Aleš Debeljak. Twilight of the Idols: Recollections of a Lost Yugoslavia. Translated from the Slovenian by Michael Biggins. Buffalo, NY: White Pine Press, 1995

1 = page number
“…” = quote of book text
“… “…” …” = text in quotation marks in book text
‘…’ = quote in book of another text (source)
[…] = my notes
= summary or paraphrase of book text



18 “The collective memory of any nation clings to the experience of the past, without which there can be no vision of the future.”

“…collective memory is a two-edged sword: one edge protects the source of security from running dry, while the other prevents members of the society from developing their critical faculties and independence from tradition.”

35 “Yugoslavia was like a many-colored carpet that allowed me to maintain contact with lands that were dramatically different from the baroque Central European town where I grew up yet still part of the same country.”

49 On Johnny Stulic:

“His message of faithfulness to self and anarchic freedom was immediately understood by a whole generation of young Yugoslavs who may have prayed to different gods but who worshipped one and the same prophet, the prophet of rock and roll.”

“I was devoted to Yugo-rock because I sought an authentic way of being that would bring me close to people who could understand joy and sadness without a lot of unnecessary words.”

“…passion…became a document of vulnerability that allowed an entire generation of young Yugoslavs to discover themselves in Stulic’s lyrics.”

50 “Yugo-rock never wanted to conceal its flirtation with shepherds’ songs or the Macedonian panpipes that our rock musicians’ mothers had listened to as they worked the fields. Of course, Yugo-rock was based on the universal configuration of bass, guitar, drums, and voice, but it also drew on the living wellsprings of southern Slavic folk melodies.”

“Yugo-rock afforded me the rare chance to live in a multicultural society long before that term was co-opted as the official protective coloring of the politically correct.”

54 [Stulic’s People of Loneliness]

“All of us who desperately keep seeking an understanding companion at train stations, airports, in the world’s waiting rooms—someone who has undergone the same rites of passage that took place all over the former Yugoslavia in one and the same rhythm, by dint of the fact that we listened ecstatically to the same rock singers and read the same poets. The names of these singers and poets remained unpronounceable anywhere in Western Europe, but for us they embodied the flickering light in a tunnel of political obscurantism.”

“If you don’t realize what you’ve lost, then you’ve lost nothing.”

55 Rock music, books, friendships served to “anchor us in what was a broader Yugoslav community.”

74 “The childhood of the South Slavs’ life in a common state is lost forever, and we listen all the more intently to this performance of a song that we’ve heard a hundred times before, and though it was written about an individual, the unexpected twists of history now reveal in it a metaphor of our collective fate.”

“”Don’t give in to the years, Inez, / …brush me with your knee beneath the table, / my generation, my love.””

“…our shared experience of this sentimental song—with which boys in provincial capitals from the Alps to the Vardar used to court their girls—has now become a key to our elective affinity. Thus, those “”beautiful moments of nostalgia, love, and loneliness,”” as the song goes, are not an ephemeral historical document but a magic formula that secures our passage to that refuge among the eternally young landscapes of the spirit in which we will always be at home.”