Aleksandar Mandic - Measure for Measure

In Aleksandar Mandic’s book Measure for Measure are assembled columns from a variety of journals, papers, platforms and occasions, including from his renowned weekly column in Politika’s “Kulturni Dodatak.” The collection, consisting of 67 columns, is published by Yes-Pro media company in Belgrade with a preface by Ljubomir Simovic from the Serbian Academy of Arts and Scientists and an epilogue by professor Aleksandar Jerkov which includes the following:  

“It appears to me that this book could today stand as a monument to a grand historical failure, which consists of two similar conclusions and, now, a forthcoming third which could be – like in every successful triptych – final. I fear that the blood freezes in the veins from them, but that the only exaggeration in the entire work is the wonderful, charming smile of the artist who observes us from its cover.

… it has nearly been forty years that I have struggled to learn something about literature and equally many that I have vigorously lied to myself, as is my nature, that I in fact know something about it. For instance, I believe I know how to recognize when someone has the gift of the narrator and knows how to narrate – to craft a story so that the impression generated is the singular one that anyone truly caring of literature enjoys; and to understand that the act of narration is more important than what is being narrated. Thus I want to believe myself, and an impression bestowed me by the reading of this entire book, even as it does not seem to have texts that I was unaware of from the press. That impression is stronger in me than weighed and scrutinized judgements, polemical sharpness, comprehensiveness, and selection of topics – many of which are my own obsessions, such as the question of education and man’s cultural emancipation.

Manda is, then, as a natural born story-teller; this is a book of exquisite prose and a model of writing in which not only does the enlightened subject triumph, but the urgent need that someone, somewhere, always continues to narrate to another. It displays a potentiality easy to overlook: to take up a collection of cultural-historical stories as a veiled novel of an epoch. Reflexivity, essayism, commentary, public activism, and the politicity of viewpoint – all these are effortlessly railroaded by the rhythm of story and narrativization. For this reason it is read above and beyond every form of public engagement as a sort of mosaic novel of an epoch.

The reader, who cannot find refuge in boredom in this endlessly humorous series of reflections, notes, interpolations and protests, has before him a hidden narrator of the highest sort and a book which constitutes a cultural-historical novel of an epoch in the form of a mosaic.

Ljubomir Simović concludes his preface with the following thought:

“Manda writes his columns, his book, precisely so that we may all unblock what has been blocked in us. In his texts, there are lessons and didacticism, but who is to say that we, such as we are today, do not need them more than ever?

Moreover, this pedagogical dimension is swallowed and digested easily, as Manda – in tackling the most contemporary and sensitive problems – writes seriously, intelligently, and unconventionally. His style is natural, alive, compelling and humorous, without makeup or affectation. The book is not just a major contribution to our critical thinking; it is a contribution to the pristineness and grace of our language and style.”

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