allowed to make fun of others, which I like doing, then I must – most of all – make fun of myself. In much of my work, I didn’t take myself seriously. Is it necessary to take the world seriously? I take seriously only God and man, who is His co-creator: man in God. Man as an expression of nothing deserves mockery, humiliation, contempt (also self-contempt). Less pity; I dislike pity because it reveals that the one who pities does not respect the object of pity, views him as powerless. That is a feudal relationship that I reject. I take my fellow man to be so strong that he is worthy of mockery and also of hard blows. This is why my mentors were Ivan Mrak and Vitomil Zupan, hardly sentimental humanists, but rather arrogant and self-aggrandizing. I knew Zupan more intimately than others did, and I know that in his heart he was an extremely modest man. But, of course, not in front of others.
From the perspective that I describe it now, the post-war era was also full and rich. Am I allowed to say that it was more real than today? Even less gray despite – today’s – seeming – shimmering and glamorous images of simulated pluralism? Then, every act of resistance against the authorities was a real act, an act of courage, risk, power. Everything can be looked at from many perspectives.
B.A.N.:You experienced the years of your intellectual and personal maturation with a generation of comrades with whom you fomented an essential break in Slovenian cultural life after the Second World War. You were the main theorist, the thinker, the “ideologue” of the literary generation that introduced existentialism to Slovenia (first in its Sartrian and then in its Heideggerian variation). Your first book is dedicated to the creativity of this generation of colleagues: Trojni ples smrti [Triple dance of death] (1968). It gives a dramaturgical-philosophical analysis of three plays: Dane Zajc’s Otroka reke [Children of the river], Gregor Strniša’s Samorog [Unicorn], and Dominik Smole’s Antigone. From today’s perspective, how do you look at your literary-theoretical and sociological methods of that time? And how today do you evaluate the achievements of the authors that then, at the beginning of your journey, you interpreted according to existential principles? I am thinking of Strniša, Zajc, and Veno Taufer among poets, Lojze Kovačič and Peter Božič among prose writers, and Smole and Primož Kozak among playwrights.
T. K.: Just as my contemporary work is inaccessible, unreadable for almost all Slovenian readers – some of my books sell at most twenty copies – so was the work of this generation at that time. This claim seems almost incredible in the current environment. Zajc, for instance, is now considered a classic; he and a few others are idolized by RTV and others in journalism, but only superficially, manipulatively, reductively to the detriment of their art. In the mid-1950s, the then literary-cultural-critical pre-eminence, Filip Kalan, stated that there was no real difference between Zajc, Strniša, Taufer, Božič, Šeligo, etc; that they could not be distinguished from each other because all of their poetry and plays were so bland, gray, flat, impersonal. He claimed that I lined them up and told each of them what to write about; that it was all just ideology and chaos. Kalan had no idea how much hard work we all did together and each of us separately as individual personalities; how we had to develop our own individual positions and how much critical attention we dedicated to each other. Without the people you mentioned, I would not be who I am and I am grateful to them.
B.A.N.: Please refresh our memory about your experience at Revija 57 [Review 57] and its theatrical auxiliary Oder 57 [Stage 57] where you even tried your hand as a director – for example, in the original production of Otroka reke.
T. K.: At Oder 57, I developed a method of working that was very important to me and that I strived to bring to realization there; this method required a special relationship among collaborators: co-fertilization, co-maturation, radical openness: “monastic dedication” to a shared goal. I was able to realize this vision more fully with my colleagues at Oder 57 (than, for example with those at Perspektive): that is, my religious-cultural-moral vision of a community of equal co-creators, made up of autonomous and free individuals; I described that model in theoretical discussions in Perspektive.
B. A. N.: You were one of the main players at Perspektive and, during the last year before its forced political closure, its editor-in-chief. Unlike some of your then colleagues and co-combatants, you still have a positive evaluation of this publication that had such crucial artistic and intellectual influence in Slovenian circles.
T. K.: The Party behaved as usual after the war: self-satisfied, all-powerful, dilettantish. It violently destroyed something that in any case was on the brink of internal self-destruction. Neither those who were politically oriented or those who were culturally oriented did not understand this. As a result of this, Jože Pučnik had to emigrate in order to avoid a second jail sentence. Janko Kos continued the battle against ludism, Tomaž Šalamun, with his Poker, along with Zlobec, took on the role of Josip Vidmar and other cultural personalities who had provided cover for the Party. Zajc and Smole persisted in their desperate nihilism, Božič and Marjan Rožanc with ludism, Šeligo reduced Strniša’s religious magism to new age; each went his own way. And that’s how the last great era of Slovenian culture began.
