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The Nonconformists

Nick Miller

Chapter 7. Ćosić and Popović Return to Serbia

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1The 1970s were a barren and lonely time for Serbian intellectuals and cultural figures. The Letter spelled the end of their real or even imagined participation in Yugoslav political life. The 1974 Constitution, many believed, purposefully spited Serbian interests. Yet, notwithstanding the closing of virtually all avenues for intellectual engagement, Dobrica Ćosić and Mića Popović produced their most important work in these years. They did so as much of the Serbian cultural elite sullenly withdrew from public life. Ćosić’s Time of Death (Vreme smrti) and Popović’s later Scenes paintings, however, would begin the invention of a new Serbian self-image, and would do so in a self-consciously revelatory fashion. Both men would suggest that in the face of a supremely rational ideological force, bolshevism, which had become corrupted from within, only the artist could successfully seek and elucidate truths, truths that were by definition transcendant.

  • 1 It is also one of just two that have been translated into English (Daleko je sunce is the other, b (...)

2Ćosić moved from direct engagement with Titoist reality to broader comment on the course and nature of Serbian history. Between 1972 and 1975, his three-volume Time of Death appeared. Of all of Ćosić’s novels, this is the one that Serbs feel defines him as one of Serbia’s literary masters.1 The novel follows the fate of the Katić family and, uniquely for Ćosić, Serbia itself, during 1915—a year in which Serbia nobly defended itself against Austrian attack, but eventually fell to superior Austrian, German, and Bulgarian forces in the late fall, leading to the famous “flight in winter”: the withdrawal of Serbian forces, the Serbian government, and thousands of Serbian civilians through the mountains of Albania to the Adriatic coast. Time of Death was like Divisions in that it examined the attitudes of a number of Serbs at a fateful moment, faced with grave choices. Unlike Divisions, in Time of Death Ćosić did not seek to explain a Serbian evil; rather, he sought to examine Serbian responses to evil, in the form of Serbia’s abandonment by the west, by its allies, by allegedly civilized peoples with whom Serbs shared moral values and the love of liberty. In moving from the evil within to the evil perpetrated from without, the novel reflects Ćosić’s personal shift, the same shift that took him from the party to the Serbian Literary Guild. The betrayals he describes in Time of Death provide the context for an extremely introspective novel about the actions of Serbs in the face of tragedy. In Time of Death, Serbs would become the victims of their own reverence for western values, their love of liberty.

3In Time of Death, as in Divisions, the reader comes to an understanding of the characters’ motivations via interminable, didactic, unspoken monologues and long, pontificating, often maudlin exchanges between characters. Ćosić adopted a two-tiered approach to his examination of Serbia’s fateful 1915. The global tier, the basic structure of the novel, involves the answer of the Serbian government to its allies’ demand that it agree to cede Macedonia to Bulgaria in order to assure Bulgaria’s adherence to the Quadruple Entente (Great Britain, France, Russia, and Italy) and forestall Germany’s drive to create a safe corridor to Istanbul. On this level, Ćosić incorporates historical figures into his story. King Petar Karadjordjević, Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjević, Vojvoda Radomir Putnik, Vojvoda Živojin Mišić, Dragutin Dimitrijević Apis, and above all Nikola Pašić join the fictional Vukašin Katić as Serbs struggle to decide whether to submit to the blackmail of their allies, who refuse to acknowledge any responsibility for Serbia’s fate if the Serbian government refuses to accede to their wish that Macedonia be given to Bulgaria. In his preoccupation with the thoughts and feelings of his Serbs, Ćosić never allows for the possibility that they might have brought their fate upon themselves in any way. On this global level, Time of Death established Ćosić’s coda: Serbs are victims, often of those who should be their friends.

  • 2 Dobrica Ćosić, Reach to Eternity (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1980) 167

4The second tier is local, and here the novel examines the destinies of Vukašin (a resolute opposition politician, a republican), his wife Olga, his children Milena (who volunteers as a nurse in the Valjevo hospital) and Ivan (a student volunteer in the army who is taken prisoner by the Austrians), and a host of others recognizable from his earlier Prerovo novels: Aćim Katić, Adam Katić, Djordje Katić, Tola Dačić, and Aleksa Dačić. In addition, Ćosić introduces new characters to bring to life other aspects of the Serbian dilemma: Bogdan Dragović (a socialist friend of Ivan who falls in love with Milena), Major Gavrilo Stanković (a patient in the Valjevo hospital), Doctors Mihajlo Radić and Paun Aleksić (who work in that hospital with Milena), Najdan Tosić (Olga’s cousin, a businessman and war profiteer), and Bora Jackpot and several others in Ivan’s battalion. On this local level, the novel is populated by many heroes of different stripes, who are confounded by a smattering of “cowards and jackals.”2

  • 3 Dobrica Ćosić, A Time of Death (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978) 158.

5Vukašin Katić returns, this time as the central character in the family saga. In Time of Death he is the character closest to Ćosić’s own heart (in Time of Evil [Vreme zla], a later novel that continues the Katić story through the communist era, Ivan would become Ćosić’s alter ego—or the closest thing to it). In fact, Vukašin receives Ćosić’s highest praise: “He was that rare kind of person, a man who desired power yet dared to tell everyone the truth. He was a politician, but he loved truth more than power.”3 In Time of Death, Vukašin is an oppositionist, the leader of the Independent Radicals, a republican and a constant critic of the other political parties. He is faced with numerous decisions: whether to exploit his power to keep his son Ivan out of battle (he cannot do that, for it would be dishonest), whether to join Nikola Pašić in a government of national unity (nay, for Pašić represents all that he has fought and loathed in his career), and how to respond to Serbia’s allies’ demands that Serbia give up Macedonia in return for promises of Bosnia, Croatia, and Dalmatia at war’s end (after torturous internal debate, he decides Serbia must do so, if it wishes to survive, even if that means succumbing to the blackmail of Serbia’s allies).

  • 4 Dobrica Ćosić, South to Destiny (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1981) 128.
  • 5 Dobrica Ćosić, Into the Battle (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1983) 34.

