All posts by Olle Bergman

April is the kindest month

T.S. Eliot claimed that April was the cruelest month, but as I watch the façades of the Belgrade buildings I realise that I—being a very heat-sensitive person—was lucky to be here during spring. On the houses here, air conditioning units are clinging like the many breasts on the chest of Artemis.

Artemis fra Efesos
By Gunnar Bach Pedersen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Aircondition units everywhere, making life in Belgrade possible during the summer heat when the temperature sometimes reaches 35–40 degrees.

(Blogged from notes 2014-04-18)

Work, work …

So, I really have a nice place to work here on Mise Vujica 7: space, light, solitude, silence.

No local things that disturb my concentration, but through the email distractions keep pouring in which remind me that I have a personal and professional life in Sweden as well. I counted 37 outgoing emails with different subjects this day.

Where was I … oh yeah, I am a Writer in Residence …!

At Idiot Bar by the Botanic Garden

Halleluja, jag är frisk igen! (‘Halleluja, I am well again!’) sang the Swedish singer-songwriter Cornelis Vreeswijk once. (If you think that is an odd Swedish name, it is; Cornelis was Dutch but became a renewer of the Swedish song craft.) This title comes to mind every time I lay off the burden of a bad cold or a lumbago. It’s ok to be in Serbia in the spring feeling sick, but it sure is great being here healthy and strong! And that is how I finally feel after a lazy weekend.

Friday was sunny and lovely, and I had two great meetings. Then I decided to let Saturday be my resting day. A thunderstorm drew in over Belgrade, and the rain soaked the streets. It was nice sitting on the balcony and just watch the powers of nature rage across the urban landscape, and finally see how the rays of the sun broke through and painted the facades of the worn down Tito-era houses with a golden hue.

Today I constructed a standing desk from a tall table and some other stuff. After a while, I felt the need to have some people around me so I decided to go to some place with wifi and work. Eventually, I ended up at a place which bears a name which has attracted me since I first stumbled upon it in a Belgrade Guide: Idiot Bar.

Du kan kalla mig för idiot.
Det har jag ingenting emot.
Jag är en idot.

You can call me an idiot.
It doesn’t bother me.
I am an idot.

(Bob Hund: Mer än så kan ingen bli)

I sat there browsing through the pages of a manuscript which has turned its back at me for a long time. But now it seemed ready to start a negotiation regarding its finalization.

Yes, for a moment, it even smiled at me.

A birch grove outside Hala Pionir—like a Sweden in miniature.
A birch grove outside Hala Pionir—like a Sweden in miniature.

A black guitar to keep me company

A flat without a guitar is an empty flat. I am also used to bring along my guitar to parties, dinners and events. Sometimes I unpack it, sometimes I don’t – it depends on the circumstances. But I am always a little sad if there is a splendid opportunity for some improvised music performance, but no instrument is at hand.

Therefore I made a long walk on Thursday night from Bulevar despota Stefana looking for either of two music stores. Music Center on 27. marta 39 I just couldn’t find (I found out later that it was hidden in a yard among the tall Tito era houses). Hence, I went looking for Mitros Music on   Admirala Geprata 10. After crossing Pionirski park, I thought I was close but then a couple gave me the wrong directions and I made a long detour to Hotel Moscow.

So when I finally found the shop and rushed it, was five minutes to closing time. I stepped up to the man who seemed to be in charge and just said ”I have a budget of 15 000 dinars. Do you have a decent western guitar for this price?”. He asked me to follow and pointed at a black Fender. ”This is the one you should buy”, he said and after trying it I felt it was perfectly ok.

I paid in a rush, grabbed the guitar by the neck and started walking home. In the corner of  Kralja Milana and Kneza Miloša, I sat down in a empty shop window to tune it. He was right, the music store manager. I couldn’t imagine anything better for that price.

I went home to my flat, and it was not so empty anymore. Who needs a pet when you have a black western guitar?

(Written from notes and published 2014-04-16)


Understanding Serbia is like reading a mystery novel

I had some fantastic conversation yesterday, discussing Serbia, Belgrade, food, traditions, politics, culture, street smartness. I also learnt to find my directions in the city. How to follow Bulevar despota Stefana between my apartment and the city center, and about other important streets like Takovska that becomes Kneza Miloža when it crosses Bulevar kralja Aleksandra. How to recognise landmarks like the TV house, the National Assembly or the National Theatre. I saw thousands of Serbians go around their business in streets that were bristling with activity late in the evening.

And during the process, I associated one fact with another and added a fresh observation, continously increasing my understanding of a complexity that I have not really understood.  It’s like weaving a web of clues when you read a mystery novel.

And still, I have not yet been here 24 hours. Belgrade, what do you have to offer today?

Friendly blue skys over Belgrade.
Friendly blue skies over Belgrade.

Leaving Sörmland with a terrible cold

Skavsta Airport, 8 PM

Viruses has a way of turning us into earthbound creatures, more engrossed in our state of health and the frustration of our impaired capabilities than in thinking, observations, analysis and learning.

Nevertheless: it has begun. And like always before a journey to a place that seems foreign to me, I turn to Gunnar Ekelöf to channel my feelings:

Som vore det sista kvällen före en lång, lång resa:
Man har biljetten i fickan och äntligen allting packat.
Och man kan sitta och känna de fjärran ländernas närhet,
känna hur allt är i allt, på en gång sitt slut och sin början,
känna att här och nu är både ens avfärd och hemkomst,
känna hur död och liv är starka som vin inom en!
A crude translation, made by Google Translate and me:
Like it was the last night before a long, long journey:
You have the ticket in your pocket and at last everything packed.
And you can sit and feel the distant countries’ proximity,
Knowing how everything is in everything, at once an end and its beginning,
to feel that here and now is both your departure and homecoming,
Knowing how death and life are strong like wine in you!

But the final word before takeoff is given to T.S. Eliot (Four Quartets):

We shall not cease from exploration
and at the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.


BTW, what kind of planning is this—placing a candy store 20 meters from the writer's apartment?
BTW, what kind of planning is this—placing a candy store 20 meters from the writer’s apartment?