Increasingly, my life appears to be taken over by my dissertation topic and anything that can be related to it. For anyone interested in the 1990s Bosnian conflict itself I cannot recommend strongly enough the 2001 film, No Man’s Land, directed by Danis Tanovic – but if, like me, you search for something a tad more literary and poetic, try The Ministry of Pain.
This book addresses the psychological phenomenon of ‘Yugo-nostalgia’, a yearning for the past of the Yugoslav Republic that was lost in its collapse in 1991. The Ministry of Pain is written from the perspective of Tanja, a temporary lecturer in the Slavonic languages department of a Dutch university based in Amsterdam. It chronicles the rememberings and coping methods of Tanja and her students, as they attempt to come to terms with the loss of their country of origin and with it a mutual understanding and language. Complex and conflicting, the fact that nothing really occurs apart from the passing of time is in itself the momentous occurring of this novel – asking if time really does heal all wounds.
Oddly, the theme of loss and missing parts of self are something I could empathise with. I shall leave you with this extract from the diary I have recently started keeping, whilst home for the holidays:
” Whilst I was out I kept considering the point Ugresic seems to be making in the book I’m reading at the moment – leaving home, its an irreparable state of events. Some never truly leave but I think that those who do, return to everything seeming so similar…but it isn’t. There’s something you can’t recapture. I mean, she’s talking about the loss of a country so its kind of different…”