6Other characters help Ćosić illuminate the themes he considers vital to an understanding of Serbia’s history. Important among them is Bogdan Dragović, who would become one of the central figures in Time of Evil, in whom we see the revolutionary spirit of the Serbs in its elementary, uncorrupted form. Bogdan is Ivan’s student battalion comrade, a socialist whose social origins are the opposite of Ivan’s (Bogdan’s father was a candlemaker, his mother is a weaver). Within the battalion, and later during battle, Bogdan fights the rigid militarism and nationalism of his superiors, who use terror to enforce discipline: “There was no weeping he found harder to bear than the weeping of an old peasant. He couldn’t comfort them. What kind of a choice did they have? They faced poverty and floggings on one side and murder and arson on the other.”4 Bogdan and Ivan can become friends because Bogdan senses that Ivan “despises the reformers and the middle-class Progressives. He has a wise head on his shoulders and a feeling for justice and goodness.” Bogdan perceives that Ivan will be the agent of the destruction of his father’s world: “Inexperienced as he is, young Katić finds it hard to judge his own father and his class. There is something tragic about him, something that arouses sadness and pity.” But, those like Vukašin Katić “condemn themselves to destruction through their children. In their homes, under their wing, among their spoiled and well-fed children real opponents grow up.”5 Bogdan is pure goodness and heroism in Time of Death, but, as could be expected of Ćosić, his corrupting awaits.

  • 6 Ćosić, Into the Battle, 258.
  • 7 Ćosić, Return to Eternity, 169.

7Four themes emerge from the stories that these characters tell: first, that Serbs’ love of freedom has always, and always will, result in tragic levels of self-sacrifice; second, that within Serbian society there are those who would take advantage of that willingness to self-sacrifice to take and wield power unscrupulously; third, that in the face of corruption and deception, one must act in accord with one’s convictions, with the truth. Overarching them all is the fourth phenomenon, the one that made the others possible: the faithlessness of Serbia’s friends. Early in the trilogy, Vukašin establishes the role of freedom in the Serbian psyche: “You know we are a people who have made freedom our destiny….In fact, neither good nor evil, neither wealth nor poverty asks as much of a people as freedom. But we’ve been too obsessed with freedom, both as individuals and as a nation. Because we lived so long in bondage we attach too great a significance to freedom. Such nations can only have a tragic history.”6 Or, put differently, “nothing,” says Gavrilo Stanković to Apis as Stanković lay dying, “can enslave us as much as our longing for freedom.”7 It was that love and longing for freedom that led Serbs into this tragic and friendless situation.

8The unscrupulous who would degrade the struggle of the Serb for freedom include everyone from the basest social elements to the highest of political powers. Najdan Tosić, Vukašin Katić’s brother in law and a merchant, makes regular appearances that reinforce his amorality, his basic greed and self-interest in the face of tragedy: his personal train car is at the ready to take Vukašin and his family to Greece throughout the novel. This is a recurrent theme, expressed in various forms. Stevan Rightleg, a soldier whose right leg was amputated by Doctor Mihajlo Radić, a tortured, compassionate soul, tells Radić that he is fine as he is:

  • 8 Ćosić, South to Destiny, 20.

It’s those behind the lines that need freedom, Doctor. Those thieves and shirkers. Those fine folks—merchants and scoundrels! Those who aren’t fit for the army, or so they say, but they’re fit enough to pester our wives and sisters while we’re having our heads smashed up and our legs sawn off out there. They’re all right for our wives—they open their legs for them, for those fucking bastards.8

  • 9 Ćosić, South to Destiny, 133.
  • 10 Ćosić, Into the Battle, 96.
  • 11 Ćosić, South to Destiny, 20.
  • 12 Ćosić, Reach to Eternity, 167.

9As Belgrade is being bombarded in October 1915, Tričko, one of Ivan’s student comrades, sits in a bar with his friends for one last drink. When the cafe proprietor demands payment, Tričko yells, “We’re giving our lives for that cafe proprietor and his property—this, too, is part of Belgrade. How disgusting!”9 In another bar, another bartender proclaims “The world is rotten to the core. There’s been no worse injustice since Cain killed Abel. Serbia is settling accounts for all the Balkan countries.”10 Stevan Rightleg asks, “Will there be justice after the war, so we can get even with those shirkers and scoundrels, pay them back in their own coin?”11 At another point in the novel, Apis provided an answer: “The cowards and jackals will come out on top. The future belongs to the worst elements.”12 Only those who spoke the truth could save Serbia from such a fate, but, as we have seen, Ćosić deemed them incapable of exercising power.

  • 13 The inclusion of historical documents mirrors Popović’s use of artifacts—press clippings, for inst (...)

10This Serbia, alienated and divided within, faced a much more tragic existential dilemma, however: it was abandoned by its allies. One of Ćosić’s innovations in Time of Death was the regular inclusion of real and imaginary telegrams, excerpts from newspaper articles, and letters between prisoners and their families that relentlessly pound home just how isolated, ignored, and insignificant Serbia was.13 But the three volumes of the novel do not leave it to history and pseudohistory to prove Ćosić’s point. The novel is littered with commentary by heroes and jackals alike attesting to Serbia’s abandonment. An old teacher of Vojvoda Živojin Mišić complains to him:

  • 14 Ćosić, A Time of Death, 201.

I’m thinking, sir, about the greatest injustice in recent history: the injustice of the Allies toward Serbia. It really is unheard of! At Valjevo we gave our lives for Paris and the French; on the Kolubara we defended the Dardanelles for the English; at Milovac we shed our blood for the Russians and the Ukraine. And on Bačinac we’ve perished at the hands of our Croatian brothers, giving our lives for their freedom. It’s incredible, sir! And that whore Rumania just keeps silent.14

11Vukašin yells at Pašić during one of their many meetings:

  • 15 Ćosić, Into the Battle, 63.

What kind of people are we?…Caught between Asia and Europe, on the frontiers of religions and empires, we have perished foolishly, mourned by no one, perished more for others than ourselves… and we haven’t gained a single faithful friend. Wretched and accursed nation! We’re the only country in Europe that doesn’t have a single true friend. Not one!15

12Vukašin’s solution was to take hold of the problem, define it, take responsibility for Serbia’s fate:

  • 16 Ćosić, Into the Battle, 129.

We must take as our starting point the fact that the Serbian question has become a European question. Until today we have never solved any of our national problems according to our own will, and by our own efforts. We have fought, but the Great Powers of Europe have decided the outcome of our struggles according to their interests. They have assigned us sometimes victories, sometimes defeats.16

13For Vukašin, this would eventually mean assenting to the Allied demands, for this was the only option that would save Serbia; the alternative, to continue fighting for a principle, was ridiculous in the face of the Allies’ own lack of principles. And in that, there was something noble for Major Gavrilo Stanković, who tells Ivan that

  • 17 Ćosić, A Time of Death, 184.

