Abaddon magazine

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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Review: Vojkan Trifunović – Kraljevačka punk hronika

Publisher: Self published

Date: November 1st, 2020

I chose to write this after all. And in English, no less. Considering the book is written in Serbian and I don’t know if there are any plans of a translation coming soon, I still believe the word absolutely needs to be spread about it. After all, we are witnesses to thousands of books being published regularly about all sorts of punk (or music altogether) related stuff. So, here’s what Serbia has to bring to the table.

By the way, if you’re not familiar with our language, tough luck. But I urge you to take to the Facebook page of the same title as the book and try to pressure Mr. Trifunović into translating it. Trust me, it would be worth your time.

Mostly because being a punk is hard. And I’m not just talking about the image and the frowns you get while walking down the street. Being a punk activist, whether on the scene or elsewhere, is even harder. You’re a minority that can hardly make a difference, even if it’s important to show your thoughts and motivations. On the same scale of hardship is (was) being a punk in Serbia. Or ex-Yugoslavia. Only, it’s that much harder, if you take into consideration that you’re coming from a morally, economically, culturally devastated country. Something like those documentaries we get to see about a scene in a third world country. But this is Europe, this is borderline to the most developed countries of the world. And yet…

Mr. Trifunović even goes a step further. He focuses on a microcosm of a microcosm. Kraljevo is not the capital city. It’s located in central Serbia and is regularly off course for many, even Serbian, tourists. Rich though in its history and cultural heritage, Serbia is a highly centralized country, so if you’re not from Belgrade or Novi Sad, you’re likely to stay in the dark with just about anything that’s happening in the world. Okay, with the internet the situation is much easier, but this book isn’t about the internet era. Incidentally, that is one of my objections. It seems as if the chronicle (yes, that’s the third word in the title) ends abruptly whenever the author reaches about 2005 or so. Granted, I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert on the subject at hand. Most of what I know about the scene in Kraljevo, I learned from this book. Perhaps it really died down in the new century.

Which brings me to another objection. There’s no conclusion to the book. The last chapter deals with Nazis and then we’re done. The conclusion might have included the information regarding the most recent period. Even if only to inform us that there’s nothing to report about.

Nevertheless, the book is a vivid chronicle about what used to be and how important it actually was. Not to mention to how many people it was important. “Kraljevačka punk hronika” is an extremely valuable testament to one cultural phenomenon in one city. Also, it goes a bit beyond the city itself, which nicely links together the story told.

Another issue I have with the book, and a major one at that, lays within the massive number of typos. Literally, it seems as if there’s not a single page without at least one. It might just be my OCD acting up again, but proof-reading would have helped significantly. Especially in that this is a very serious work, the author invested a whole lot of time and effort into it and, once again, it is incredibly important book for the history of Serbian cultural development. And yet, with the many typos, it looks like a work of an amateur instead of an educated historian Mr. Trifunović actually is.

Granted, this is a DIY effort. And a great one! Hardbound, nicely designed, printed on fine paper… It would certainly look nice on the shelf. But it wasn’t created to be shelved. It is, and I cannot stress this enough, a magnificent piece of the puzzle one might call “Serbian musical heritage”. Even cultural, as a whole, since it deals with all the aspects a scene must provide. Bands, fanzines, venues, radio shows… It needs to be read. Profoundly so. Understood, as well.

One more “problem” and I promise I’ll stop. More of a personal one this time. I would’ve liked to see some liner notes to go with the photos included. If only so that I can connect the names in the book with the correct faces. Also, some of the photos are in dreadful contrast, so it’s not always discernible who or what is on them, but most of those included predate digital era, so it’s understandable that you cannot quite Photoshop everything into crystal clarity.

The positive side of it all is that this is an excellently executed work on the history of one city’s punk (hardcore, metal…) scene and its development through different ages. The book sums up the pre-punk roots of cultural life of Kraljevo, neatly ties it to the decades when it’s been most vibrant and actually doesn’t stop at music. Activism, social and political struggles, two life-defining wars and inner turmoil of everyone involved. Together with the ways to get around the whirlwinds and still achieve the goals set. What’s even more impressive is that the author successfully avoids overly nostalgic viewpoints (wherever possible) and personal influxes. As a historian, no doubt, must. Even if he still is a part of the whole thing.

What’s more, the book is highly informative. Mr. Trifunović references even the most short-lived, obscure bands that only ever created one song. Names them, lists the line-ups, gigs… That must’ve been a task and a half. Fanzines, bulletins, distributions, activist organizations… They all receive the same treatment of a precise historian on a mission.

So, once again, it is extremely important to get this book. It is brutally limited to just five hundred (the book itself states two hundred and fifty) copies and it’s been out and about for almost two years, so you know the supply must be short. If you’re a punk, this is a must. If you’re not, it is still of vital importance as means to educate yourself about what punk is and what it’s fandom is all about.

Commercial break for the end. I know the book is available directly from the author, on the mentioned Facebook page or e-mail xpositiveyouthx@gmail.com. It is also available at a couple of book and record shops around Serbia and the neighboring countries. I, for one, got mine at an opening party for the new punk shop in Belgrade, Serbia, called Hard Corner shop. Support them all!