The Seeds Of Neoplanta

The Seeds of Neoplanta

By Mira N. Mataric

A novel by Ksenija Djordjevic
Xlibris190 illustr.

The Seeds of Neoplanta is a remarkable although the first book of a retired English teacher living in the USA, Las Vegas area, originally from Serbia. Previous, so called “Old Yugoslavia”, formed after the First World War as a multi- national settlement as its separate and distinct province of Vojvodina with its old, strong cultural center Novi Sad on the river Danube.

"I decided to write a book out of a strong need for freedom," the author explains. Further, as it will show, that need also included a strong motivation dedicated to truth. "Writing liberates the author from the burden of history which each of us carries, like Atlas, on our shoulders." In this case, the “history” in question is the complex eruption of WWII and its radical and restless aftermath filled with huge restoration efforts, construction, rebirth and a profoundly changed brand-new system resembling a bloody and extremely complicated childbirth. All the slogans were based on the hopes for a better future. The new-born infant is the historically old but named new city of Novi Sad, or Neoplanta, its capital growing in the middle of the flat and agriculturally lush bread basket of the pre-war Yugoslavia belonging both to fertile East-European area and the Balkans with its mountains and lack of larger arable land. Once, the primeval Pannonian basin and a sea (with such rich and god-given soil), it is known for its natural beauty and old cultural tradition, known as the "Serbian Athens".

The story follows the lives of Neoplanta's "seeds" of diverse ethnic, religious and ideological backgrounds, all thrown into the "melting pot" by historical circumstances, suffering repetitious onslaughts of invasions: Roman, Turkish, Austro-Hungarian, German, WWI, WWII and more.

The story depicts the coming of age of a young girl whose life, like that of her nation, has been disrupted and forever changed by the war. Only during the violent periods of war and foreign occupation the diversity of the population turns into a cause, in fact a political excuse for atrocities, extermination and genocide. The families torn apart, people killed in mass executions and concentration camps.

The linear chronologic flow of the story is broken by vertical plunges into the fascinatingly rich past, designed and installed for deeper understanding of this hero-city. Its innovative technique, breaking the traditional rules of unity, results in a somewhat disconnected patchwork of scenes. But such is the nature of human memory, life is like a puzzle with missing pieces. Fragments and sense of disconnected-ness result from the war devastation filled with shattered and permanently displaced human lives of entire nations. Such is the history of Serbia, Yugoslavia, the Balkans and the world.

Well chosen literary treatment offers to the author a perspective from a distance (of time and space) at an arm's length from the characters, thus emotionally detached and capable of a reasonable assessment. One of the reasons for the feeling of alienation and disconnectedness comes from the scars of war: detachment serves as a protective shield against the hurts of life. At the same time, the author paints luminous, nostalgic pictures of familiar and loved places (Dubrovnik, 1963) which will resonate in all readers' hearts. Don’t we all have a place where our soul feels at peace? The author (the reviewer and numerous readers) have grown in the city whose main artery, the magnificent River Danube, subliminally teaches lessons of healing and survival. It is true, what we have not learned will have to repeat again and again. It also is true, we cannot swim in the same river twice. Life, like the Danube, flows on, changing, healing and restoring. That same Danube in which the author and the reviewer, like many, many generations, swum for regeneration and their well being, throughout their life. In that same loved and respected river, dead (and not even quite dead) bodies of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, inhumanly slaughtered, were thrown and pushed under the ice.

And yet, in the whole human existence, there is hope, there is, and must be hope, at all times and under all circumstances, the hope for survival and a better future. There must be another chance for learning and enlightenment.

Books like The Seeds of Neoplanta serve that noble purpose.

Just as the historical chapters add depth to a more complete image of Neoplanta and its place in the Serbian culture, not less supplies an array of fine illustrations: old postcards, photographs, and artwork of the popular artist, architect Tabakovic, also of the old (often medieval) churches, temples and monasteries, jewels of the spiritual heritage, embracing the multi-ethnic conglomerate in the “small land on the mountainous Balkans.”

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