B.A.N.: You were one of the first in Slovenian cultural life to be inspired by the fertile impulses of structuralism. For some time, it has seemed to me that the analyses that you wrote in your structuralist period – if I may call it that – were closest to Roland Barthes since you, like him, opted for a more open reading rather than a rigid thought system. Your structuralist phase culminated in a radical defence of the neo-avant-garde poetic and artistic experiments in the second half of the 1960s and the early 1970s. With deep conviction and persuasiveness, you provided theoretical support to that era’s young artists. The book Na poti k niči in reči [The path to nothingness and things], with the subtitle Porajanje reisma v povojni slovenski poeziji [The emergence of reism in post-war Slovenian poetry] came out the same year as Trojni ples smrti; it is dedicated to an analysis of Marjana Kramberger’s Pesmi [Poems], Šalamun’s Poker, Franci Zagoričnik’s Agamemnon, and the poetry collection Lakota [Hunger] by Braco Rotor. With biting irony, you defended OHO before the “guardians of tradition”, and above all you defended the radical research into language and poetics of Iztok Geister Plamen, and the provocative poems of the then youngest generation of poets, Milan Jesih and Ivo Svetina who then built autonomous, imaginative worlds within a liberated language. You launched and theoretically grounded the concepts of reism and ludism. Reism was more or less submerged into OHO, and ludism – thanks to you more than anyone else – became an epochal spiritual-historical marker and, in the linguistic sense, the most innovative and radical literary movement characterizing Slovenian literature from the 1960s to the 1980s and reaching its peak with early Šalamun (in which ludism has an extremely rebellious ambition), the early Dušan Janović and Jesih (I need only mention his brilliant play Grenke sadeži pravice [Bitter fruit of justice] as an example of “bright ludism”), and Emil Filipčič (where the commitment to the principle of the game opens up the abyss of existence which is why I call it “dark ludism”). Would you please look back at this artistic and social phenomenon, your then unreserved support of these movements and your later, no less dramatic, rejection of ludism?
T. K.: The difference between Hegel as articulated in my - our Sartre-Marxism in Perspektive (namely the merging of existentialism and neo-Marxism, Heideggerianism and the Frankfurt school) and the ideas from the second part of the 1960s when other philosophical theories, such as those of Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault, which started to prevail, is primarily that structuralism negates the global universal Hegelian history and limits it to epochs and various episystemes, as Foucault called them, in his decisive book The Order of Things. With my reception-reinterpretation of Heidegger’s being between the years of 1955 and 1964, I reformulated Hegel’s dialectics of structures and movements. The structuralism of Levi-Strauss, which I studied in detail, allowed me to understand that there is no exit from linear thinking, or rather there is no entry into Divinity-Otherness, unless there is an exit from linearity; first from Hegel’s linear though dialectical history, then from epochal history, the history of epochs, individual episteme with key status, that function like contingency in Popper’s neo-positivism, or even as a regression in the cyclical thinking of magical-mystical societies from the time before Judaism and Christianity. New age forced this sort of thinking forward in a number of variations.
I explained the work of reists and neo-avant-gardists and promoted it in literary life. As a critic and rebel, I had a strong influence on the literary life of that time. I entered this world from within, many of my books on reism came from this place, and thus I helped in the decisive spread of post-modernism. But that position was only one of my roles-existences, while for reists and ludists, such as Šalamun, Marko Pogačnik, Geister, Zagoričnik, etc, it was the only one. I was and wanted to occupy all the many roles-existences that define man; or as many as possible. My exemplary model, called homo multiplex, is exactly that. I had to think through the consequences of reism, above all with an insight about the end of metaphysics, art, beauty, linearity, etc. This insight was advanced during the second half of the 1960s by Rastko Močnik and Slavoj Žižek as well as by Dušan Pirjevec and myself. I was mostly committed to the literary production of young-new writers.
The period from 1964 to 1975 was the last big Slovenian cultural era, because in a fresh-innovative and also creative – although we didn’t like that word – manner, we revealed the end not only of feudal society and thus the Church, but above all, the end of metaphysics, linear thinking, and after that also of cyclical magism. And that’s how I departed from reism, for example, with Rudi Šeligo.
B.A.N.: The next question touches on a very painful theme: your brother Aleš and his suicide. If you do not want or cannot talk about this, I will withdraw the question from the interview.
T. K.: On one level, my brother Aleš was my alter ego. He was the person I loved most in my life. He was radical, he understood reism authentically, not as a game, not as something post-modern, not a simulation, but in an almost religious way as the actual transformation of man, who is a humanist, into a thing that is redemptive. He took his life with total serenity. His face, when he lay on the bed that he specially set up for it, was tranquil and almost childish. The message was that he departed a world of nothingness-mud-restlessness for a world of redemptive clarity.
Perhaps the suicide of my brother is my greatest guilt-sin. Jože Javoršek experienced the suicide of his son differently, he accused others; Pirjevec, etc. Thus Javoršek ceased to be creative. He became a servant of the re-totalizing Party founded on the hatred of the other. Tone Pavček lamented the suicide of his son, but I did not notice in his writing anything that suggested self-reflection, much less self-criticism. I have always written that I was in part responsible for my brother’s death. My brother was like a son to me, I raised him, our father wanted nothing to do with him. Aleš was only two years older than my first son. Up until a certain period, Aleš was my son. I would not like to pathetically claim that I was the only one responsible for my brother’s death; that would be exhibitionist excess. But I will not speak about the guilt of others; let me only deal with myself.
In a special way, my brother took what I taught seriously, also what Pirjevec taught, while I understood it conditionally, already in the spirit of post-modernism, simulation, games. My brother believed it religiously, authentically, I virtually. Even today, I continue to believe that religious sentiment must be shaped-understood beyond the authenticity that is demanded by models of identity and duality. My brother was mistaken because he equated God with an identity that is beyond life; with death. From the standpoint of my redemptive theology, for which I needed some two decades or more after my brother’s death to develop, it is necessary to go beyond the binary opposition of life-death. Suicide is not necessary to bring a person to the other side. Suicide is a possibility; it is the free decision of each individual. I do not recommend it, but I would not rule out the possibility of my wife and I, for example, opting for it, in the sense of euthanasia; we talk about that sometimes.
