This article is also available in: Italiano
“La buona condotta” by Elvira Mujčić is a perfect novel for those who want to start learning about Kosovo and its problems without giving up lightness and the human factor, an essential element of the country
La buona condotta
In the aftermath of Kosovo’s independence, elections for the mayor are held in a small town on the border. There are 1362 Albanians, 1177 Serbs. What happens if a Serb who wants to get along with the Albanians is elected? What happens is that things aren’t going well at all in Belgrade, and they send a new mayor who continues to fan the flames of ethnic rivalry. His arrival not only brings political upheaval, but turns the lives of the protagonists upside down. That of Miroslav, the elected mayor, perhaps born in the wrong corner of the planet, given that he hates loud tones and is terrified of conflicts. That of Nebojša, sent from the capital to play the obedient antagonist and save himself from a past full of shadows, and who instead causes the gears of an absurd system to explode. That of Ludmila, the girl who believed in love and for this reason was considered crazy, Ludmila who defends herself from reality by memorizing the lives of others and inventing nursery rhymes.
Starting from a true event, Elvira Mujcić creates an emotional story where the characters fight to escape the destiny that history, politics or right-thinking people design for them. The recent past, the war that was never understood and ended badly, resentments and manipulations weigh on them, but they struggle to remain faithful to themselves. Thus showing us that a better future can always arise even in the most adverse conditions, thanks to individual men and women, despite governments.
A book about Kosovo
“La buona condotta” by Elvira Mujčić is one of the most suitable books ever for those who want to look at Kosovo for the first time, a country that we often hear about but which, in reality, few people know about in Italy and around the world. The story has a fairly simple and linear but never banal structure, allowing us to come across one of the elements that most characterize the country right from the first pages: the division between Albanians, who represent the clear majority of the population and are mostly Muslim, and Serbs, present above all in the South-East and in the North in the so-called North Kosovo and adhering above all to Orthodox Christianity.
Up to this point we could say: “everything is normal, Kosovo is certainly not the only country in the world to have a historic and independent minority within it”; the fact, however, is that Serbia does not recognize the existence of Kosovo and this still leads to many paradoxical situations today, also present in “Good Conduct”. To give some examples: by not recognizing Kosovo, Serbia forces all Kosovars who intend to travel to its territory to have Serbian license plates and documents, without which it is simply not possible to cross the border, an element which considerably complicates transport via land and in general keeps possible ethnic tensions between the two peoples high.
A novel about people
Precisely in this context “La buona condotta” fits in, telling the story of an event that actually happened and which, also due to its developments, makes clear how this division and tensions are nourished (at least in the last period) more by ideology than by actual clashes. The election of a “conciliatory” Serbian mayor will in fact lead Belgrade to send a new mayor to Šumor who, however, not only will not have particular skills in this regard, but it will appear evident from his arrival that his only real mission is that to keep local nationalism high and prevent Kosovo Serbs from identifying with the state in which they live, thus stirring things up whenever there is the possibility.
Be careful though: “La buona condotta” is neither an essay nor a political novel and this will allow us not only to witness comical situations, but also to explore the thoughts, stories and ambitions of those who, for one reason or another, another, they left their land. In fact, none of the main characters have lived their whole life in Kosovo and those who did, as in the case of Ludmila, were forced by fate; this allows the reader to also look at another major theme of the country, namely the diaspora, an element which unfortunately characterized a large part of the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans in general for a long time.
“La buona condotta” by Elvira Mujčić is therefore the ideal novel for those who really want to discover something more about this territory and its people, providing a basis rich in nuances but never heavy, capable of making both more “casual” readers and those who truly love the soul of the Balkan Peninsula; Naturally highly recommended.
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