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THE BALKANS AND THE BEALE STREET BLUES

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The packed Saturday evening crowd talked uproariously through the music and applauded uproariously every time it stopped. All Serbs and Montenegrins said the band. All men, smoking and drinking hard. No! said the drummer there are so many women here tonight! I’d counted four and that included me. The band drank lemonade and didn’t smoke. “We are Muslimani.”

About eleven some of the Serbs and Montenegrins began to smash their glasses on the floor. Though Bozur was new it had the sign up on the wall usually seen only in the smaller, rougher kafanas: For the breaking of glasses, 1,000 dinars. Soon a ragged line of men formed, arms round each others’ necks, stumbling over the broken glass. The band played on, switching to a Partisan song and then the kolo, the Serbian national dance. When they came down to sit for their last break round about midnight they asked me, “Are you having a good time with us, Mary?”

“Yes” I said. “My nicest evening in Yugoslavia.” They found that very funny. The Champion Non Stop Twister of Belgrade nearly fell off his chair. “— Then tell your friends in Belgrade!”

So as I had a post card of Pristina, taken from the new end, all new blocks and flower borders, I did.

THREE

Belgrade Maneuvers

uleiman had arrived very early the next morning. “We must strike while the iron is hot!” he announced through the bathroom door. Nada had just left for her first class. Her mother was at the market. When we got back the water melon would be cooling in the bath and there would be fat Yugoslav grapes on the coffee table. After lunch we would all retire for a nap enveloped in the cosy smell of ironing as the drawn curtains baked in the windows against the hot glass. S

Suleiman was talking about work permits. It was suddenly dawning on me that much of the charm of Yugoslavia resided in the fact that it had always been a place impossible to imagine ever working in. Most Yugoslavs had the same problem, confiding disarmingly, “We don’t like to work, you know!” with a touching innocence that anyone could even stand in the doorway of most Yugoslav shops or offices and not realize that immediately.

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