Aleš looked around him and saw too many unhappy existences, people living in fear, in indecision, in a lack of authenticity. Maybe he looked at me that way too. Aleš wanted to make the Thing real, to show a stoic and Buddhist neutrality toward life and death. Since he was little, he was able to take pain with an unbelievable serenity; he could hold his hand above a flame until the flesh on his palm burned, and not flinch. Since an early age, he had a deformity of the hips; hence he learned to live with pain. Aleš internalized the self-destruction of the Perspektive group, and also the logic suggested in the title of my book Na poti k reči in niču [Toward the thing and nothingness]. He decided that this would be his interpretation of the thing and nothingness: that he would be sovereign, indifferent to pain and fear, confront death in order to show that death is equally as (un)important as life.
From Aleš’s suicide, I learned that that is not correct; that the life-death binary opposition (duality) is asymmetrical; that life is better than death because it gives a person the possibility to redeem himself from the other-nothingness. With his suicide, Aleš renounced this possibility. He transcended the cycle of thought-action. It was the internal comprehension of my brother’s death that opened up the path to Christianity for me; a few months after my brother’s death – the summer of 1966 – my wife and I had both of our daughters baptized.
Aleš died for me. He died instead of me. I had to confront this part of my destiny. His action might have become a terrible burden for me, and from his side a sort of violence, if I were not able to take that action and re-imagine it as something I could understand as mercy. With this death-suicide, I was graphically shown the consequences of the thing-nothingness duality that I taught, that I did not myself experience with radical commitment but more in the style of ludism-linguism-rhetoricity. If my brother had not died for me, I might have had drifted to the place where other ludist-epigones went; I have a tendency to relieve my situation, to cheat others, myself, fate, God. My brother prevented me from taking the easy way out. In this context, he was the religious sacrifice for someone else. Because I was that someone else and I radically felt that his death addressed-redeemed specifically and especially me, it defined and made possible my continued life. It delivered a challenge to me. It spoke clearly: if you do not, Taras, use my suicide to rethink your life, to appropriately reinterpret it in the spirit of redemptive Christianity – that is how I deciphered the message of my brother’s death – my death will have been in vain. Nothing will remain of it. To love nothing means to accept that nothing inside either man – or God – can redeem anything. That does not mean life, to be and yet to destroy everything which is claimed by the model-construct of identity and duality. This means nothing and destroys the self, kenozis, that you transform nothing into otherness. When I understood it in that way and also started to live that way, consciously from the mid-1970s onward, Catholically from the mid-1980s onward, redemptive Christianity from the mid-1990s onward, I was able to unburden myself of my guilt.
A person cannot redeem himself. I was redeemed – given the foundation for redemption – by my brother’s death; it was an absolute commitment. I am not claiming that redemption can only take place as a result of such a radical act, a death sacrifice. Maybe it can also be done with leadership, imagination, life. It is in this way that Alenka and I strive each to redeem each other – and not just our own family community. The question is if the two of us would have been able to do this had it not been for the absolute identity-transcending act of Aleš.
My brother and I were twins, or at least that’s how I interpreted our relationship. In order to be able to love him, that is to dedicate my existence to the thought of his death, I cannot be exclusively hateful to him, competitive, his co-destroying twin, nor the member of the pair that solves problems with the transition into derealisation-simulation, as post-modern liberals would have it; rather I must conceive of myself and my brother in the relationship of other-otherness. My brother is therefore in my hands. I can be the God who redeems him, or the Devil who hurls into the abyss of nothingness. Each person has both possibilities. God gives him the task-mission to save someone and nothing with that.
B.A.N.: In the second half of the 1970s, a rupture occurred in your relationship with the literary production at the time: your previous admiration of the endless linguistic imagination of the ludists and the radical linguistic constructions of the reists was replaced with a sharp criticism of “intertexuality”. Looked at from the distance of time, your criticism of “intertextuality” was probably one of the first signs of the emptying of the neo-avant-garde package into a cliché that no longer offered fresh questions and answers, but rather reproduced endless possibilities opening within the language that, because of the failure to connect with real and actually lived experience, led to a dead end. Was your criticism of “intertextuality” perhaps one of the first signs of the beginning of the spiritual search that ultimately brought you to God?
T. K.: Intertextualism was the name-title that I gave to the second generation of reists-ludists. The theoretical-ideological basis for this position could mostly be attributed to Aleksander Zorn. What follows from my response to your previous question is that I didn’t accept intertextualism as something created by the reists of the first generation, OHO, etc. The first generation overturned the humanist superstructure, they discovered completely new perspectives with marvellous inspiration and imagination, they broke down barren of identities and created the duality of the simulated world, Šalamun with the radical destruction of the identity of language, Zagoričnik with visual poetry, body art etc, the destruction of rigidity, closedness, the self-evidence of identity. Thus they opened up capillaries, little canals that led to the other side.
The second generation of ludists couldn’t do that anymore. The break-through had been accomplished, and then it became necessary for ludists to search for transcendence, or at least somewhere else, or they would mechanically begin to repeat themselves, to babble, to be satisfied with endless reproduction. At that time, people began to look for a new ethism, or authentic social-personal morals. Just look at the plays of the 1980s: Žarko Petan’s Votli cekini [Hollow coins], Denis Poniž’s Škof Hren [Archbishop Hren], Tone Partljič’s Moj ata – socialistični kulak [My father – the socialist kulak], Alenka Goljevšek’s Pod Prešereno glava [Under Prešeren’s head], also your Vojaki zgodovine [Soldiers of history]; that trend reached its peak with the return of the ethical intimate family as a value. This is something I revealed and confirmed in my analysis not only of your Vojaki, but also of your poems, when I wrote about the collection Kronanje [Coronation] and Stihija [Chaos].
