Amsterdam, June 2001, Number 9
Editor: Hella Rottenberg


The Lexicon of Yu-Mythology: 1989-2001

Journals encouraged to enlarge their readership

Slovak Publishing Project

Books Recently Published

The Lexicon of Yu-Mythology: 1989-2001

Back in 1989, Dejan Krsić and Ivan Molek, then editors of the popular weekly magazine ‘Start’ from Zagreb, together with the writer Dubravka Ugrešić, came up with the idea of putting together a Lexicon of Yugoslav Mythology. This lexicon was to become an overview of Yugoslav popular culture, a map of Yugoslav commonplaces that would help articulate and define the make up of Yugoslav cultural identity. Little did they know that, within a couple of years, history would not only do away with ‘Start’ magazine, but with Yugoslavia as well.

In the years that followed, the question of a once shared Yugoslav cultural identity became a highly controversial issue. The violent dissolution of Yugoslavia could not be justified without stating that Yugoslavia was a brutally imposed and unnatural construction; unnatural because it was holding together nations which had little or nothing in common. It could not be admitted that they had once shared an exciting cultural space. Reminiscing about anything that had to do with life in former Yugoslavia became an act of political subversion.

Most inhabitants of the newly created national states, in fear of being denounced as ‘yugo-nostalgists’, tried to adopt their new identities and forget there was ever such a thing as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The few people who dared to point out that collective amnesia is not the answer to the Yugoslav trauma and that denying one’s own past instead of coming to terms with it will sooner or later backfire, were branded enemies of the state.

It is against this background that Dubravka Ugrešić resurrected the idea for the Lexicon. In 1997 she was lecturing at the University of Amsterdam. Her class consisted of students from different parts of the former Yugoslavia. Inspired by her lectures, two of her students decided to start a website dedicated to the Lexicon. They invited all former Yugoslavs to share their memories and join them in an attempt to collect as much commonplaces of Yugoslav popular and everyday culture as possible. Reactions began to pour in, Yugoslavs from all over the world sent in their contributions, and within a few years several hundred entries were collected, covering a wide range of Yugoslav everyday-life features, varying from pop-music and consumer issues to ideology. The numerous, often very amusing, reactions to the website made it clear that there is after all a strong need for articulating the collective Yugo-memory.

In the spring of this year, Dejan Krsić, who in the meantime became the driving force behind the Zagreb independent publishing house ‘Arkzin’ contacted Vladimir Arsenijević, one of Belgrade's leading young writers, and they decided to publish the Lexicon, using the entries collected over the years on the website as the main body of text. The Lexicon will be published jointly by ‘Arkzin’ in Zagreb and the Belgrade  publishing house ‘Rende’ by the end of this year, with a preface written by Dubravka Ugrešić. Thus a twelve- year old idea will finally be realised, and a precious and exciting part of the shared Yugoslav cultural heritage will be preserved.

By Iris Adrić

Journals encouraged to enlarge their readership

Compared with the cover price, the production costs of Central and East European journals are often too high. The cover price should be raised, but publishers are hesitant to take such measures because they fear – not without reason – that their reading public will decrease. If, however, they could offer subscriptions at a cheaper rate, the risk would be diminished, while their source of income will improve. Larger numbers of loyal subscribers are a guarantee for the continuing existence of journals.

The CEEBP offers quality journals a gradually decreasing three-year subsidy to cover the difference between subscription rate and cover price. In this manner, the CEEBP will finance the lower subscription rates. The subsidy will decrease from 100 percent of the difference (first year), to 70 percent (second year) and then to 40 percent (third and last year). Until recently, such a scheme was offered only for library subscriptions. The new set-up is meant for individual subscribers, too. The support will include money to be used for promoting subscriptions.

The CEEBP also encourages journals to find a new public via the Internet. Journals can apply for support to develop a new website or improve the existing site, as well as for assistance in defraying the costs of using a server or computer equipment. Electronic publishing offers opportunities for promotion, distribution, redesigning the lay-out, reducing printing and distribution costs, and attracting advertisers.

The editor of the Belgrade monthly Alexandria is very enthusiastic about the effect of his website, which has been up and running for about a year. New readers and advertisers are being attracted, visitors are offering articles and manuscripts that may be of interest to him, and through the website, all kinds of national and international contacts are being made. Other magazine publishers, such as the Hungarian BUKSZ, have similar experience.

Slovak Publishing Project

The project, developed and run in cooperation with the CEEBP, has proved to fill a significant gap in the distribution of quality books and journals in Slovakia. Since its launch in October 2000 by the Index Association of Independent Publishers with a quarterly catalogue, the Index Book Club acquired more than 1500 members. Each catalogue presents the books of 40 publishers, which is twice as high as the originally estimated number of participants. The number of periodicals presented in the catalogue has risen from ten to twenty since the first issue. The response of the Slovak reading public is very favourable. The Book Club members have ordered four times more books and journals than expected, while the number of books sold through traditional channels remained the same.

