Pasolini’s Death: My Life Without Me

Reading Belgrade 24 December, 2013
in serbian, english subtitles

Pasolini’s Death: My Life Without Me from Jasmina Tesanovic on Vimeo.

In Memory of Franca Rame 1929-2013

a true anecdote from my forthcoming book, My Life Without Me
Dario Fo honoring his wife and lifelong collaborater Franca

It is a literary party, in Iowa, inside a big house which resembles a barn. It is an event for foreign writers thrown by the sponsors of the Writers Program at the Iowa University, in 1997. I am one of these foreign writers, and our hosts have prepared such a huge amount of food and drink that I am expecting a crowd from the streets to show up and join us.

But no, it is all our business, and it is actually businesslike. Very “what’s in it for me.”

– So, you are a writer! A huge American woman, dressed with Midwestern bad taste, approaches me in her wheelchair.
– No, no, I am a woman who sometimes writes.
A Polish poetess intervenes. – Oh come on, don’t be so modest, this is our hostess! The Polish poetess beams violently at our benefactor.
– Where do you come from, asks the hostess, edging her wheelchair closer to me.
– Serbia, I say, apologetically.
She stares at me blankly. Gosh, I dote on Americans, because they just don’t know so many embarrassing things. Such as where Serbia is, and what it means to be Serb.
– Europe, bounces in my lively Polish translator. ( She was married to a much older Polish poet, and during the Cold War she had learned all the survival tricks of the East-West literary life).
– And you write poetry? relentlessly goes on the hostess.
– No, no, I just write whatever comes to me, God forbid poetry, I say modestly.
– My ex husband was a poet. I add.
– He said that Tolstoy and Dostoevsky could not live under the same roof.
Why is this hostess picking on me? There are 11 other foreign writers with their spouses from the same program in this house. Did I dress badly? Am I not eating enough of her food, or drinking enough?
– My friend is very modest! crows the Polish poet. She writes incredible stuff! She is a Nobel prize winner.
– Oh my God! my hostess exclaims startled and puts her hand over her mouth.
– Oh my God, I cry, startled too.
The Polish poet takes another glass of wine, looking at me ready to kill if I stop her performance.
– She is a feminist writer.
I feel relieved: at least that part was true.
My hostess seems relieved too. Her face lightens up and she spreads her arms up towards me.
– I am so glad to hear this! I want you to give a speech to this crowd here. I worked all day to make this feast happen, and not only me, all the women from the family worked while the men played cards.
I look at the idle men of the family, who are not in wheelchairs. More

My Dad’s Funeral

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my Dad’s funeral who died March 30, 2008. This chapter is from my unpublished book “My Life Without Me”

4. Dad’s Funeral

- All these years he really treated you badly, said my good friend attending my dad’s funeral.
And thus I didn’t give him an open coffin funeral. So many years of his mortal fear, rage and fantasized abandonment of life, and here he was, at his life’s end at last. Would that rage kill me, too? When my mother died, he had turned to me to care for him. In his last decline, he had become my child. Two family traumas for the price of one.

When he died, on March 30, 2008, I lost a father, a husband and a son. Oh, nothing incestuous in our relationship: only culturally perverse. But when the whole nation behaves in one way, feels strongly about it , as a tribe, what’s perverse about it? Even I, who felt weird at first, accepted it quickly. We play the games we are taught to play by our parents, peers, enemies, frenemies. And I love games. More

My Birthday

My Life Without Me

To My Late Father and Fatherland
To Gojko and Yugoslavia

1. My Mother

Where was I when it all started? In the hospital, some fifty years ago, but not in the delivery ward, where most children get their umbilical cords cut. No, I was in the cancer ward, where my mother worked. She was a cancer ward pediatrician, and that night, the 7th of March, after a long game of cards with her friends, she went to work on her night shift.

You must understand that my late Mom was a historical communist, one of those who risked her life when she was seventeen for ideals of justice and truth. An activist pediatrician she chose to work at the toughest places, with dying children alone in the ward without their own parents. My mother was all they had, and she loved them more than herself. More

My Life Without Me (My Father)

Today my Father would have turned 87. This is the chapter from my new book, My Life  Without Me, dedicated to him, Gojko Tesanovic (1923-2008)

3. My Father

Gojko and Jasmina, 2001 - Photo by Stephanie Damoff

- Never make decisions out of fear, he used to tell me.

I didn’t know how else to decide, so I stopped making any decisions.

- Take care of yourself, don’t give a damn what people demand from you if you don’t like it or want it.

He called me Jale when we were alone and intimate: and he talked to me as a man to man. It was  a shame I was not one: I could tell from the way he talked to me.  On the other hand, my father was pleased with my stubborn character and independent traits. That seemed manly enough to him.

I always hated my never born brother. I could only imagine him: small, tender, a sissy, getting all the privileges I didn’t have just because he was a man. If I loved my brother, perchance, that would have been even worse for me. It was easier this way, to turn into a man when necessary to pick up all the male wisdom my father was willing to share with me. God forbid that my mother heard any of that:  the selfish advice, about economic and emotional independence, options to avoid marriage and children, free sex/secret sex, fast cars and an engineer’s technology instead of girlish pets and flowers. More

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