This dilemma was clear to you. I supported you when I felt your artistic tendencies were close to me. The transition to faith in an other-otherness God is difficult. You confronted this in Vojaki, in which you subverted history for the benefit of the family, first in the playful tone of the play, and then in a scene of contingency based on a game of chance; in my analysis of your play Hiša iz kart [House of cards], I discussed especially the role-model of the joker. Contingency does not save, but it is a necessary condition for the proper relationship to the other, as contingency is one of the means of advancing nothingness. In your last play Kasandra [Cassandra], you question the ethical quality of the intimate family, you open it to tragic fate that not only destroys everything but also anticipates it; you understood vision as the clairvoyance of coming evil, catastrophe, the end. With this, you supported Zajc, Voranc and Medea, you offered the antithesis to Uršula from Samorog who is a clairvoyant that sees redemption; Uršula rethinks death as a miracle. When I had to rethink my brother’s death and my guilt, Strniša’s Uršula was a special model for me.
B.A.N.: In the 1960s and 1970s, you and Dušan Pirjevec were considered, among a certain circle of curious young minds, the highest professional and ethical authorities in the search for and establishment of new paths in thought and writing. Your followers believed that your positions complemented each other well: Pirjevec’s philosophical concentration as one of the essential themes of European philosophy of art, above all of the novel, and your fertile luxuriant lucidity, with which you reflected on contemporary literature, were well-suited to each other. In your later essays, you cast your friendship with Pirjevec into a somewhat different light, frequently making a theme of the differences between you. Please, for the purpose of this interview, give us some understanding of your intellectual and personal relationship with this remarkable character.
T. K.: Pirjevec was not my teacher. We were friends since the beginning of the 1950s, for some time even the closest friends. On one level we were competitors, on another colleagues, and in many ways he was an older brother to me – he was almost a decade older than me – but I also didn’t agree with many of his positions. These are the main features and emphases of our relationship.
Pirjevec – this was most relevant in the 1950s and somewhat in the 1960s – also did not want to emigrate, although after his release from a post-war jail sentence, he became critical of the Party-authorities; I know this first hand because we told each other everything. I introduced him to my circle of friends and colleagues: Smole, Kozak, Rožanc, Rus, etc. I also got to know his family who then lived on the Ljublanica River behind the Red House. His wife, Marjeta Vasič, is still alive. You should do an interview with her; she has much to tell if she wants to. I remained in a friendly relationship with her for a long time and have especially good memories of the early 1950s.
Dušan and I both made a decision to support Slovenian identity, though each in a different way: he was an heir to Kalan and Zupan, having the intention of making Slovenian identity more cosmopolitan. After some years of engagement with Slovenian literature, he wrote an analysis of the world novel. It was no surprise that the young gathered around Pirjevec, he opened the door to the greatest, in Vidmar’s footsteps, while I offered them the unknown and uncelebrated. Vidmar never fascinated me, though Pirjevec (and Štih) did to a great degree. Most of all, I wanted to compete with Mrak. Kocbek was not successful enough according to Pirjevec.
Pirjevec suffered because he felt his limits and was not able to transcend them. He did everything he could to enter the university and teach; he had a great gift as a professor. His greatest gift was as a revolutionary leader, however, a gift that he realized during the war with an extraordinary – quick, successful – military-political career. He knew that a Revolution becomes bureaucratized, State-ized, so he was Che Guevara ante rem, a bit of the Trotskyite. Just look at his pre-prison work Ljudje v potresu [People in an earthquake], a play that sadly was never staged, which I analysed in the magazine Borec [Fighter] at the end of the 1980s. Thus he sensed a higher ambition in himself; he did not want to become a bureaucrat of the revolution like Janez Vipotnik, Mitja Ribičič, Stane Kavčič, France Popit; he did not want to waste his life as an assistant to Edvard Kardelj. In the beginning, Pirjevec idolized Zupan and Ocvirk, but then he outgrew them. Before jail he was obedient to Zupan; after jail, he rejected all the idols and Zupan resented it.
Certainly, Pirjevec went farther than Kalan, Ocvirk, and Zupan, but when he came to the dilemma, God or nothing, he died. His body – his person – could not take the strain of deciding. He was stymied before the personal God, though he had the talents to transform himself from Saul – the persecutor of the Christians – into Paul. Despite it all, he remained in the literary-aesthetic circle, one of the masks-constructs of nothing as being. Perhaps staying with the being-aesthetics suited him not only because he knew this was an area where he could be relatively safe from interventions from Party-authorities, but also because this was what fascinated youth and students at the time. He could not resist this desire. But it became the reduced desire of the revolutionary to fascinate the masses, the class and nation, the whole world as proletariat. He eventually renounced this, as he knew it was the wrong direction, but he could not renounce the enchantment itself. He found a replacement for the lost revolution with the students. He gave to them, he gave himself to them, but they captured him in their trap; he was aware of this.
Pirjevec felt a great guilt inside himself. It was explained in many ways, mostly in ways that did not benefit him. However, I can bear witness to the quality of his character. He began to have nightmares, mostly during the first decade after the war, because of all of his dead and killed comrades. This is a story from 1951. After a several day drinking binge, when we were both nervously-physically deteriorated, he told me at my home on Rimska Street about the horrors that pursued him. He wondered: Why did I remain alive, why me, and not my friends? Not my little sister Ivica, who in order to protect, I brought to Koroška with me, only to have her fall before my eyes? Not my friends Kostja Nahtigal, Dušan Bordon, Karel Destovnik-Kajuh, Cvetko Močnik, and countless others? Did I really do something that protected myself and exposed others? He dubbed himself the escaping lieutenant; but when I asked if that was true, Ribič’s younger brother, who didn’t particularly like Pirjevec, answered: No, it’s not true, he was brave, though also cautions and wise. Is that a sin? Like Stane Semič-Daki, he was tormented by the sentence that Zupan coined about Partisans: the best have fallen. Therefore I was not the best, not the most sacrificing, not the most loyal. Therefore I survived on account of others. My answer: everyone survives on account of others. Myself, as well.
