- Bdenje duše (Vigil of the Soul)
Organized and prepared during the current decade as a literary, cinematographic and documentary project of the Association of Film and Television Workers of Vovjodina, Novi Sad, this handsomely hardbound, well produced and richly illustrated volume is an integral part of a larger and more ambitious enterprise dealing with statehood, spirituality and art of Orthodox Christianity among the Serbs.
Vigil of the Soul is a macro-metaphor for spirituality and art in Serbian sacerdotal heritage from Hilandar (12th century) to the present. The entire project, including a number of variously specialized scholars and professionals, is still unfolding, with the blessing of the highest authorities of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the support of the Ministry for the Diaspora of the Republic of Serbia.
The gifted and impressively learned author of this inspired and solidly documented contribution to the history of Serbian culture as a distinctive and significant Byzantinoid civilization, Prof. Jovan K. Radunović, apparently a nephew of the late Stephan Lastavica, much esteemed former Bishop of the Eastern American and Canadian Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox church, is an unusually and diversely educated scholar as well as a clergyman in his own right. According to him, the whole idea of Vigil of the Soul comes from his revered uncle.
The author is obviously aware of the tragically unfavorable position and overall reputation of the Serbian nation and its deeply wounded state and, like many other patriotic Serbian intellectuals, eager to do whatever he can to remind the world community, as well as his own beleaguered and ostracized people, that there is a great deal more to Serbia’s name, reputation and legacy [End Page 353] than might mistakenly be surmised from its currently negative international image. It is important to stress, however, that the work under review is admirably free from every trace of narcissistic nationalism, let alone chauvinism, and remarkably objective and critically balanced in its handling of a truly plethoric and almost always emotionally charged and delicate factual evidence.
As a Christian believer, Prof. Radunović, like this reviewer, is convinced that all of us are in need of forgiveness but that no people is ever collectively guilty and beyond redemption. Besides, he convincingly demonstrates that the artistic, intellectual and moral heritage of the Serbs, based on more than thirteen centuries of recorded history, is worthy of the most favorable critical evaluation and esteem and that, as such, it represents an honorable contribution to the overall treasury of world civilization.
Although his perspective on the broad and complex range of interrelated topics which he seeks to encompass, elucidate and assess, is understandably influenced by his religious orientation and the theological and dogmatic sides of his multifaceted erudition, it is to Radunović’s credit that his methodological approach always remains scrupulously secular, critically responsible to the facts and intellectually and morally defensible. In other words, one does not have to share his metaphysical and epistemological predilections to accept and admire his reasoning and his conclusions, based, as they are, on documented and sophisticated scholarship. As a result, what Prof. Radunović writes is always carefully balanced and critically scrutinized historiography and biography, and never crypto-hagiography.
On the whole and in most cases, he writes clearly, economically and, at times, even elegantly, but in certain instances his sentences, overloaded with facts and messages, groan under the burden of his multi-intentional motivation and become, though syntactically correct, almost turgid. It is often playfully said that Hegel, Kant and other great German philosophers, after stating their subject on one page, usually chase the auxiliary verb to another and that this is why their thought is easier to grasp in an English translation than in the original German. In view of the fact that Serbian is a highly inflected language, it lends itself to rather long and structurally complicated sentences...