In time of defeat, the victor is humiliated far more often than the vanquished. I have never felt more pride in being a Serb than in these days of defeat. Now that the whole of Europe is at war, just tell me who can rightly say virture and justice are on our side! What army dares believe this now? Only ours. And no other. All of them have their own sordid interests and some evil aims.17

14The injustice of this situation lies in the fact that Serbia entered the war for higher goals. As Nikola Pašić would assert to France’s ambassador Boppe,

  • 18 Ćosić, South to Destiny, 44–45.

In rejecting the Austrian ultimatum, Serbia entered the war not only to defend herself. By not accepting the ultimatum from Vienna, Serbia sacrificed herself for the European democracies and Russia. Just as she sacrificed herself for Christianity and Europe in the fourteenth century, in the face of the impending Turkish invasion.18

15What is lost in this explanation, of course, is any acknowledgment that Serbia might have had a role to play in the outbreak of the war, a role rooted in a higher purpose only if one accepts the goal of the creation of a nation state as divinely sanctioned.

  • 19 Ćosić, South to Destiny, 373–75.

16In a letter to his imprisoned son Ivan, as the novel concludes with Vukašin on the Adriatic coast of Albania following the long, murderous retreat through the mountains, Vukašin elaborates on Serbia’s position19:

We’re a small nation with great aims, in conflict with the world and its laws. In our struggle for survival we’ve defined some of these goals as necessities. Some evolved from our illusions, and of course the hardest have been imposed on us by our enemies and by history.

17As for the war itself, Serbia was blameless, nothing more than an excuse for the Great Powers to begin their reckoning:

…the war with the Hapsburg Empire was one we couldn’t escape….For understandable reasons events here have been chosen as the pretext for a European war, and judging from what’s happening, we’re condemned to be its victim. In the trenches we’ve been defeated by a powerful enemy, and behind the trenches we’ve been betrayed by our allies….Serbia’s military collapse was inevitable, but the betrayal by the Allies was not.

18Finally, in a conclusion that captured much more than just Vukašin Katić’s attitude towards the war, he told Ivan that

We must do all we can to ensure that our defeat in war becomes more than an affair between us and our enemies; we must do our utmost to make the Allies bear the guilt of our tragedy, to make the defeat of Serbia the defeat of Europe and her democracy, and of Russia and her Panslavism. We’re building our fate into the fate of the world.

  • 20 Ćosić, Into the Battle, 64.

19Vukašin seemed to be demanding that the Serbs, in their flight, not allow themselves to lose when it came time to make peace; he seemed to be responding to his own despairing proclamation early in the novel that “the time has come when a small nation can no longer lose a war. It can only lose the peace.”20

20Time of Death is unquestionably Ćosić’s most popular novel among Serbs. There are numerous reasons for this: its language is the most expressive; its scope is the broadest; it aspires to draw universal truths from its parochial subject matter; it reflected Ćosić’s own move from insider to outsider, at a time when Serbs were no longer particularly interested in the literary archaeology of the Partisan victory in the Second World War; and, it examined a topic—the First World War—which Serbs felt had been hidden from them in the Tito era. But most importantly, it came at a time when Serbs had begun to search for explanations for their position in Tito’s Yugoslavia, and at a time when many Serbs had begun to conclude that they were the particular victims of Titoism. How could a book that did not even treat Titoism as a subject fill such a need so effectively? The best answer would be that it did so by arguing that Titoism offered nothing new in its treatment of Serbs, that historically Serbs had suffered a repeated and similar fate. Most importantly, the novel introduced for the first time Ćosić’s notion that Serbs have traditionally participated in their own degradation because of their a) willingness to sacrifice themselves for higher values and b) their willingness to be seduced by power. Time of Death initiated Ćosić’s own exploration of these themes, which would become the consuming passions of the Serbian intellectual elite over the next two decades.

  • 21 Pristupne akademijske besede, v. 308 of Glas Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti; Odeljenje jezika (...)

21As a reward for Time of Death, which became an extremely popular novel upon publication, in March, 1977, Ćosić was elevated to full membership in the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. In his induction speech, he would establish the theme that would dominate the rest of his career as public intellectual: the necessity of the search for truth in a society that represses that truth, and the ability, even the calling, of the novelist—specifically the historical novelist—to ascertain that truth. Noting first that the writer had become the “inspiration and creator of national and historical consciousness” in the modern era, who “would stand side by side national leaders,” Ćosić then argued that the writer’s role had been corrupted by the influence of Marxism, which had established that “the role of judge, God, eternal law, was taken by history.” In the new situation, according to Ćosić, “the mystification of history…is an expression of our powerlessness to find the real movers and actors of the human and national tragedies of our times.”21 Marxism, then, had ensured that writers lost the ability to discover and tell the truth. The writer’s task, Ćosić would argue, was to rediscover that ability.

22Ćosić offered a despondent vision of twentieth-century European history. That vision was one of betrayal: despite all of the progress of science, all of the progress of humanistic thought, this was a century of despair, brought on by the deceptions of ideology:

  • 22 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 29.

not in a single century has so much been suffered and so much accomplished for change in the circumstances of life as has been done in the twentieth century….The hopes of two generations have been deceived, one after the other. Because although evil became more open than ever, evil in the name of good became more hypocritical than ever.22

23Serbs suffered more than any others from this hypocrisy:

  • 23 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 31–32.

without any feeling of national conceit and superiority, one must first of all comprehend this fact: in Europe there is not a nation which in the past two centuries, and especially in the twentieth, pledged so much to the workings of history, sacrificed so much for the liberation and progress, as did the Serbian nation.23

24This, for Ćosić, and for Serbs in general, would become the idee fixe.

25Serbia’s contribution, according to Ćosić, came both as victim and as executioner. As victim, “we survived Austro-Hungarian, fascist, and Ustaša genocide, and by human losses were taken to the border of biological invalidity.” But Ćosić readily recognized that Serbs not only suffered at the hands of others, they also made others suffer. This, in fact, would become an integral part of his argument for the need for a Serbian spiritual renewal:

in the name of ‘national policy’ and its ‘reasons of state’ we perpetrated evils of reprisal on other nations. To slaughter and torchings, we returned slaughters and torchings…political movements appeared which represent…perhaps the most difficult spiritual and moral decline of the Serbian people…

  • 24 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 32.
  • 25 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 32.