B.A.N.: Your attitude toward institutions has been critical throughout, albeit, in your biography, also “tangential” if I may put it that way: whenever you approached some institution, you ended up escaping its centre. A typical example is your directorship of Ljubljana Drama. You are one of the few examples of a truly independent soul in the history of Slovenian culture. Given the fact that you had a large family, your stance no doubt required a great deal of courage in the social and economic sense, because an independent or freelance status meant great risk in the time of socialist poverty. Although times have changed, you function in much the same way today, You are a member of the Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences, but your books about the Slovenian theatre are still mostly self-published.
T. K.: I have been in institutions enough to experience-test them from the inside. Only in this way could I find out what they truly are: a critique of the unattainable is hypocritical. I have declined many offers of high positions in Slovenian society, and, of course, after 1990, because I had suitable experience from before, specifically the directorship of SNG Drama. I decided that both paths were wrong; both are only generational variations that came later: either a revolutionary struggle against institutions or the long march through institutions. Both are political, the first being the model of exclusive dualities, the second vacillating between adaptation-servitude and adaptation-diplomacy. Both reinforce the current system of authoritarian society. The best path is that of the individual person who lives in society but only uses it as a means, though not merely as a means of egotistic privacy as is the case in the wild “natural” world of capitalism. I entered into institutions willingly, deliberately, as an experiment, and then I left them also consciously, deliberately – without panic.
B.A.N.: It always seemed wrong to me that as someone who had some ten published books that, in the professional sense, far exceeded the level of many university professors, you still had to have your professionalism formally confirmed – through a doctorate – in Sarajevo. If there were any justice in the world, Ljubljana University should have given you a doctoral degree after the publication of your first books in the 1960s. Did being ostracised from academic circles hurt you? How do you see the problem of our universities today?
T. K.: From the beginning, my relationship to the university was ambiguous, dual. On the one hand, when I was 25, I wanted to make a career in the university, teach students my ideas; I had many of them and they were different from what was taught at the university in the 1950s. (Pirjevec managed to succeed in this area, he had a lot of influence, and that was precisely what limited him.) On the other hand, I ended up in a radical conflict with the professor on whom my academic and social advancement was dependent: Boris Ziherl. And yet I wanted and prepared the ground for this conflict. As a result, I was excluded from the university, from a job as assistant. I was both punished and rewarded. For this reason, I also look at the Party from two perspectives: it’s love-hate relationship toward me became – I engineered it for that reason– the means to my maturation into a free independent individual person.
Because I didn’t remain at the university, I was forced to earn a living in various careers, which made me a self-made man. I became a translator, copy-editor, editor, dramaturge, director, clerk, headmaster, journalist, even a politician around the margins; to play-survive so many roles was a gift to me. I was in conflict with society at so many junctures; but those were the moments when I got to know it better – from inside. Comrades who were more inclined toward politics and revenge tried to convince me that I was the victim of a great injustice; thank God I didn’t believe them. The blows of fate were also a gift for me, because I was capable of redirecting them. I wouldn’t change places with my colleagues who stayed at the university; their job-career ended up limiting them.
That I got my doctorate from Sarajevo was thanks to my friend Juraj Martinović, a member of SAZU, and also a member of the Bosnian Academy of Sciences, later a mayor of Sarajevo, an extraordinary man, wise, professionally excellent, broad-minded, and tolerant. There are few such men.
B.A.N.: The political-police pressure and ideological control in the former Yugoslavia were not evenly distributed and their focus changed over time. Today it is hard to imagine that Slovenia – from the mid 1960s onward was one the most “liberal” republics of the then federation – while in the second half of the 1940s (the Dachau and other show trials), in the 1950s (the closure of Besede [Words] and Revija 57), the first part the 1960s (with the political cancellation of Perspektive, the persecution of contributors, and the jail sentence for Jože Pučnik, etc), it was one of the main centres of repression. Even later, many forms of persecution were exposed. Probably that was one of the principle reasons for the intensive collaboration and numerous invitations to other intellectual centres in the former Yugoslavia, above all Belgrade. Because such connections are much rarer now that the federation has fallen apart, it would be that much more interesting to hear about your experiences in these nearby but so different spaces.
T. K.: I very much liked Serbs, or Serbian intellectuals. During the years I was not allowed to publish in Slovenian daily newspapers – today I don’t want to, then I was not allowed to, the difference is essential – let alone appear on RTV or lecture, I had at least one lecture in Yugoslavia each month. I participated in numerous symposia, I lectured at Kolarac University, many times at the humanities faculty, in the philosophy, sociology, and comparative literature departments, to university students and youth, at cultural centres, etc. All over Serbia, many times in Novi sad. For more than ten years, Belgrade’s respectable third radio program aired my lectures during prime time: the translator Dejan Posnanović lived off this work, he was an excellent translator, the same as Marija Mitrović, I was very good friends with her and her husband. I was probably the most translated Slovenian writer at that time. I published more books in Serbia than anywhere else, more than ten. I counted among my friends numerous Serbian intellectuals: Danilo Kiš, Sveta Lukić, Vuk Krnević, Ugrinov, Dobrica Ćosić, Ljuba Tadić, Sveta Stojanović, Boža Jakšić, Vidosav Stevanović, etc. Also theatre people: the then popular Mića Tomić, Branko Pleša, Bora Todorović, the translator Roksanda Njeguš. I spent time at the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences with the vice-president Isaković. I contributed essays and interpretations about many of these figures to Serbian magazines, perhaps all of them. I was the principle contributor to some of them, for example, the Belgrade-based Književost [Literature] and Književna reč [Literary word].
