Breakfast With the Author: What can be more important today than a polite conversation?

Author: Aljoša Pužar 

All of my breakfasts are only some of my breakfasts. They are not all. Of all remain the ones that smelled like something that seduced, discovered, turned, burned. After my Korean decade I did not remember the earliest ones. Besides, Vojo always held breakfasts. So, after my return from Seoul, I did no longer remember some of my first breakfasts. Like the one with then young Nikolaidis. That was almost 15 years ago. They found it in the archives. 

Of course, there is the one with Eco, which we all remember. I did not suit his taste fully  (Eco’s, that is), because my questions were scary and stern, as are those of a young professor. My suit resembled those of American sellers of used cars. Eco did not want to talk about semiotics. So be it. He wanted to joke and charm. To me he was polite. I do not know if Vojo suited him then. Maybe he did. Iva Grgić saved us definitely. Knowledge and good manners.  

Eco recited the Roman history of Titus Livius with Magris in front of the museum on Brioni island, I will never forget that. They burst out laughing while we mumbled about Broz. The museum sold little bottles of castor oil at that time. I will not forget that either. I made an inappropriate joke and they forgave me.  

Usually everybody forgives me everything, it is very comforting. Because at least once I buried someone prematurely, then I screwed up some German details…once I got carried away and talked for too long…but people do not become absorbed and generally do not accuse. The most important thing is to eloquently gurgle and be talkative and open windows and doors in people who come there and are nervous and stiff. I had to chase some around the hall, they wanted to comb their hair, some did not want to answer the questions. They stared at me as if they were at the dentist’s after receiving a strong anaesthesia. Some are so wonderful that I fall in love with their words like a teenage girl.

Not many people actually eat those fritule. But one of them could not stop being grumpy until we gave her a cake. Writers also have a body, not just an ego. One drew me. I am looking:  something skinny and young on the drawing. And the guy still claims that it is me on the drawing, I felt like hugging him. A kind liar. Some hug me. Svetlana Makarovič stroked my face and told me I am doctor Mouse, which in her universe is a compliment, I am proud of that. Usually, I imagine myself as a slow tomcat. 

I talk more easily with assistant writers, with journalists, philosophers and anthropologists than with creators of fictional worlds. They are closer to me and they open up more easily. I talk more easily with writers that lead a real life than with those who are constantly on tour. They are wiser. 

The hardest thing is talking to fledgling writers, those that are not fresh. Only just fledgling. When they smell of awards and scholarships, but not of people. Then it gets a little bit boring and repetitive so I have to rack my brain out. Sometimes it turns out better, and sometimes I manage. For the rest you cover yourself with experience and eyelashes as if they were the edge of a mouldy tent wing and wait for the cloud to pass. 

For the half of our life, they tell us breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Since recently, allegedly, it is not. Our fair breakfasts are something that comes after early breakfasts (my nono, who studied in Zagreb, would say after “Frühstück”), my outdated hipster hair and the time of day make them more literary “brunches”. They are neither breakfasts nor morning white coffees with soaked bread. It is usually fritule or kroštule. It is sometimes a thing of the house or a café – writers are read here like newspapers on a wooden frame or a book on the porch. I love them more without television time than with it, but I do not mind the cameras. Only time. 

Television time is a little vulgar and it scratches the frontal lobe. But even with it, it is manageable.  

I would like to talk to more young people. To-be-fledglings but brave. While they are still uncaught by the shadow of the shiny fledglings. A person can learn a lot from them about the future, especially when one has less of it. But the form is such that I usually must comb through the eminences. From them, too, a person learns, but in reverse. Like from a text book. People admire them, and often glorify them. I am not prone to that. Someone’s work can and should be respected and studied without idolatry. And it is enough to love people like that - like people. 

I don’t like when authors of an interview are idolaters and when they hop around and sizzle like a steak on the pan. Even worse are those who only love themselves and look at the other person through something like a rag of light muslin. In that sense we should have our heads screwed on right. You are not a bribed local seer nor a provincial daredevil. You just sit and politely talk over coffee and water.

And what can be more important today than a polite conversation?