26Ćosić referred here to the evils of the Četnik movement, but also to the responses of the Partisans, who, nonetheless retained the moral and historical high ground. “Unsatisfied sons, wanting to change the world, rose against their unhappy and disappointed fathers; but for the sons as for the fathers, certain victories on the battlefield were in vain.” Those battles, “fratricidal” battles,24 were betrayed in peace, which was “conceived of as an opportunity to realize various selfish intentions, under different illusions and excuses, in the name of shared interests.”25 Here Ćosić comes to his most critical point: the high ideals of the “unhappy sons,” communists, were corrupted by power after the Second World War.

27In these conditions of complete degradation, betrayed by outsiders, betrayed by their faith, betrayed by their own people, Ćosić laid out his challenge for the novelist, a challenge that he saw himself answering:

  • 26 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 33.

I align myself with those who believe that literature, with its humanistic spirit and truths, is called to overcome existing mistakes and disagreements. But for this we need freedom, knowledge, and conscience. We must, thus, above all…defend and confirm the existential values of our collective essence and its historical being.26

28Because of Serbia’s special place in European history, the Serbian writer has a monumental task before him.

  • 27 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 34.

The history of the Serbian nation, especially in the twentieth century, offers to the literary art subjects of European and general human character, because the fundamental ideas which moved people in our national history, its spiritual and moral dilemmas, were of general importance, because on our soil, with our blood and spirit, the fate of Europe was decided. Serbian national history, in its local currents and events is not only Serbian, only Balkan, and thus provincial and particular, rather it is European…In the world community of spirit and values, to this point we…exist as a nation; in its creativity, its ethos, its role in history of humanity.27

  • 28 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 34.

29Ćosić, who had just completed Time of Death, saw the best vehicle for the task of understanding Serbia’s past as the novel. He openly modeled himself on Tolstoy: “At this point I cannot but not remind you of the powerful force from Iasnaia Poliana, who, after Napoleon’s wars, shouted out: ‘Write the true, honest, history of this century. There is a goal for a lifetime!’ This “truthful history” of our century, I see in the novel.”28 Ćosić, of course, saw his own Time of Death as his initial contribution to this project; the central theme of the novel is that Serbia stood as an example of all that Europe should have stood for, but was betrayed nevertheless.

30Ćosić claimed to have found it impossible to come to terms with Serbia’s First World War, the subject of Time of Death.

Even after several years of thought, I still have not succeeded as a writer in understanding the most important thing: with what needs and desires, in the name of which goals and misunderstandings did Serbia sacrifice nearly half of itself in the killing fields of the First World War? One must remain silent for a long, long time over the seven-digit number of dead: one million two hundred fifty seven thousand….Only in the number of martyrs for freedom do we stand at the very top of the European list.

31Admittedly incapable of comprehending the sheer numbers and their implications, Ćosić is left to ponder less the role of the writer of historical novels in achieving comprehension and more the existential tragedy of Serbian history. But at this point he re-introduces a notion that would come to obsess him: that Serbs allow themselves to be defeated by the enemy within:

  • 29 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 36–37.

what sort of nation are we, what sort of people are we who give so much for freedom in wars only to remain without it after our very victories? How is it that someone among us, someone in our house, takes that which a much stronger enemy could not take on the battlefield? How is it that people so honorable, proud, brave in war, remain degraded and subservient in peace?29

32So, what began as reflections on the role of the novelist as an interpreter of the past, ended as reflections on the inscrutability of the Serbian situation: placing Serbia among the exemplary nations of twentieth- century Europe, suggesting Serbia as a test case for understanding the horrors of that century, Ćosić can only conclude that they cannot be understood. “Do I dare to admire so much death, no matter how heroic? Can I be proud of it?” One’s inability to understand the past is no reason not to try, however, and in so suggesting, Ćosić opened the door to his own and others’ narcissistic search to finally comprehend Serbia’s twentieth century, by definition a tragic century.

History challenges our literature to express the conscience of the tragic fate of our nation and to bring rebellion against such a fate. Like every rebellion of the creative consciousness, this poetic one must be a rebellion against a world in which man agrees to be meaningless, degraded, and a victim. We are on that thin borderline from which one strides into the emptiness or steps into a life in which we stand straight and come nearer to our historical ideals.

33That which cannot be understood rationally must be understood with creativity. The essence of Serbia's situation was reflected clearly in the details, but the causes of that situation could only be understood via the revelation of the creator’s search for truth.


  • 30 Michael Dobbs, in the Manchester Guardian, noted that this exhibition was different than earlier o (...)
  • 31 R.K., “Filosofija ‘svevidećeg oka’,” in Komunist (Belgrade) December 14, 1979, 18–19.

34Mića Popović’s Scenes Painting responded directly to the post-Letter atmosphere in Serbia by confronting the new politics of enforced conformity. It did so in three ways: first, it began to explore explicitly Serbian themes; second, it began to incorporate an “anti-Totalitarian” message; and third, it addressed critically the communist promise of a better, more rational, future. In 1971, Scenes was a fairly disjointed series of paintings that had few thematic links. By 1974 and the “postponed” exhibition in Belgrade, the focus had sharpened, albeit invisibly to anyone but Popović or those who saw the works privately. In his 1979 exhibition, Formal Painting was not displayed, but Popović was nonetheless attacked by regime critics (and, not for the first time, noted by foreign ones).30 Opening several months before Tito’s death, the insecurity of the government, on display for several years, was heightened due to the president’s persistent illness. This exhibition, which spanned the Revolution Day holiday weekend in late November and was seen by thousands of visitors (more and more as the critics savaged it), was viewed by the government as nothing more than a political provocation, its paintings mere opposition placards.31 The 1979 exhibition showed that an originally engaged yet somewhat circumspect Scenes had become considerably more incisive since 1971.