Especially in the 1970s, both the Slovenian Communist Party and the cultural intelligentsia were not only repressive and narrow-minded – Zlobec at Sodobnost published only one of the three texts I sent him, he was giving me “monastic soup” – but also provincially limited and nationalistic, while Belgrade was the centre of cosmopolitism. I was connected to Serbian internationalists, broad-minded, tolerant, cultivated, elite and stylish; there was no one like them in Slovenia. My work was part of a collective platform for the Europeanization of Yugoslavia. It was a terrible shock for me when everything turned on its head in the 1980s ; those who had once denied such things became nationalists, narrow-minded, fanatics, violent. The same thing happened to them that would happen in the 1990s to the Catholic Church in Slovenia: the transformation from tolerant, conciliatory, and other-loving to hateful, authoritarian, and tenacious.
It appears that the same laws applied in both situations: neither the Serbs nor the Church were able to digest their experience-defeat, to transform it from an obstacle to potential, to accept the rupture of greater Serbia and clericalism as a chance for a European Serbia and for a tolerant Christianity. In both situations, an old archaic structure re-emerged that had not been overcome, absolved, reinterpreted. Over night, the most conciliatory people became fascists.
For me this was a terrible blow. I had invested a lot in this project – it was my last cultural-political platform and engagement – the common transition of the Yugoslav nation into Western Europe. I believed that Serbian-Belgrade intellectuals would play an important role; and in fact they did the worst. There are many reasons for this. Among them is the fact that the model Slovenian intellectual was Fran Levstik, who occupied the middle ground between the artist and the enlightenment scholar, while Serbs were divided between cosmopolitans and simple folk who remained archaic and barbaric. In the mid-1980s, Serbian cosmopolitan intellectuals fluttered off into abstractions, gradually leaving their country while tens of thousands other remained behind and adapted to Serbian tribalism or took the helm as did, for example, the then Yugoslav Minister of Information, Milan Komnenić, who pretended to be a Frenchmen but ultimately turned out to be the most parochial Montenegrin sheepherder. He was one of the few who got on my nerves even then with his phony cosmopolitanism; in 1991, he gave the public one of its main slogans: victory or death! Dobrica Ćosić was, of course, a man with an entirely different format and perhaps more characteristic of the regression of the Serbian intellectual class.
It was an added blow to me that at the same time that I broke off with my Serbian friends, I also parted ways with my Slovenian friends at the publication Nova revija. Before, in the 1970s and early 1980s, I was more of a political activist than they were; they remained loyal to Pirjevec and his motto known as the End of Action. After that, however, I found myself in an entirely different position, apolitical, and my friends made a u-turn and began to pursue political-state action grounded in the sacralization of the clan. Structurally speaking, they underwent the same sort of process the Serbs did, re-archaicizing regression, only it was significantly less malignant. On the path to Western Europe, it was necessary to defend Slovenian identity from Serbian barbarism, or in other words, to establish an independent Slovenian state as a frame for free independent individuals. In this sense, Slovenian nationalism was positive, though unfortunately my friends were unable to keep a critical distance from the magical ideologies on which they based their nationalism: the destiny of Nationhood, etc.
I had long before settled accounts with the Communist Party and I did the same with the Slovenian humanist and cultural intelligentsia. And so, at that time, I separated from both my Slovenian and Serbian friends. I had once been very close to both sets of friends, both had helped me through the darkest period of Party repression, had helped me to survive. When I also decided in 1991 that I had to distance myself from the growing authoritarian appetites of the Catholic Church, I would have found myself in the grip of the worst solitude had I not been able to re-conceive the situation as mercy.
B.A.N.: On the basis of your excellent knowledge of Serbian culture, political history, and the contemporary political situation, you write in the mid-1980s, first in a magazine publication and later a book, Pisma srbskemu prijatelju [Letters to a Serbian friend]. Your sharp critique was applied to the behaviour of the majority of Serbian intellectuals at that time, who enthroned Milošević as their leader, and to their ideological, archaicizing mythologization of Serbian history that in many ways led directly to the eruption of the bloody wars in the former Yugoslavia that are still not completely over. Not surprisingly Pisma srbskemu prijatelju was not happily received in Serbian intellectual circles. In a repeated reading of these dark pages, I was literally shocked by the hellish precision with which your predictions later came true.
T. K.: I wrote both Pisma srbskemu prijatelju and its parallel book Pisma slovenskemu prijatelju [Letters to a Slovenian friend] during the second half of the 1980s. Both are now shrouded in silence. Nobody considers anymore that Pisma srbskemu prijatelju came out in the 57th issue of Nova revija. Although the letters were only known to Serbs from translated excerpts, they nevertheless caused a violent controversy in Serbia; rejoinders, attacks, polemics that would have filled a whole book. I did not answer one of them; I held to the principle – I still do today – that I must not enter into mimesis in the model of exclusive duality. The method helped me: I went forward rather than against what had already happened. In my letters, the Serbs first gleaned the substantive difference between Serbs and Slovenians. Despite their own clan-focused ideology, Slovenians chose the direction of the enlightened liberal West, a path dictated by the structures of their history-past. Serbian cosmopolitanism, on the other hand, was only a product of will, something not anchored in the social group-nation.
