Vol. 8, No. 14, Summer 2011
Dragan Ј. Ristić, Ђавоља варош / Devils’ Town / Die Teufelstadt / La Ville du Diable; publisher: SVEN; translators: Dušanka Branković (English), Dragan J. Ristić (German), Mirjana Mihajlović (French); proofreading: Nevenka Božović (Serbian), Lidija Marković Rosati (English), Matthias Mala (German), Georges Chappouthier (French); cover art: Boris Kandolf; photographs: Živojin Miljković; ISBN 978-86-7746-266-6.
Dr Rajna Begović, Serbia
Professor D.J.R. entered his office. His little imp was sitting at the computer. Some strange symbols were on the screen.
“Come on, get ready, let’s go!”– said the professor.
The little imp put his cap on and in two jumps found himself on the professor’s shoulder, while his red eyes were glistening fox-like. The letters on the screen disappeared by themselves.
The two were walking down Main Street which was swarming with people. Advertisements in various languages were blinking on and off. Little imps were showing off on the passers-by’s shoulders. Some were big, some small. There were female and male imps. But the people, staring somewhere at the distance, did not notice them. Unlike them, the imps were active. Some jumped from one passer-by to another, opening and closing their mouths without making a sound. Others were loud and angry. One of them even brandished his little sward at the passers-by. Honey dripped from many of the imps’ mouths. But common to all of them were the caps they wore with a bold, huge letter “I”, and the number “666” under it. At home, the professor didn’t notice the caption or the number on his imp’s cap. Perhaps the imp picked them up during their walk up and down Main Street.
Their was cut short when the imp suddenly felt dejected for some reason.
"What's wrong with you? All of your peers are bursting with life but you're in a bad mood."
"I want to go to my destination."
"Yes, destination, or sanctuary, if you will."
"I want to go home. Hoooomeee...!"
Children's noise woke him up. "Professor, we’ve arrived!"
The Professor rubbed his eyes. He had never fallen asleep during excursions with the children. This seemed to be something more than a dream. He stood up decisively and said:
"Children, we are approaching Devil’s Town. In 1959 it was included in the list of sites under the state protection; it can be considered a world miracle..."
It flashed through his head:
on Basho’s way
the only thing missing
this world miracle
He gathered the scattered, murmuring children and slowly headed uphill. He explained to them on the way:
"Devil’s Town, as an unusual natural phenomenon, kindles people's imagination, thus, there are many legends about the town's origins. According to one of them, the earth figures present devils that people had carried on their backs for a long time, bringing them evils and troubles. In order to get rid of them, they had to spend at least one night here. According to another legend, the figures presented petrified wedding guests who, under the influence of devils, wanted to join a brother and sister in wedlock, causing God to petrify them to prevent the sin of incest."
Then, to himself, he muttered:
slim wedding guests
connecting heaven and earth –
the world oddly different
Step by step, they arrived at the hilltop, аnd there: chained devils.
Although he'd visited this strange location a few times before, professor D.J.R. sat down on a stone, absorbed in thoughts. Staring at the figures, it seemed to him they were watching him. He took a notepad and wrote down:
one of the figures
under the cap is winking at me -
the warm air flickers
He briskly approached the smallest figure. On her cap was "666," the number of the Anti-Christ in big numbers and under it, barely visible, a capital “I,” in bold, black letters. The figure watched him with its foxy eyes. It seemed to be smiling at him.
Branislav Brzaković, Serbia
FROM ONE IMAGE TO ANOTHER
To Dragan J. Ristić, one of the leading Serbian haijin, the natural phenomenon “Devil’s Town” near Kuršumlija and Prolom banja of course did not go unnoticed. Along the cultivated valley of Toplica, the highway leading to Priština, from Rudar along the winding road uphill, once narrow and unfixed, and now wide and paved, we arrive at the foothill of this well-known natural monument. We catch sight of the miraculous earth figures about which people have woven a series of legends.
You walk, sit, watch amazed, give rein to your imagination. A haijin, however, should, through details, “trifles”, give his view of this Serbian candidate for “the 7 world wonders of nature.“ That’s exactly what Ristić does, but in this case, unlike in his previous books, his writing style is in a good measure the one that reflects the reformed haiku of the reformer Ban’ya Natsuishi: no strict 5-7-5 syllable rule, often without kigo, the use of “keywords”, powerful association, hidden metaphor... With the world natural phenomenon – one universal world haiku.
The photographs speak enough, but the poet is also here to offer us his experience. Here are, for example, in my opinion, some successful examples.
First the arrival and the sightseeing tour:
summer day till noon –
we are wearing masks of
A mask in itself converted into indifference bears the cognition of something unspecified expecting to transform in the bright sun into an honest smile of the very experience. This haiku reflects in the best way our mood before something that people have named “petrified wedding guests“...
bit by bit
figure is moving –
with its shadow
This is a scene which presents the totality of the experience through the shadows moving insensibly and thus in an unconscious way following our shadows too. In the vicious circle we no longer know if we move or the figures do. A very convincing and vivid haiku.
And lastly, one such haiku:
to other world miracles –
we all are sinners
Bewitched by the puzzling earth miracles amid a wonderful green landscape, one is left confused and thoughtful. The true cognition of sin in Christianity, with repentance within oneself, is sufficient for an intentional traveler to, calm and serene, leave this place, and even to wish to return to “Devil's Town.“
Translated by Saša Važić
Edited by Robert D. Wilson