35Thematic continuity remained with the original Scenes. Popović had honed the social critique embodied in the Gvozden paintings, partly by intensifying their topicality and story-board quality by adding actual clippings from Politika in ways that enraged his critics. The new Gvozden Scenes reinforced the feeling of profound loneliness that accompanied the life of the gastarbeiter. Popović continued to use the railway station and carriage as a setting, thereby taking advantage of one of the inherently most lonely voyages, always in the cheap seats (consciously emulating Daumier’s Third Class Carriage). Among many such paintings, two stand out: Second Class (1977), which depicts Gvozden leaning against the window of the Belgrade–Dortmund train, and Sparrows (1974), which shows three men hanging out the window of an ancient second-class carriage, sparrows picking at scraps on its roof. To the loneliness and dirtiness of the voyage Popović adds the juxtaposition of the sparrows, looking for food in an unlikely place. These paintings and many others like them complemented earlier explorations of the train station thematic, examined in chapter 5. Once Gvozden arrived in Germany, his isolation and alienation only grew. Gvozden Peeps into a Brothel (1973) portrays a sun-baked Gvozden pressing his hand and face up against the window of a house of illrepute. Not only can he not find more meaningful human companionship, it is obvious that he cannot afford the services of the prostitute. Worn out and destitute, he sleeps on a park bench in the late fall, shoeless, in The Last Leaf (1978). In yet another sleeping scene, a guest-worker snoozes on the street, under signs proclaiming the appearance of a YU-Group (1975), second-rate musicians playing for the guest-workers. The inclusion of the homeless sleeper in the scene emphasizes that this is a YU-Group composed of cultural outsiders of all sorts. The Gvozden cycle continued to develop, as Popović intended, as a serial depiction of the life of the guest worker.

36But the evolution of Scenes involved more than just an edgier argument against the degradation of the guest worker. Popović had also begun to enhance two qualities present but not emphasized in earlier Scenes: their Serbianness and their anti-Totalitarianism, and another that was not present earlier, a critique of the promise of modernity. With the exception of two paintings, Popović’s 1971 Scenes exhibition had displayed little that would connect the painter to a particular national audience. Only Vuk and At the Beginning of March This Year in a Circle of Friends held any specifically national content, and they did so in different ways. Vuk, of course, was a painting of Vuk Karadžić, the nineteenth-century folklorist and creator of the modern Serbian language, but aside from its formal links to Serbian culture and the subject’s involvement in Serbian nationalist endeavors, the painting was hardly nationalistic itself. One could argue that At the Beginning of March This Year in a Circle of Friends was less tied to a national milieu, given that the people represented were above all just Popović’s friends, who happened to be Serbs. But in this case, the subjects of the painting, less iconically Serbian in 1971 than Vuk Karadzić, were fast becoming modern symbols of nationalism in the eyes of the Tito regime. The government eventually concluded that At the Beginning of March This Year in a Circle of Friends represented a threat to social and political stability in Yugoslavia, even if the regime’s response would not be offered until 1979; Vuk Karadžić had never suffered the opprobrium of a regime that had proven willing to incorporate national figures into the pantheon of heroes of the underclass, of whom he was clearly one. The same could not be said of Mihiz, Ćosić, Isaković, Stojković, Trifunović, and others among Popović’s circle of friends, who had challenged the authority of the state in some way by 1971, and had been defined as part of a “nationalistic” undercurrent in Serbian culture thereafter.

  • 32 Sava Dautović, “Izložba političkog pamfletizma,” in Politika (Belgrade) December 10, 1979, 12.
  • 33 Dautović, Izložba,12.

37By 1979, Popović had added to his Serbian Scenes (and Vuk and At the Beginning of March This Year in a Circle of Friends were once again exhibited as well). These new Serbian scenes appeared in two guises: one harkened back to the First World War and used imagery that recalled the torturous withdrawal in the winter of 1915; another emphasized Gvozden’s Serbianness and the fate of modern Serbs in Tito’s Yugoslavia. Variations on the first type include a First World War era soldier defacating (Rear End [n.d.]), which added a layer of degradation, familiar from the Gvozden cycle, to the image of the Serbian soldier from 1914/15, an inherently tragic figure, both in reality and in Serbian historical mythology. A related “Serbian” painting was Jevrem (1973), which portrayed a similar figure squatting on a street corner, smoking, wearing a Serbian military cap, at an unclear point in time. But Jevrem clearly recalled fateful 1915, the year of the great withdrawal of the Serbian military, government, and many civilians across the snow-swept mountains of northern Albania. Nineteen- fifteen also linked the two types of Serbian Scenes: beneath the painting Gvozden Blows His Nose on the Platform of the Niš Train Station, Popović wrote of a Serbian “withdrawal which has lasted since 1915.”32 Presumably, he chose to place these words under Gvozden because Gvozden represented a new “withdrawal,” in this case, a migration northward to find sustenance. But by fixing on the year 1915, Popović placed these paintings into a tragic/heroic context that was unmistakable to Serbs, and which had recently been the focus of Dobrica Ćosić’s trilogy Time of Death.33

  • 34 Bora Ćosić, “Teatar Miće Popovića,” 178.

38Less openly but just as obviously Serbian were the paintings Idyll (1978) and Serbs in a Waiting Room (1978). Only two things make Serbs in a Waiting Room Serbian: the copy of Politika which lies on the table, and the name that Popović chose for the painting; Idyll has only the newspaper to identify its subjects. Otherwise, these paintings simply portray people; unhappy, bored, disgusted people, perhaps, but just people. For Popović, they could have been “Yugoslavs,” one supposes, since they were that as well, but that just indicates how important the choice of title—and of nation—was for him. These bored people are not Yugoslavs, they are Serbs, and as such, they reflect Popović’s vision of Serbianness in 1978. Another Ćosić, this time Bora, wrote that “….for Popović these Serbs sit in a third class waiting room and stare into the emptiness, and there is no train. Mića is in fact the poet of these people, tired, drooling, and sleepy, who need to travel somewhere but do not know where…”34

39These are not the only paintings to revel in Serbian degradation. Others, including This Nation Sleeps (1975), which has no obvious Serbian referents but depicts the same people that are in Serbs in a Waiting Room, and Two-Year Guarantee (1978), which shows Gvozden sleeping on a park bench in Germany with “Politika” draped over his head, reinforce the identity between Serbianness and degradation. Reviewers of the 1979 exhibition picked out Serbs in a Waiting Room for harsh criticism. But, given the lack of negative response to the 1971 exhibition, which just as clearly focused on fatigue and humiliation, one must assume that those qualities were not subversive in a painting until they were given a national home.