The Serbians never translated Pisma srbskemu prijatelju. I had suggested a translation to several publishers, which would include my subsequent commentary, but even the most anti-nationalist people didn’t want to hear anything about it, although my letters articulate the Serbian pro-European program, the same things that the opposition, such as Vesna Pešić and Nebojša Popov, once my great friends, also wanted. This attitude suggests to me that they still cannot confront the reality of their situation, cannot engage in self-critical reflection. Not even the most progressive among them are capable of it.
It is interesting that Slovenians have also forgotten both Pisma, and Pisma srbskemu prijatelju. In both, I offer an alternative to clan-nationalism as well as to political-social-religious activism. Even today I still think that my alternative is the only one with a future. Slovenians have not come to see this yet. They instead see partitocracy, which is why I split from Pučnik, and a politism that went in the wrong direction, though many – on the right – imagined that what was wrong was only the form of the national-politics that currently occupied power. We just need to wait until the right takes power and then people, who unfortunately are rather slow or not open-minded enough, will understand the structurally wrong form of politism and society. I wrote my redemptive theology precisely for this era. I wrote my letters for this time. But I am not upset, I am not complaining.
B.A.N.: As you noted, at the same time Pisma srbskemu prijatelju came out, you also wrote Pisma slovenskemu prijatelju [Letter to a Slovenian friend] (Matjaž Kmecl) with whom you productively collaborated since the 1950s and formed Nova revija in the 1980s. You attacked the philosophical concepts of Ivan Urbančič, Tine in Spomenka Hribar, and the literary practices of Jože Snoj and Niko Grafanauer, reproaching them that their ideology of “brotherhood” and a national-linguistic belonging which created a fundamentalist principle of Slovenian identity that eventually leads to “fratricide”. Because of this conflict, you left the editorial board of Nova revija; I recall the time when, after the memorable 57th issue, I took over editorial leadership of the magazine in the midst of political upheaval, and I was the only, or one of the very few, editors who remained on friendly terms with you. Actually it was during this period, which must have been very painful for you, that we became real friends and we have preserved this relationship – despite our differences on various issues – until this day.
T. K.: You were one of the few who were open to my ideas in the late 1980s and remained so. That was also clear in your literature, and especially in your most recent play, Kasandra, which is open to the notion of the tragic. I do not claim that you accept my positive concept. I only claim that you are not deaf-blind to it, although I would prefer that you would, in interview questions, not emphasize only the sociological or literary social sense of my work, but also the religious aspect because it is decisive. You are one of the few that I feel could understand my message, while many, with whom I was friends for some time, are closed to my ideas.
B.A.N.: This “cultural-political” withdrawal from the circle of Nova revija may have also been a reflection of your retreat from the more superficial issues of social and sociological events into spirituality, intense and solitary work, and above all your encounter with God. Because you have written much about this, I will not insult you if I now ask you, in the context of this interview, to discuss this crucial transformation in your life, the moment when a convinced atheist, freethinker and sociologist accepted Faith as the deepest reality.
T. K.: I was an atheist not only many times, but consistently in my faith in the absolute; in my own way, I am still an atheist today and will remain one. For me, the world is composed of two elements, of God and of nothing; nothing plays the role of the un-divine, a-theism. God created man and the world from the nothing that was there before creation; this is the theology of the Old Testament. Nothing is the opponent of God, while God is not the opponent of nothing; only gods can destroy nothing, also the feudal Catholic Church, while nothing itself destroys God, but it cannot eliminate God completely, only prepare God for self-destruction; nothing can destroy the gods in the endless competition – the holy war – of exclusive dualities. I would be blind and stupid if I only saw the workings of god; that was the limitation of the saints who were the manipulated tools of cynical confessional authorities. The nihilism of atheism is the inevitable accompaniment to redemptive faith, which only becomes possible if a man goes through nothing-nihilism to the other side; therefore also through atheism. Without an internal authentic experience of atheism-nihilism, redemptive faith is impossible, because it is based upon Paul’s principle of spes contra spes, not on the safety of traditional being, but on the gift of the holy thing. Because of this, it is clear not only that I was a free thinker but that I remain one.
B.A.N.: Do you perceive a difference in the behaviour of the Slovenian Church and its followers before the political changes and the beginning of the 1990s and after them?
T. K.: I have been writing about these differences since 1991. It started in the spring of that year when I entered a polemic against the re-clericalization and re-politicization of the Slovenian Catholic Church and in support of “anarchistic Christianity” with Andrej Capuder and Alojz Rebula in Razgledi, and continued later the same fall in Mladina. My correspondence includes hundreds of letters with the best-known Slovenian theologians and priests whom I begged to engage with me and among them in a creative dialogue about the essential problems of the Church, the burning questions of Christianity as I saw them. In the beginning, I could not believe that all my positive approaches hit a wall. The Catholic Church didn’t want real dialogue; they wanted the appearance of dialogue as an alibi and a means to obtain political freedoms. After it succeeded in this, it reverted to its pre-war ideology and structure, to the idea that everything it does is right – for culture, for human rights – and that it is without sin. It did, in principle, apologize for the mistakes it had made but that was just a gesture, hypocritical rhetoric that had nothing to do with its true convictions about itself.