In the past months, more than twenty-five publishers took part in an intensive training programme, consisting of seminars on strategic planning in publishing, marketing, management, legal aspects of publishing, authors’ right and copyright, on financial matters, and courses in computing and efficient use of information technologies in publishing. The seminars, which were followed by expert on-site consultations, tailored to the needs of individual publishers as well as to the needs of the Index Association, have visibly improved the professional standard in publishing and distribution practice.

According to the surveys conducted after each seminar, publishers regard the workshops and the on-site consultations as highly useful and stimulating. The demand for on-site consultations has been especially high, while the publishers requested extended seminars on both the old and new topics, such as on new technologies in publishing. The project management is examining the possibility of a permanent schooling for publishers, which does not exist in Slovakia as yet.

In March, the Slovak project director and his colleague, the director of the Index distribution, came to the Netherlands for a working visit during the national Book Week. The CEEBP arranged a visit to the highly advanced book distribution centre Centraal Boekhuis and to a modern printing company, and meetings with Dutch associations of publishers, as well as with individual publishers and booksellers. Furthermore, meetings took place with the Marketing Research Foundation of the Royal Dutch Book Trade Association, and the staff of Netherlands Literary Production and Translation Fund who run a programme stimulating library subscriptions to literary journals.

The project is co-financed by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the OSI Center for Publishing Development in Budapest, and local sponsors.


In April 2001, the CEEBP awarded 52 grants to publishers in Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Yugoslavia (including one in Kosovo). Grants were allocated for fifteen books and eight periodicals (three of which were for equipment and websites), while four book publishers received a grant for equipment and websites.

The grants for books were allocated for eleven West-East translations, for three East-East translations, and one book in the original language. Furthermore, twenty-three grants were awarded for translations within the framework of the Balkan History Programme, matching funds for publications in Romania with the (Soros) Fundatia Concept .

Journals and equipment


Balkan History Program


In Bulgaria, Fakel Expres published the translation of Solomon Volkov’s Conversations With Joseph Brodsky: A Poet’s Journey through the Twentieth Century. The book, which appeared in the original Russian in 1997 and a year later in an English translation, contains a compilation of more than fifteen years of dialogue. Volkov, who had earlier written books about the Russian composer Shostakovitch and about the cultural history of  St. Petersburg, proved to be a stimulating partner for Nobel Laureate Brodsky.

In their long conversations, recorded and later edited, Brodsky expressed his thoughts about his personal life, his love of poetry and his native city Leningrad. For the first time, the Russian poet described for public consumption his detention in a mental asylum, his exile in the North, his imprisonment and subsequent emigration to the United States. A number of dialogues are devoted to the poets Brodsky admired: Frost, Auden, Lowell and the Russian poets Pushkin, Tsvetaeva and Akhmatova. Volkov's book was published after Brodsky died from a heart attack in January 1996 at the age of fifty-five. The dialogues give readers the impression that they still can hear Brodsky thinking out loud.

The Last Window Giraffe by the young Hungarian writer Peter Zilahy (b. 1970) became immensely popular when it appeared in 1998. The funny title refers to a children’s dictionary which was called Window-Giraffe (Ablak-Zsiráf). The children’s Window-Giraffe presented in simple words a world, where everything is in order and problems are always solved. Zilahy mixes his observations of the anti-Milošević protests in Belgrade in the winter of 1996 with his childhood memories in communist Hungary.

He writes in a quasi-naive playful way, explaining things from A to Z. The book was adapted for radio drama in Hungarian and German and was made into a multimedia project in four languages: English, German, Serbian and Hungarian. The CD uses sounds and videos from the seventies and eighties, plus the music and archives of the anti-Milošević protest. The Bulgarian edition, by Polis, has recently been published in book form, nicely illustrated with drawings, pictures and cartoons.

Vesna Goldsworthy's study Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination, published in Serbo-Croat translation by the Belgrade publishing house Geopoetika, examines the perceptions, ideas and images of the Balkans in Western literature and the entertainment industry of the 19th and 20th centuries. The book, written in the spirit of Imagining the Balkans by Maria Todorova, attempts to explore how this imagery has influenced Western attitudes and policy towards the region.

Analysing a wide range of British literary sources, from Bram Stoker’ s Dracula and Anthony Hope’s Ruritania, to works of Lord Byron, Graham Greene, and George Bernard Shaw, the author argues that the negative images of the Balkans they created by projecting their national, religious and sexual fears have held sway over public opinion, and are still transmitted by the Western entertainment industry. She concludes that the images ensuing from these works not only misrepresent the region but have also resulted in its literary, economic and political exploitation. Goldsworthy's book has been praised for its perceptive analysis and criticised for its fashionable tendency to politicise literary studies.


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