The Box could be described as the story of removal men, against the backdrop of a country on the verge of chaos. But that would only scratch the surface, and probably wouldn’t encourage reading. That would be a pity. It would mean missing out on an enjoyable romp of a read, peppered with laugh-out-loud moments and some genuine insights into life in early nineties Belgrade.
For his debut novel, Slavoljub Stanković has chosen the metaphor of boxes, of packing things out of sight and out of mind, to explain the ways of the world and how people deal with things.
Increasingly, our lives are compartmentalised, with what isn’t immediately required being boxed and shelved. It is a technique that works well to describe the stifling effect on ordinary people when a state becomes the world’s latest pariah.
As European ministers urge Western Balkan states to meet strict conditions laid down on the long road to European Union membership, it is easy to forget the benefits and opportunities that new states and their cultures can bring to people on both sides.
The last states to join the EU in 2007 faced a bumpy start and even open prejudice. As Western Balkan states progress along the path to candidacy and membership, recent history should tell us that a more informed approach could smooth out bumps in the roadmap.
The search is on to find a child from the Serb diaspora who best embodies ‘Serbian values and traditions’. A contest has been launched by the Small Serbian Shop (Mala Srpska Prodavnica), apparently the largest online retailer peddling Serbian shirts, music, films, flags and nationalist ephemera to satisfy the diaspora’s hunger for a flavour of home.
Serb families overseas have been invited to post photos of their child dressed in ‘traditional markings’. Cue shots of kids in colourful costume, fur hats and draped in flags. Occasionally treading a thin line between cultural pride and fancy dress, these children from a foreign land are being encouraged to relive the past, reclaim the heritage and revisit the homeland of their parents. Mostly born to families who left Serbia for various reasons, they literally wear their Serbian heart on their sleeve.
Belgrade student entrepreneurs are flying the flag foryoung Serbia. Strawberry Energy is a pioneering business that is generating international acclaim for its renewable energy devices that teach about the benefits of clean energy technologies and, by highlighting actual benefits, help people appreciate the importance for our future.
“We share a dream in which energy is gained from the sun and the wind, in which air is clean and rivers unpolluted, and new technologies are used for the preservation of our environment,’ said Strawberry‘s CEO Miloš Milisavljević. “We want to develop devices that make renewable energy available to all, to bring home the advantages of green technologies, so people become familiar with renewable energy and realise its potential. Our future depends on sustainable energy. We want to encourage understanding of the good that it can bring.”
This team of ambitious young engineers has achieved something that many others would have failed to deliver – they have created a thriving business and an innovative product with practical use.