If men were born to be happy, they would not have to feel pain. Yet, to feel pain is to be happy is it not? But us Dostoevskians are happy when others suffer, and why? Because we can use their pain for our uplifting. This is what I mean by suffering other people’s trifles: if Miroslav Pritvornikov did not suffer other people’s pain, he would not be capable of calling himself an artist…but, if he suffered, he would be unhappy. Yet, to feel pain, is to be happy, is to, well, to know that happiness stems from the same root as all suffering and pain. But the truly noble feel the pain of others differently than us.

Theirs is spiritual pain, the pain of a higher man…we can’t have it, but if it appears the same, is it not the same? And so…we use and abuse art merely to suffer the pain of others, usually lower than us (we imply) that, uplifted by our words, get to gain recognition and humanity, while we get to become their protectors, and masters…

But, still—we are men without a topic. And bloodlust remains within so, when Miroslav Pritvornikov writes, he implies like all Dostoevskians do, justice for the little man, only to turn it into Machiavellian accusations of evil. Evil he wishes to be repaid in blood. So, when he wrote his first stories, all of them spoke about the old wars—siege of Vukovar and Sarajevo, NATO bombardment of the capital, Albanian uprising, because he believed he has found his great topic—death, life, meaning, but above all, slavery and suffering. Suffering someone was responsible for, namely, Americans, namely Germans, namely…someone else.


When I wrote my first story of the drug-addicts of Nish, I didn’t expect the effect on society it would have, namely, that I have, in a manner of speaking, justified their ways and uplifted myself in the most Machiavellian of manners—because I used Dostoevskian sentiment to talk about a societal problem, I could not be attacked in any manner that I could not call out as bigotry or hatred. Knowing this, I began, I could say, getting drunk on the feeling of power…that was my Machiavellianism. My tales, of prostitutes, of various fiends and killers, stopped being mere tales, but became raw growth of power simply because the more I wrote, the less could an attack be formed against me. This is why our true topic is power; our soul yearns for it…I simply became an “engaged author” and was placed neatly in the liberal camp, and why?

Because I wrote about the oppressed and not the diseased. While Miroslav Pritvornikov wrote about the slandered and the abused: the common man, who will, through him, get to rise up, namely against me, Mishka Zachariy and while others saw our conflict as the struggle of conservative decency and liberal compassion, both of us knew our daggers were drawn against each other…I would write a story, about abuse by migrants and not two weeks later would—in Literary Gazette—emerge tales of migrants abusing the common man. I pleaded for compassion and the more I pleaded the more I rose upwards as a saint, no more a mere writer, but something beyond him, a man whose writing changes the structure of society…Pritvornikov battled me, how else, through politics, telling of my tales as a sign of a deep corruption…but his tales too reeked of blood. Of rapes in the alleyways, guttural churls of Semitic tongues and helpless local maidens…

Naturally, Nish became flooded with junkies…because, they had a literary saint of their own who has proved, ipso facto, that prejudice against them stabbing themselves in the park while parents were playing with toddlers was provincialism, suburban hypocrisy, bourgeoisie middle-class prejudice. But I lived on the wealthy side and never even saw a needle before. And on the other hand, passing migrants were disappearing in the forests after tales of Miroslav Pritvornikov started to emerge…

Because we were men without a great topic. And suffering of others, their petty trifles, was what we considered literature the only way we could.


I understood back then, when I look back now that we didn’t care about the minorities or the nation, we could care less about the oppressed and abused, we were not the ones meant for greatness but greatness, its intoxicating power was always dangled in front of us, knowing full well that this is how Europeans write, how they feel and think so we too strove to think and feel as “Europeans”, only to turn our very words a weapon, a tool for gaining strength…

And what is the best way to gain strength?

It is to be abused.

