Going back: nothing will stay the same

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Author: Emir Imamović Pirke

Going back can be defined as returning to the original state of affairs, „reinstatement of what was interrupted, discontinued“. Each effect needs a cause, and it is the very departure, conceived as a cause, that renders the effect possible only as a mechanical movement, or, according to another definition, as a „voluntary return to the point of departure“. Thus, the substance of the act of going back is like the search for Atlantis.

If going back was to become the „reinstatement of what was interrupted, discontinued“, time needs to become space, and space needs to stay shielded. As we are all well aware, humankind is not up to the task, and owing to its virtues a concrete space – a house, an apartment, an elementary school, or a specialist doctor’s office – becomes building debris.

As much as we can „voluntarily return to the point of departure“, to our birth house, its floor rife with weeds surfacing through the cracks, its roofing tiles inept to hinder the sight of the starry sky, the „reinstatement of what was interrupted, discontinued“, becomes impossible.

A wise quote, found on the Internet, could read something along these lines: Nothing will be as it is now, nor as it has been before. By: an inhabitant of social networks with a pizza cut beside his keyboard.

„Philip felt the far-off, dead pictures melting away within him, and he seemed to be all alone, confronting some immeasurably vast space.“ [1]

„I seldom return to my country of origin, and then only when circumstances compel me to. Does this mean I don’t miss my Mountains? Of course, I do – as God is my witness! There are love affairs like this; they thrive on absence and distance. So long as one is elsewhere, one can curse the separation and sincerely believe that one need only get together again to be happy. Once the couple is together the scales fall from one’s eyes. Distance preserves love; abolish distance, and you run the risk of abolishing love. Because of this, I have cultivated distance for many years, as I might water sad-looking flowers on my windowsill.“ [2]
Sometimes in between Krleža and Maalouf, or more accurately, between „The Return of Philip Latinovicz“ and „Origins“, Meša Selimović published one of the two most important books of his (and of ours), the novel „The Death and the Dervish“, in which he states:

„A man isn’t a tree, and being settled in one place is his misfortune. It saps his courage, breaks his confidence. When a man settles down somewhere, he agrees to any and all of its conditions, even the disagreeable ones, and frightens himself with the uncertainty that awaits him. Change to him seems like abandonment, like a loss of an investment: someone else will occupy his domain, and he’ll have to begin again. Digging oneself in marks the real beginning of old age, because a man is young as long as he isn’t afraid to make new beginnings. If he stays in the same place, he has to put up with things, or take action. If he moves on, he keeps his freedom; he’s ready to change places and the conditions imposed on him. How can he leave, and for where? Don’t smile, I know we don’t have anywhere to go. But we can leave sometimes, creating the illusion of freedom. We pretend to leave, and pretend to change. But we come back again, calmed, consoled by the deception.” [3]

The departure comes in many forms – it can be hasty or deliberate, forced at a gunpoint, or resulting from epidemiological measures. Its causes can also vary – people leave out of desperation, to seek their fortune elsewhere, they leave out of love, to seek whatever love can bring them, or they leave for temporary work that lasts until retirement. One can leave in all sorts of ways – walking in a refugee column or traveling by a family car, by public transport; in the silence of dawn, or followed by fanfare and a farewell song, performed by a choir that cannot hit the right tone even with a grenade, one can leave „only to fetch cigarettes“, this short trip lasting until the point of mutual hatred, ending in oblivion.

„Voluntary return to the point of departure“ in order to find „what was interrupted, discontinued“ is always the same. The ones „consoled by the deception“ discover how naive, hence comforting, was to „believe that one need only get together again to be happy“. Even if it seems that everything is exactly the same as it used to be, still the „far-off, dead pictures [are] melting away within [us]“, making a returnee „all alone, confronting some immeasurably vast space“.

The inner slide show hurts, and there is no use in regretting the decision to return. This regret is anything but curative, while the other, legal substances, or the ones prohibited by law, intended for permanent eradication of pain caused by the search for our past – everlastingly past – life, simply do not exist. Just in the works of fiction, it happens that something can continue exactly from the point at which it was interrupted. Reality couldn’t care less for this scenaristic choice.

Going back, as you could understand from the painstakingly long introduction, is nothing else than the movement from point B to point A. The fact that both the point of departure and arrival are known, bloody known, provides only for the possibility of travel without using the GPS.

The departure needs not be painful. The return always is. The international master of verbal acrobatics and football coach Miroslav Ćiro Blažević once said: „The higher the expectation, the greater the disappointment upon defeat“. Is there a greater disappointment than to understand that one’s own, past life doesn’t exist anymore, that one cannot make anything out of its shards and that the carefully kept memories are nothing but „sad-looking flowers on [one’s] windowsill“ needing to be watered – since „a man isn’t a tree, and being settled in one place is his misfortune“, while, on the other hand, his belief, surfacing every so often, that he doesn’t and never has belonged anywhere, is only an „illusion of freedom“?

If money is the fuel of enthusiasm – and let’s be honest when there is no great need to lie – it certainly is, then we can say that the disappointment is the nuclear propulsion/engine of art. For this reason, Going back is certainly a big, very big, and important topic. The House of Croatian Defenders in Pula as the site of the Book Fair(y) in Istria – the festival of books and authors, is only the famed point A. Nothing more and nothing less. Nothing in this point will ever stay the same, even if it seemed that it is and that it will be. In this case, at least in this one, it is fortunately so: „Digging oneself in marks the real beginning of old age, because a man is young as long as he isn’t afraid to make new beginnings.“. To feel old at the age of twenty-eight is silly at best. That is to say, we are not going back. We are just beginning.

Once again.


[1] Miroslav Krleža wrote exactly ninety years ago in his novel „The Return of Philip Latinovicz“

[2] Amin Maalouf writes in his state-of-the-art memoir „Origins“

[3] Meša Selimović, 1996. „Death and the Dervish“ (preveli Bogdan Rakić i Stephen M. Dickey). Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press., str. 163