40Providing a link between the “Serbian” Scenes and the “anti- Totalitarian” Scenes is a full-sized portrait (measuring close to seven feet high) of Professor Mihailo Djurić (1974), the professor from the University of Belgrade Law Faculty who was tried, convicted, and jailed in 1971 as a result of a public speech he gave critiquing several constitutional amendments proposed that year. Djurić became a martyr to the new Titoist mantra of “moral-political suitability” as a result of his jailing, but his speech was in fact nationalistic, the first public enunciation since Ćosić’s in 1968 of the fears that many Serbs felt regarding their own dispersal among several ever more sovereign republics in Yugoslavia. To paint (in 1974) and exhibit (in 1979) a portrait of this man, a longtime friend of Popović and a member of the Simina 9a commune, was to criticize Titoism. It could plausibly be viewed as an addition to At the Beginning of March This Year in a Circle of Friends, but it was also a veritable “monster portrait” (to reuse Popović’s own term) of a new icon in new times—in this case, opposition to the growing authoritarianism of the regime in the name of the new federal order in Yugoslavia.

  • 35 There are two of them—Serbian: with the word; American: without the word—according to Ćosić in Mić (...)
  • 36 Ćosić, an admirer, was reserved: “I don’t have Mića’s strength to see the drama of history as a fa (...)

41Popović’s social commentary, moving from the universal early Gvozden paintings to the more directly Serbian themes of Serbs in a Waiting Room, Idyll, and Two-Year Guarantee, remained the crux of Scenes. But some of Popović’s most provocative and effective paintings of this period were metaphorical ruminations on the nature of the society in which he lived and worked. I am calling these his “anti-totalitarian” paintings, borrowing the term that East European oppositionists used to describe their political and ideological setting. The most bracing such image that Popović produced must be that of Popović himself, seated and facing the painter with hand outstretched. In one variation, the words “No, Thanks” are inscribed above his head; in another, “Manipulationis written across the top. While the images are similarly composed and share a general point, they are really quite different in their particulars. No, Thanks (1977) is a vision of quiet determination but also fatigue; Popović is small on the canvas, unprepossessingly dressed, with a set expression on his face and a firm hand raised not to attack nor to defend, but simply to ask that he no longer be asked to accept what power offers him. “I’ll take care of my own needs,” he seems to be saying with his simple hand signal. By 1979, in Manipulation,35 Popović is a larger, more dominating figure, but his nose and mouth, perhaps his eyes as well, are blinded by some sort of wrap; he is in physical and/or mental agony, his hand having been consumed by an object of some sort (Popović later called it a doll), which appears to be acting on its own. From No, Thanks to Manipulation, the painter has lost the ability to decline; having turned down the offer by power of ideology, world view, way of life, persona, moral compass, he now realizes that it wasn’t an offer at all. The message of Manipulation is that the people of the totalitarian state will be chewed up by the system that controls them. On a more prosaic level, the figure in Manipulation represents the Serbian intellectual, forced into an uncomfortable silence after 1974. Other Scenes fill in the blanks in the anti-totalitarian message. In The Great Red Jump (1979), leap-frog is turned into metaphor as Gvozden, in a white shirt, stands uncomfortably but resignedly with hands on knees as another man in a red shirt and black pants and boots jumps over him (and it helps to know that the word for jump in this case could also mean “trick”). In this case the symbolism is too prominent, perhaps, as Gvozden is what he has always been—the loser—as he provides a leg up to the sycophantic red-shirt who moves ahead thanks to Gvozden’s unwillingly given assistance. In The Discovery of Breughel (1974), Popović sits half naked in front of a reworking of Pieter Breughel’s The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind (1568), Breughel’s blind peasants now sporting melons for heads, but still heading into the void.36 The melon-heads are of course the people of Tito’s Yugoslavia.

  • 37 Miodrag Pavlović, Nove slikarske godine Miće Popovića (Apatin: Merkur, 1979) xxx.
  • 38 Gligorijević, Odgovor, 103.

42Still others—in fact, a significant number of Scenes—seem to be long-delayed responses to early Titoism’s early faith (as exemplified by the younger Dobrica Ćosić) in the ultimate perfectibility of the modern world. Doesn’t Popović’s own back in Urbanism (1975) convey more effectively than any face could the skepticism he feels towards the project of modernity? Aren’t the houses of cards stretched out on a bare wooden table not a stunning rebuke to those who believed so profoundly in humanity’s ability to create a perfect modern world? The poet Miodrag Pavlović selected Urbanism for special comment: “a painting before which one must stop,” it conveyed a “feeling of anxiety and confinement” without “a final conclusion.37 Urbanism is exceptional among these Scenes for the fact that it does not include either of the two animal symbols that Popović favored, the monkey and, less commonly, the dog. For Popović, the monkey embodies the darkness it symbolized in earlier artistic eras, but also the more modern image of the “charming entertainer, mischievous child, keen and jolly, the skilled imitator…”38 In Popović’s paintings, monkeys appear in roles usually reserved for humans, and in symbolically modern or otherwise complex settings: building the house of cards that Popović would examine skeptically in Urbanism (Builder, in many variations); holding a protractor (The Planning of the Subhuman, 1979); smoking a cigarette (Smoker, in variations); holding a barbell while balancing on a tightrope (Balance, 1981). In most of those paintings, the monkey is a benign presence—the monkey in Builder, for instance, seems like he’s in over his head, and represents a critique of those who would construct our modernity.

43But in one of the most provocative Scenes paintings of all, the monkey becomes something fierce, even evil, and is joined by Gvozden for their only appearance together. Gvozden Saves a Poodle or the General and Specific Theory of Relativity (1978) shows Gvozden lifting a poodle away from a table—in a classroom or laboratory—on which three monkeys busily eviscerate two other larger dogs. The monkeys and the poodle clearly reflect the forces of evil and good respectively, and Gvozden is doing the right thing by saving the poodle. But Tito’s dog was a poodle, and it is only when we realize that Popović had allowed himself that heavy-handed metaphor that we understand that Gvozden is benevolently saving the pet of the man who had created the vicious world that was about to devour him and the dog. It’s all relative; in this case, to one’s relationship to Tito, as the smallest and least powerful, most effete dog of the group survives brutalization.

  • 39 R.K., “Filosofija,” 19.
  • 40 Dautović, “Izložba,” 12. Dautović's review is an obvious example of the sort of pre-planned politi (...)
  • 41 Djordje Kadijević, “Spoj nespojivog,” in NIN (Belgrade) December 16, 1979, 33.
  • 42 Kadijević, “Spoj nespojivog,” 33.

