A Biblical story – so well-known and heard so many times. Then why read it yet again?
To answer this, we should go back to the time when people crowded ancient theaters in search of catharsis – a purification from the emotions of pity and fear stirred by the fictional occurrences on stage. The author uses this powerful tool to help us break free from contemporary narrow-minded individualism, plunging us into the realm of the experiences, apprehensions, joys and uncertainties that we all share. It is not about the story. Everybody knows how it ends – except for the protagonists. It is about staying with the characters each step of their way, sharing their passions, fears, anger, humiliations, moments of sheer ecstasy, and everything else they have to offer. And what they have to offer hits every person’s core ideas and values. It goads us into asking the big questions instead of fretting over the petty things we so often focus on.
The story is built on a tangle of conflicts: antagonism between siblings, discord between parents and children, strife between nations, and, finally, rivalry between a woman and God. The author sheds special light on family drama, using father/daughter, father/son and mother/son conflicts to portray strong and dominant characters. These family conflicts are well-knitted into the unobtrusive but omnipresent background story of a clash between the oppressor and the oppressed chosen people, of their plight and revenge. Yet another conflict arises from a love triangle formed by the nazirite and the two physically, emotionally and morally opposed sisters. This conflict oscillates between love and hate, highlighting the story of attraction and loathing between different ethnic and social groups. Among all these conflicts, there is one that is strikingly missing – a power struggle between male and female characters.
The novel is titled The Nazirite to put stress on the role the title character was born to play rather than on his individualism. But the title of leader is not what he aspires to and bears with pride. It is a millstone around his neck and the author uses it to underline his constant struggle with himself. Despite being conspicuous for his beauty, sensuality and virility, he is one of the most passive characters who accepts what comes his way and completely surrenders to the fate that looms before him. He remains a passive object of struggle between the sisters, between the nations, between his needs and God’s plans.
The Nazirite encapsulates drama in its essence. Seasoned with the force of colliding passions and even rivalry with God, events and relationships between the characters are reminiscent of ancient Greek tragedy. The author speaks in dialogues, suppressing narration and reducing description to nothing more than hints. Yet, she succeeds in painting the most vivid images and formidable characters who lack neither sensuality nor grit. With the right choice of words, she creates dialogues that lash, sing, weep, exhilarate and ache. They are short, witty and to the point, naturally bouncing back and forth between the characters. She uses them to both pick up the pace and come to a standstill.
As the story starts to unravel, the scenes begin to change more rapidly and mercilessly, leaving us no time to take a breath and hurling us towards the inevitable end – the catharsis we all dread and eagerly await at the same time. The characters are likewise driven by fate towards their end – for some deliverance, for others a beginning of misery.
Love, predestination, duty, revenge. A Biblical story!
About the Author
Ana Buji was born on 30 July 1973 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. She completed her graduate and postgraduate studies in Comparative Literature at the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade. Her first novel A Story of Passion, Love and Other Things won the award of the Union of Jewish Municipalities of Yugoslavia and was published in 2004 as The Nazirite by the renowned publisher Narodna knjiga. Her second novel, also inspired by Judaism, was published by Evro Giunti in 2011 under the title Pulsa diNura (a Kabbalistic curse in Ancient Aramaic). The latter was nominated for two reputable literary awards.
In addition to her novels, she wrote two plays inspired by Greek tragedy, which were included in the Contemporary Serbian Drama, a magazine that has been published for 25 years. She is an author of several literary reviews and her stories were published in literary magazines.
She took part in a project run by the non-governmental organization Šta ho?eš – What Do You Want? @wdoyouw · Non-governmental Organization (NGO), a TV show called Na veslu pri a (Story on a Paddle) which was an interesting combination of ecology and literature. The author’s approach took the form of a Wildesque fairytale.