So, when I wrote my latest works, about the possibility of some of our great old writers possibly being homosexual, possibly being murderers, or atheists, what I wrote was a compassionate plea for their understanding, but what I hoped for was that someone would bash my skull with a pipe…because, the minute it occurs…I am no longer a petty scribbler, but perhaps, an oppressed intellectual. Miroslav Pritvornikov rose up a gaggle of third-rate conservative writers and historians, but he didn’t know what we are, while I did. Because, the more he was right—and he was right, I invented everything—the more I was suffering, and therefore, right…! And what could he do?

It was activist literature at its highest and lowest because our characters, words, thoughts, were merely a symbolic display of our thirst for power, in this were we thoroughly Machiavellian! And once I understood Dostoevskian sentiment can be used like this, not concealing my petty character but even justifying it the way Turgenev, Gogol, even Dostoevsky himself did…! What could stop me, what force, what power? Because, power, hidden behind the desire to be a great author was always manifesting in us…it is only when I started seeing needles on the streets more frequently did I, perhaps, have a small sense of danger but, as the attacks of migrants were rising, so did the power of Miroslav Pritvornikov, simply because he had more “human material”—victims of rape and robbery—and, in desperation, have I started writing for the abusers, even against the victims themselves, to Pritvornikov’s great sadistic glee over a sense of moral victory…yet, he didn’t know what I sought to do. I was sure, as the needles on the streets and the addicts were accumulating, so too would the crimes, but to respond to suffering we, as authors, made sure is to be forbidden to anyone but ourselves.

So, when the attacks and petitions against me started, I knew I only needed to wait, endure the abuse and let it simmer and boil, because I nurtured his bloodlust in the most Machiavellian ways I could. I knew, out there, in the wider world, it was Mishka Zachariy who was in the right, while Miroslav Pritvornikov was in the wrong.


The pain, of not having a topic, or a soul, was deep in us. We were, armed with all the possibilities of the written word, plunging ever downward into absurdity, into madness… Miroslav Pritvornikov took the bait and started writing about war criminals. People who were, for a fact, guilty for the crimes they committed but what mattered is that their suffering too, could be made literature…Hague was imperialism, America was a colonial overlord, and our war criminals were defending the “people”. And Europe, of course, became the stronghold of tyrants…but his Europe and mine were the same, it was the place we could never reach…

But what else could we do? “You are going down a crooked path Mishka Zachariy!” he would exclaim while we were sharing a drink at the local pub, after our frequent literary and intellectual feuds. We remained friends throughout because, I needed him and he needed me, and if any side won, both would lose the most important thing—the topic. Something to bicker about.


As we were going through the town avoiding the needles and the gazes of the nationalistic youths out for blood, Miroslav Pritvornikov was giving one of his speeches: “Zachariy, to Russia we must look up to! Russia, and only Russia…Americans will do no good for us.” He had just published a piece about migrant attacks in Vienna or somewhere, his human material has grown while I was running out of topics—meat—to beat my club. It was interesting to me, that Miroslav Pritvornikov never decided to break off all contact. I was, back then, insufferable. Smug, conniving, and drunk, intoxicated on the feeling of moral righteousness. I wonder if he needed me as much as I needed him. Because his Machiavellianism was starting to emerge, slowly, over time, in direct opposition to my own while both of us were drunk.

As we were going through the park, our path was intercepted by one of the many gangs of youths who were targeting me. At once, I felt afraid, I knew a day would come when I would pay for my nonsense—back then it held a certain meaning—but I also, looked around…hoping someone would film it. If they film it, I am suffering, if I am in pain, I am more right than him. Unfortunately, maybe he knew…he would always stand in front of me saying: “No matter what, he is still ours.”

This was his way of robbing me of power. It was “intellectual decency”. We were considered the greatest young intellectuals in a small town that somehow, even with opposite views, always stood together. But I already started to comprehend what is it that we do, while he perhaps, actually believed his nonsense. The fact we were always together meant he needed me to abuse my values, and I needed values to overcome…otherwise, what would be my topic? I was not capable of seeing a world without suffering where suffering didn’t mean power. I still recall how furious Miroslav Pritvornikov was after I wrote our ancient dynasty of kings were—fascists.