44Reviews of the 1979 exhibition reflected the new content of Scenes but also the reconfigured post-1974 political scene in Yugoslavia, when any straying from the official line brought immediate and usually unrealistic and exaggerated condemnation. The reviewer for Komunist waxed simplistic: “…In the case of Mica Popović…we find invective and allusions of political ill will and doubtful value, lamentations on the endangerment of the nation…[and] portraits of his friends, of indeterminate artistic-expressional value and totally unambiguously provocative contents.”39 The lesson of the show, in this reviewer’s eyes, was that the state needed to pay more attention to such exhibitions. This reviewer was especially incensed by the inclusion of At the Beginning of March This Year in a Circle of Friends, which of course included people like Ćosić, Mihiz, and Trifunović, who were more than a little out of favor with the regime. In Politika, Sava Dautović (who has reinvented himself and continues to write in Belgrade today) also attacked Popović personally.40 “…This very exhibition, because of its supra-artistic messages, demands that a word more be said about the moral-political profile of this artist.” He noted (in the type of attack that could be heard repeatedly over the years) that Popović had the benefit of state support for his work before, even when the results were lousy (and here he notes that “The Man From the Oak Forest” and “Thugs” were banned because of antisocialist content). Polemicizing with Popović’s catalog assertion that “everything here [in Yugoslavia] is ad hominem,” and “as a personality I have always been a target,” Dautović argued that Popović was just “faced with his own artistic stagnation…” and therefore driven to produce “nationalisticpolitical abstractions” that were “anti-self-management and antidemocratic.” In particular, Dautović did not appreciate the haloed appearance of Popović and his friends, whose “anti-self-management views are well-known,” in At the Beginning of March This Year in a Circle of Friends. Most absurdly, Dautović did not like the placement of Politika in several paintings, especially Gvozden Blows His Nose on the Platform of the Niš Train Station (where the newspaper, directly under the nose in question, may have received some of the excretion) “in a way that no artistic freedom, because of the dignity of art, could stand.” Dautović also noted Popović’s linking of his paintings with Ćosić’s recent Time of Death: under the painting of Gvozden at the Niš train station, Popović’s written description talks of “withdrawal which has lasted since 1915.” In NIN, Popović found his only remotely friendly reviewer, in Djordje Kadijević, who nevertheless criticized Popović’s vision of late-Titoist Yugoslavia: “Pessimism drawn from a nihilistic vision,” Kadijević wrote, “represents only the converse of apologetic optimism, but it is equally ephemeral.”41 Also: “The private political comic strip of a painter cannot provoke real social trauma, but it need not be the case either that a dubious component in the work of that painter supercede the real value which that work comprises. The world will not be changed by this exhibition, nor indeed will social reality. Only art may be wounded by it.”42

45Why were Scenes received relatively warmly (at least initially) in 1971, but condemned so pathetically in 1979? There are two possible answers. One, already obvious from the preceding, is that the nature of Scenes had changed in important ways. Only a fraction of the 1971 Scenes had been socially critical, and they had shared space with still lifes, random portraits, and odd film-inspired sequences. By 1979, the “Serbian” and “Anti-Totalitarian” Scenes had become dominant. But they might not have become dominant were it not for the second answer to the question, which is that the nature of the Tito regime had fundamentally changed. In 1971, the regime was still trying to get a handle on the enormous change that it had both inspired and determined to stop. By 1979, the regime had settled on a method of dealing with the outpouring of engagement that the late sixties had produced: marginalize it, illegalize it, move from the borba mišljenja to moralno politička podobnost. The resulting Letter and 1974 Constitution were symbols of the regime's fear of initiative and innovation, and on the eve of Tito’s death, in fear more often than it inspired fear, it did not much care how ridiculous it looked. What had once been a vibrant and inquisitive society had become a polarized one, with those holding power and those questioning power staring at each other across metaphorical copies of the Letter. The real point, though, is that the relationship of the new Scenes content and the attitude of the regime towards intellectual creativity was dialectic. The anti-Totalitarian and, probably, Serbian Scenes would not have developed as they did were it not for the crackdown of 1972, the Letter, and the 1974 Constitution.

  • 43 R.K., “Filosofija,” 18.
  • 44 Čelebonović, “Razgovori.”
  • 45 Irina Subotić, "Mića Popović: Od materije do materijala u njegove iluzije" (Kruševac: Umetnička ga (...)

46Reviews of the exhibition—purely political, virtually without artistic merit themselves, disinterested in anything but condemnation— exemplify a Yugoslav society and a Yugoslav government which had descended to a creative nadir unmatched since the Second World War. But these reviewers were mostly regime hacks. Sometimes there was a kernel of truth in the hack commentary, though, no matter that it led the reader down a blind alley. For instance, the reviewer from Komunist believed (with reason) that Popović had failed to respect his own program, which the reviewer simplistically reduced to the claim that “Scenes painting is…not political painting.”43 Others, sympathetic with Popović’s program, understood that Popović’s Scenes represented more than the simple and dispassionate “witnessing” that the painter proclaimed them to be. Popović himself implicitly gave evidence of this flaw in his program of witnessing in an interview from 1979. To his remark (by then virtually boilerplate in his interviews about Scenes) that he had “no intent to accuse anyone or anything” with his paintings, Aleksa Čelebonović (his interviewer) responded that guest workers were not all that oppressed—that they “represent an important component of that which makes us an open country. Our people go and learn a lot while abroad. They return, build new houses, garages, barns…” Popović, something less than a simple witness now, retorted that “it would be better that all of those gardens, fences, and houses were built with funds attained through work at home.”44 Those who shared Popović’s assumptions about the state of Yugoslavia in 1979 were unsurprised by the nature of his “unvarnished” vision. These people included Popović's buyers, who were legion: his paintings have been described as “musts” for collectors in the 1970s and 1980s.45 For every Dautović, there was a Miodrag Pavlović, Bora Ćosić, or Dobrica Ćosić who expressed a much more positive, and one suspects authentic, view of Popović's “comic strip.”

