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Mapping the World with Literature

Traveling is a wondrous thing and I live to see the world because that is the purpose of life. And when one lacks the money or the means to actually travel the world, there is an easy way to be an adventurer - just grab a book. This is why I decided to sail into the magical world of the 60th Book Fair in Belgrade. To travel the halls of the Fair, you don't require planes, buses or trains. What you need is some pixie dust and loads of imagination.

The wonderful world of books

​I entered this world and found myself in mid 20th century Serbia, celebrating one of the great writers of the time - Branko Ćopić. He was one of those who paved the literary streets of my country. From there, I went forward in time. Using the H.G. Wells’s Time machine I arrived back to the future. I ended up nowhere near the world of the ape-like Morlocks, though at times, I certainly wondered. I strolled between the stands, marvelling at the diversity of the countries, languages and literature. On my visit to the Fair’s special guest, I explored the history of Russia, encountering on my journey Dostoevsky, Gorky, Gogol and many others, until I reached Asia. After miserably failing to understand the Chinese characters, I moved on. In India I took time to think about life and spirituality, and understand the unity of mind and soul... I’m definitely starting yoga upon my return home.

Having reached the end of this world and wanting to travel further I stepped into a fireplace, Floo powder in hand, keeping my elbows tucked in, my eyes shut, not fidgeting or panicking, and poof. I arrived. Or did I? Have I said Diagon Alley clearly enough? I must have ended up in the wrong place, the wrong twisted dark alley, and not wonderfully - Dracula or Frankenstein - dark, but truly monstrous and frightening. I found myself in the streets of ignorance, stupidity and uniformity. Is this the year 2015 or 1984? This vast land was a place where kitsch is celebrated and people flock like a mindless herd to drink water from the polluted springs. People lived in a degraded system where cultural policy was non existent, and the continent was sinking fast.

The customs of this strange land were most unusual. They celebrated different deities, women with no apparent talent or depth of thought - the famous gods of the new age. I had to side with Gulliver here - give me some horses and I will gladly worship them. It is only here, where the rock bottom has become the norm that a person could see Anna Karenina and Zorannah sharing a stand. If Tolstoj were alive, he would throw himself under a train. It was as if I had entered the mines of Moria, where little, ugly, slimy goblins feast on the remains of people who built literature and culture we used to respect and love. To enter this mine you needn't say mellon (friend), but amarth (doom), because it is definitely impending.

Strange and disturbing images

In search of consolation I swam to one of the few deserted islands where those weary travelers, such as me, take refuge. I saw William’s heart dancing with daffodils, and leaping at sight of rainbows in the sky. Here A. Roy showed me that the Great Stories are the ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. Here, a boy and a white horse taught me about friendship and a little prince made me realize that living for the admiration of others is to never live for oneself. In a way, these islands were sanctuaries, where the greats would come and go, places of teaching and warmth and celebration of literature.

The masses avoided these islands, trying to steer clear of thinking. Because in their ‘Utopia’ thinking has always been one of the dangerous subversive activities, strictly forbidden. What a way to manipulate the masses, deceiving them into thinking that they are free, when in reality they are caged. I had to give them credit. The rulers are not idiots, they just surround themselves with idiots, and lots of them, and we know that there is strength in numbers. The idiots were happy, but, if you are happy in a dream, does that count?

A birthday party

​After witnessing everything this land had to offer, or take, I left in search of a better world. I went down the rabbit hole and reached a new Universe where a girl, Alice, was celebrating her 150th birthday. Celebration being in order, I stopped for tea at the Mad Hatter’s. Tea time being over, I continued my journey towards Oxford, where I stopped at the Prancing Pony and downed a pint, soaking in the atmosphere one last time before leaving. With sadness I boarded the last ship traveling into the west. Reaching the land of Westeros, I found myself in the midst of a war where Death wasn’t picky. It seemed an interesting place compared to what I had seen. I would take death over stupidity any day.

I returned having learned something - we all have two roads that we can take - one trodden by many, shallow and easy, where people welcome you with wide smiles and empty minds, and the other one, where grass does not seem so green, where roses grow with thorns and where it almost seems you have to make a path for yourself to tread. Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by. And it was worth it.

Lands of imagination

All of the photos are courtesy of Anica Marković

#travelogue #BookFair #books

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