“Mishka Zachariy! Again up to something aren’t you?!” he yelled over the phone. My mail was flooded, it was dangerous to walk the streets, but what I said was received—out there in the capital, maybe in Europe—as the mark of a brave young intellectual with courage to speak the truth. The truth…they were not fascists—dead for 800 years—but they were “fascists”. Because they had power, and to a Dostoevskian, anyone who has it is morally wrong. So you need to make those powerless gain it…and that is how you get your topic and perhaps, slothful Europe looks your way.

All of our intellectuals across the land were obsessed with gaining that recognition—Europe, Europe, Europe. If Europe was debaucherous, it was progress, we should ourselves become so. But Europe’s carnal disease was of a man at his deathbed—we were the young pretending to be the weak, in order not to be left behind. Because Turgenev finished his project and the serfs were freed. Some aristocratic soul, infused with grandiose love for mankind, would set them free, give them rights—but the serf is still incapable of ruling himself. Through drinking, gambling away, fighting, pettiness, the serf couldn’t understand why it is so different when he does it…we took even their obsessions, their homosexuals and traditions, nationalism, democracy, yet no matter, still, the topic eluded us. The topic…is there anything beyond worship of suffering?


Nish was close to Kosovo, close to war and terror. It was a place where you could not so easily be a liberal…but a place where it was easy to be a nationalist. The fiends—drug addicts, homosexuals, murderers, prostitutes, petty thieves—the righteous—nationalists, war criminals, drunken peasants, gangs—were in fact all our creation, us, Dostoevskians. Because we disarmed society. Forty years of applied compassion meant a police officer can’t use a baton against anyone, a drug addict—oppression, nationalist—liberal colonialism, prostitute—chauvinism, a drunken peasant—narrow-mindedness. We persuaded the women to become cheap, it was the right thing to do…anything else was “bourgeoisie”—of course, this wasn’t true for the feminists who would marry an intellectual, have educated children and live precisely the safe, comfortable middle class life they slandered all around. Because they learned it from Europeans and, thinking similarity is equal to potential of creation, emulated. They too, were Dostoevskian—but the village girl already learned, she is not to have morals, morals were patriarchal chains…I would get intercepted by teenage girls offering everything, anything, laughing, giggling, because our topic was their destruction…And the city girl, too, we disarmed like the police officer. So that even when she was attacked by a migrant, knew that to go to the police meant a man like Mishka Zachariy would write a compassionate plea for justice, the same way his mother Vasiliya Pavlovna would chirp at the notion of dead “cosmopolitans”.

Her defendant however, her true lord (since the lord is whoever can protect you) was none other than Miroslav Pritvornikov, who is the reason why so many youths were going around searching for migrants. In fact, recently, one of our boys returned from Madrid where he finished his studies, carrying a t-shirt with some liberal slogan, or something like that, hopeful, optimistic and “enlightened”.

He was stabbed in the chest in broad daylight by hooligans. Because Miroslav Pritvornikov wrote about the wars, about who killed who and in what amount—we suffered most. Of course I knew back then the migrants didn’t mean us any good: I saw the lustful gazes that trailed even little girls, knew that they were men, lustful about little European blondes…but that was what it meant to be a liberal, to be a pimp of your own blood in order to gain, what else, prestige…I expected Miroslav Pritvornikov to lose. My fiends were simply—stronger. They had a greater potential for compassion—power. They suffered more. Were more decrepit, despicable, and carnal. I knew you can’t fight with any decency against tears as we entered a new motherly age. So when Miroslav Pritvornikov was killed by liberal revolutionaries on his way to the capital, I despaired…

Because I wanted to win by losing.


For all installments of “Notes About Our Common Ground,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1