47Ćosić's and Popović’s work connected in rich and telling ways. It is not entirely clear which of them led the way. Ćosić’s Time of Death introduced a new form of Ćosićean introspection: always picking at scabs, he moved from picking the scabs that made it impossible for Serbia and Yugoslavia to become part of that mythical modern world he idealized so thoroughly to picking at the scabs of Serbia’s twentieth- century humiliation. The contrasts between Divisions and Time of Death tell the story of Ćosić’s transformation: they are both war stories, but they emerge from completely different concerns. Where Divisions examines the roots of Serbs' unwillingness to embrace modernity, Time of Death examines the world's unwillingness to embrace and reward Serbs love of freedom, grace under pressure, and general heroism. They are both, however, marked by one of Ćosić’s enduring themes, which is the importance of the geopolitical, social, and moral divisions that have historically cursed and tempted Serbs. Time of Death’s most important innovation, though, is that it firmly established Ćosić’s move from the universal to the parochial, from Yugoslavia to Serbia, from Serbia's integration with the world to the perfection of Serbia itself.

  • 46 Gligorijević, Odgovor, 31.

48Popović also moved, and like Ćosić, he moved back to Serbia. But Popović’s starting point was different. Where Ćosić’s concerns had always been local, in that he focused on Yugoslavia and Serbs’ need to embrace the new idealism of communism and universalism, Popović had abandoned Yugoslavia and Serbia as anything of particular value in the 1950's; “The Village of Nepričava” had been his first and last attempt to work with Serbian artistic traditions in his own painting. Popović came back to Serbia with the vengeance of one who suddenly realized that his earlier abstract attempts to critique global reality had missed the mark. As noted earlier, he would explain that “those in power… understood relatively quickly that there was nothing to fear from abstract painting.”46 Their moves also differed in critical ways. Where Ćosić had always focused on the moral “interior,” the qualities that made people do the things they do, which was reflected in his writing in the “inside-out,” endlessly self-flagellating monologues, Popović now repudiated his own devotion to the interior (as represented by his work in informel) for the open world of social and political activism.

  • 47 Ćosić, Mića Popović, 198.

49Ćosić and Popović allowed or encouraged links between their work. When Popović described Gvozden as participating in a new flight akin to that of Serbia in 1915, he did so in the knowledge that the Flight in Winter had become a new metaphor for betrayal. There is no reason to believe that this reflected anything deeper than a useful coincidence. The real importance of the links between their work is that those links were there because they reflected a deeper reality about the self-image of many Serbs in the 1970s: betrayed by outsiders as well as their own, the implicit solution to the historical dilemma was a revival of Serbian consciousness as such, rather than as part of some utopian universalist commitment. Ultimately, Ćosić provided the coda for both his and Popović’s work, in commentary on Serbs in a Waiting Room: “These Serbs of Mića’s accept their fate patiently, reconciled, astonished, threateningly, but all—silently. For how long, and what then? Mića Popović does not say. Because not a single Serb knows that answer yet. If the answer is the traditional one—then there is no salvation for them…”47


1 It is also one of just two that have been translated into English (Daleko je sunce is the other, but it has not been in print in English for many years).

2 Dobrica Ćosić, Reach to Eternity (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1980) 167

3 Dobrica Ćosić, A Time of Death (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978) 158.

4 Dobrica Ćosić, South to Destiny (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1981) 128.

5 Dobrica Ćosić, Into the Battle (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1983) 34.

6 Ćosić, Into the Battle, 258.

7 Ćosić, Return to Eternity, 169.

8 Ćosić, South to Destiny, 20.

9 Ćosić, South to Destiny, 133.

10 Ćosić, Into the Battle, 96.

11 Ćosić, South to Destiny, 20.

12 Ćosić, Reach to Eternity, 167.

13 The inclusion of historical documents mirrors Popović’s use of artifacts—press clippings, for instance—in his Scenes paintings.

14 Ćosić, A Time of Death, 201.

15 Ćosić, Into the Battle, 63.

16 Ćosić, Into the Battle, 129.

17 Ćosić, A Time of Death, 184.

18 Ćosić, South to Destiny, 44–45.

19 Ćosić, South to Destiny, 373–75.

20 Ćosić, Into the Battle, 64.

21 Pristupne akademijske besede, v. 308 of Glas Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti; Odeljenje jezika i književnosti, v. 9 (Belgrade: Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti, 1978) 27–28. This speech would later be republished under the title “Književnost i istorija danas.” I will use that title from here on.

22 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 29.

23 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 31–32.

24 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 32.

25 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 32.

26 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 33.

27 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 34.

28 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 34.

29 Ćosić, “Književnost i istorija danas,” 36–37.

30 Michael Dobbs, in the Manchester Guardian, noted that this exhibition was different than earlier ones for Popović’s use of newspaper montage. He notes also that many had long been displayed in state art galleries; that the visitors had grown since the state-sponsored attacks; and that the Djurić portrait especially angered the government. Michael Dobbs, “Critics Jump to Tito’s Defence,” in The Manchester Guardian (Manchester) December 12, 1979, 8. See also Dessa Trevisan, “Uproar over Belgrade Art Show,” in The Times (London) December 12, 1979, 7.

31 R.K., “Filosofija ‘svevidećeg oka’,” in Komunist (Belgrade) December 14, 1979, 18–19.

32 Sava Dautović, “Izložba političkog pamfletizma,” in Politika (Belgrade) December 10, 1979, 12.

33 Dautović, Izložba,12.

34 Bora Ćosić, “Teatar Miće Popovića,” 178.

35 There are two of them—Serbian: with the word; American: without the word—according to Ćosić in Mića Popović, 176; the Serbian version is harsher and darker, the American lighter, Ćosić argues.

36 Ćosić, an admirer, was reserved: “I don’t have Mića’s strength to see the drama of history as a farce, or tragedy as grotesque.” Ćosić, Mića Popović, 180.

37 Miodrag Pavlović, Nove slikarske godine Miće Popovića (Apatin: Merkur, 1979) xxx.

38 Gligorijević, Odgovor, 103.

39 R.K., “Filosofija,” 19.

40 Dautović, “Izložba,” 12. Dautović's review is an obvious example of the sort of pre-planned politicized criticism that usually emanated from some party committee.

41 Djordje Kadijević, “Spoj nespojivog,” in NIN (Belgrade) December 16, 1979, 33.

42 Kadijević, “Spoj nespojivog,” 33.

43 R.K., “Filosofija,” 18.

44 Čelebonović, “Razgovori.”

45 Irina Subotić, "Mića Popović: Od materije do materijala u njegove iluzije" (Kruševac: Umetnička galerija, 29.V.-10.VII.1995) 7.

46 Gligorijević, Odgovor, 31.

47 Ćosić, Mića Popović, 198.

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