- Stanislav Krakov: The Polemical Context of the Life of the Man from the Balkans
To write about Stanislav Krakov, a novelist, moviemaker, and journalist who emigrated after WWII when the communists established their rule in Yugoslavia, means to deal with lots of questions. Twenty years after the end of communism in Serbia, its suppressive echoes remain there. Even in the context of international Slavic studies, works by Serbian writers who were prohibited by the communists are studied sparingly. Traditionally interested in literary criticism in Slavic countries, the international scene is only slowly discovering forbidden Serbian writers. Stanislav Krakov is one of the best examples. If one Googles his name, results in English will include only references in major library catalogues. In this work I first briefly introduce Stanislav Krakov, a novelist who introduced modernist, avant-garde, and cinematographic approaches in Serbian prose but who remains unknown to larger scholarly audience. In order to show the current relevance of Krakov’s work in the light of modern literary theories, I then compare his autobiography, Život čoveka sa Balkana (henceforward in English translation The Life of the Man from the Balkans),1 with the key points of Balkan discourse, as described in Maria Todorova’s Imagining the Balkans.
Stanislav Krakov, son of a Polish emigrant, a military physician in the Serbian Army, was born on March 29th 1895.2 From the early days of childhood he witnessed events which would change the course of the history—Serbian as well as the European. He was eight years old when the assassination of the Serbian royal couple, Aleksandar and Draga Obrenović, took place. During [End Page 189] the demonstrations in response to Austrian annexation of Bosnia in 1908, he was in the front line. During the Balkan Wars (1912–13) Stanislav was finishing grammar school. As a seventeen-year old he volunteered for the Balkan Wars and confronted his Marxist professors, who were against the war for ideological reasons. After the end of the Balkan Wars, he entered a military academy, which he never finished because of the outbreak of the WWI. During this war he served as a non-commissioned officer in the elite troops, facing death on a daily basis. He was the first Serbian officer to cross the Sava River and enter the former Austrian province of Vojvodina, with its majority Serbian population. After the WWI, he continued his military service, first as an intelligence officer, then in several other capacities, but eventually resigned after a suicide attempt. He graduated from the Faculty of Law of the University of Belgrade and became a journalist.
Krakov’s writing career started on the front lines during the WWI. His first novel was written between battles, in temporary shelters. Works written in the interwar period are characterized by war themes, avant-garde poetical principles, and significant originality. “He belonged to the Belgrade literary community ‘Alpha’, a community which had given key impact to the development of the Serbian avant-garde.”3 In this community he met his wife, Ivanka, a former intelligence officer. Krakov wrote “stories, accounts of his travels, reports, reviews on literature, art, movies, and theatre,”4 the novels Through the Storm (1921) and Wings (1922), an account of travel, Through Southern Serbia (1926), a memoir, Our Last Victories (1928), and the monographs The Rise of the Chetniks I (1930), Peter the Crown Prince (1933), as well as the General Milan Nedić I–II, one of the most eminent books on the position of Serbia’s authorities during the WWII.
In the 1930s Krakov worked as a journalist for many Serbian newspapers and magazines. After having traveled through the south part of Serbia, Krakov founded a private museum of old icons, first of its kind in Serbia. At this time Stanislav Krakov also became a moviemaker. According to his daughter, Milica Arsenijević-Krakov, he made several documentaries, most probably lost, but the most important, Serbia’s Golgotha, was shown under the title For the Glory of the Fatherland in Serbian alternative theaters in the 1990s. Moreover, during this period of his life, he stopped writing novels and stories, focusing on works of Serbian national interests, which was his preoccupation until...