For Dialogue between the Balkan Cultures

Gürsel, Nedim
Revista Literatures Núm. 3 1999

To write, in these times, presupposes a way of being in the world, an intellectual awareness, though without going so far as commitment in Sartre's sense of the word. It is already obvious that exercising the word, or the exercise of literature, means an ethical and political responsibility. Literature does not serve any cause and the writer, as I understand it, does not come out in favour of anything other than his or her own commitment to writing. However, if he or she feels under threat today, it is because words have an increasingly direct impact on reality.
The history of our countries teaches us that there is no such thing as an intrinsically pure national or cultural essence. The mosaic of countries which today form part of what we might call the "common Balkan space" has been taking shape over the centuries, enveloped within the seminal tensions of opposing influences. The experience of Turkey, heir of a pluri-ethnic and multinational empire shows us that periods of expansion coincide with an opening up and contacts with the exterior. In turn, periods of decadence are characterised by the sterile quest for essential values.
Today´s exacerbated nationalisms proscribe dialogue between cultures. Identities are never definitive and nor can they be fixed as systems for mutual exclusion, but rather they are in the process of construction and transformation throughout history.
Humanity has witnessed other destruction comparable to that of the National Library in Sarajevo. But in Sarajevo, it was a Serbian intellectual, Nikola Kolyeniç, an English literature teacher and Shakespeare specialist, who gave the order for the bombing. Perhaps, amongst those charred books were his own works. His suicide has done nothing to modify this desire deliberately to annihilate the culture of a people.