In 2021, Goran Vojnović returned with Đorđić – the same Đorđić who brought him the Kresnik Award and the Prešeren Fund Award, and who found his way from the novel Southern Scum, Go Home! into film and stage play. Ten years have passed since then, however. Goran Vojnović is far from being a new name in the Slovenian literary world, and Đorđić is no longer a kid from Fužine. Vojnović has won three Kresnik Awards, while Đorđič has spent more than ten years of his life in Bosnia. They have lived long enough that they are no longer under the illusion that it is possible to start over, afresh. Which does not mean, however, that one should stand still.
These good ten years have brought changes, but no surprising upheavals. While Dejan Mirtić, now Mirtič, went to Slovenske Konjice, where he transformed from southern scum from Fužine into a Slovene with green windbreaker, office and scanner, Marko Đorđić remains the other: southern scum in Ljubljana, Serb in Bosnia, Slovene among the Serbs... It seems that anything surprising which could have grown in these ten years has been overgrown with this eternal otherness; above all his relationship with Alma, an attempt at a love story, which is told in the novel Đorđić Returns only retrospectively and appears abandoned, even lost, rather than finished.
At the same time, this otherness essentially forms Marko’s identity: “But I’m always what others are not. Southern scum here, Serb there. Sometimes Slovene, sometimes chetnik, another time the guy who fucks foreign chicks. I’m not even my own person, really. Because I’m not quite sure who Marko Đorđić is either. All I know is that I am this Marko Đorđić.”
As the eternal Other, in the style of tricksters from mythological stories and their “sequels” in contemporary art and pop culture, Đorđić also remains the bearer of the comic element. Đorđić Returns no longer has the lightness that was still felt in Southern Scum, Go Home! In the novel, Vojnović discusses some of the most difficult issues in the Balkans, which he already addressed in Yugoslavia, My Fatherland and The Fig Tree, with the Yugoslaw Wars and their echoes in the present among the prevailing themes. The humour, although darker than in Southern Scum, Go Home!, nevertheless remains, as well as its essential connection with language.
All characters and situations are primarily determined by linguistic nuances and choices. Not because they would be so simple, but because Vojnović’s language is so complex, and his linguistic choices so full of substance. With Southern Scum, Go Home!, Vojnović gave the scum language from Fužine its place in literature. With Đorđić Returns, the Fužine language returns as well, this time intertwined with a different mixture of languages – after all, Đorđić has spent at least ten years in Bosnia, so his language is no longer at home only in Fužine; at the same time, Đorđić’s memories take the reader constantly from Fužine to Bosnia, Serbia... The language changes from one situation to another, making it at times difficult for the reader, used to (mainly) literary Slovenian, to comprehend it the way they could in Southern Scum, Go Home! Here, Vojnović’s choice of language makes perfect sense – Marko Đorđić is, after all, no longer just a kid from Fužine.
Language is connected not only with geographical and political spaces, their alternations and collisions. It is a carrier of meanings on several levels. Words – the meanings that they carry in different contexts and the associations they bring with them – fill the world with substance. At the same time, language with its chains of related sounds and meanings provides Vojnović with one of the threads that connects the elements of Marko’s narrative. It enables the originality, and often also the comical element, of his leaps:
“In the language of scum, office is called kancelarija. That’s probably why scum don’t have offices. To them, it sounds like concentration camp. Or maybe it’s just me who doesn’t know any scum that would have their own office. I only know the ones that have offices on the bench in front of the block. [...] So Dejan Mirtić is the second scum I know that has an office. But he’s not southern scum. He’s a Slovene. And a fag.”
Marko Đorđić grew up before the eyes of readers. Despite leaving and coming back, he did not move anywhere. Would that be even possible? The European basketball championship, which he and Radovan are watching on Marko’s return to Fužine, suggests that perhaps it could have been. Radovan presents Marko with an alternative world in which Marko would play in the championship alongside Dragić and little Dončić, instead of Prepelič. A world of different choices. And yet, could Marko really have made different choices?
Aco, Adi and Dejan, Marko’s friends from Fužine, have moved as well – one to prison, another to heroin, the third to Slovenske Konjice. For each of them, the shift wasn't exactly surprising. What about Marko? Marko Đorđić was and returns as Marko Đorđić.
After ten years, Vojnović succeeded extraordinarily to bring back Marko Đorđić, in whom the reader can actually recognize the kid from the novel Southern Scum, Go Home! ten years later, and at the same time to depict the return without it being (merely) a repetition.