Had there been no Vatican Two, I wouldn’t have returned to the Catholic Church, although I would have undergone the same experience of coming near the otherness of God. Was it my naiveté-error to believe in the reforming power of the Vatican Council? Today I see a dilemma: if the Catholic Church is unable to build upon the foundations of Vatican Two, if it is incapable of undertaking radical internal structural and theological reform, of re-evolution, even of the reinterpretation of the Gospels – which has been understood since the apostles as partially pagan-traditional, Judaic-Roman first in antiquity then in feudalism (coming closer God is the ceaseless deepening of the contact with God as the Other, thus it is a reconstruction of human understanding of the divine word, thus it is a reconstruction of God himself who has given himself into the hands of man, offering himself for interpretation) – then the Catholic Church will become just another sect. The Catholic Church is divine, but the whole world is divine, there is no place in it where God cannot find a home.
B.A.N.: Does it hurt you that the Slovenian cultural public, in its pursuit of other lowly tasks and superficial interests, is too deaf to hear the significance of your epochal work?
T. K.: It hurts but it also hurts that the Slovenian public has closed off the way to redemption and thus harms itself. It doesn’t harm me; it only teaches me again and again the muddy nature of nothingness. The Slovenian public is miserable today; and it has been that way always perhaps. Was the public among which Prešeren lived any better than today’s public? In my opinion, it was worse, even more deaf, even more closed in on itself, a petit bourgeois and clerical community like the one depicted so well in Matjaž Kmecl’s monodrama Andrej Smole. Was the public that accepted Levstik, Cankar, Mrak, Kocbed any better than the public today? No; perhaps today’s is even slightly less bad, a little more pluralistic, the indoctrination of the unified feudal Catholic Church and Nation having been exchanged for the market that has no specific values in and of itself, and is positive insofar as it breaks down the self-evidence of identities. The market is what I call duality. Duality is not fatally and mimetically defined according to the model against which it battles; duality is reconstructed as simulation, virtuality, fantasy, it emerges from the klinamen that occurs at the point of equalizing duality, at the point of Snoj’s Gabrijel. Duality is the basis of your Hiša iz kart [House of Cards]; duality is the joker with all its good and bad consequences in terms of recreation as a new level in development. Duality is the model for liberal society.
B.A.N.: Already in the 1970s (for example with the book Besede in dogodek [Words and event] from 1978), you opposed all the contemporary theories about the theatre that link tragedy to some final, irreversible, spiritual-historical structure of a past era. You claimed that tragedy is possible and indeed necessary in the contemporary era.
T. K.: It was not easy to recover an understanding of tragedy. During the 1970s, epigonic light post-modern intertextualism prevailed, which mocked high tragedy. Man was reduced to language and a game, to sexual pleasure paired with a spiritual pleasure reduced to new age re-magism. Today’s politism is indeed a variation of re-magism. Magic is the method by which the world is dominated. René Girard analyses Shakespeare’s tragedies as plays that do not end with nihilistic despair – he wrote an interesting book about it. Even Georg Steiner, whose book The Death of Tragedy, an ideological theory about the death of tragedy which was the bible for those who understood tragedy as nihilism, later softened his position and reinterpreted it in his subsequent book about Antigone. Post-modernists should read this.
I also wrote an analysis as a sort of dialogue with you, as my personal message to you. What is decisive is whether you are able to find faith in the beyond, which is outside History, dualisms, games of cards, tragedy as fate, Kasandra’s vision of the coming catastrophe. I am preparing a detailed analysis of both your plays, Hiša iz kart and Kasandra, in which I would like to have a polemical dialogue with you, discovering in your own work the possibilities-departure points for the leap of faith through the chaos of nothingness – through the rhizome – to the other side, to God.
As you see, my interview cannot be only an answer to your questions about me, but must also be an open dialogue with you, with your thoughts-positions, with your work.
B.A.N.: You spent your life with Alenka Goljevšek whom I have deeply respected since my youth. She was my professor of psychology and philosophy at what was then Šubičeva Gimnazija. During the political reform of this school that took place in the period of general school reform, she wrote a bitter and funny comedy that was one of the most successful plays in the history of Slovenian theatre. In addition to dramatic texts for adults, she also wrote a number of warm plays and fairytales for children. As a doctor of philosophy, she wrote some extraordinary works about mythology; her theoretical analysis of fairytales belongs among the fundamental works in the field. It strikes me as very moving that the two of you understand and fulfil each other so well.
Because this last question is addressed in some ways to Alenka, I will let her answer it.
Alenka Goljevšek: Since both of you insist, you dear Boris, and Taras, I will say a few words. I have felt for a long time that life does not serve just itself, it must have some meaning, some mission that makes it precious, and I must not overlook this message, I must be alert to it. Taras and I found common ground here for there is no person on earth more alert that Taras. For a long time, I did not know how to formulate this feeling other than with the word “aesthetic”: as the desire to make something like art out of your life, that the puzzle and the search would resolve itself into some sort of image. There were difficulties along the way but hope always remained. Gradually, I came to realize that it is not an aesthetic stance, but a religious one; that hope can only come from elsewhere. Today I know that Taras and I can maintain this open tension between us, because we are not two, but three: God is somehow the “buffer zone” between our sharp-edged individual personalities. Thus we entered divine freedom and our mindless search became a shared pilgrimage: he redeemed the nothingness in me, I in him, without each other we are lost. The idea that I hear around me nowadays, that man lives to be happy, strikes me as completely wrong. Man lives in order that his hard work will make him God’s collaborator, his co-creator. Happiness is an afterthought, as it was for us.