(Re-)Writing Myth: An Interview with Boris Nad

Athena Appearing To Odysseus To Reveal The Island Of Ithaca by Giuseppe Bottani  

There is an often-quoted saying about books whose attribution is unknown (perhaps rightfully so): “A book is a magical portal to another dimension.” Of course, this is usually taken to refer to exercises of the sensuous imagination imitated by profane fiction… There are some books, however, belonging to neither of the modern categories of “fiction” or “non-fiction”, that are not merely portals to another dimension, but initiations into whole worlds – worlds which reflect back upon the reader the fragility, relativity, and even illusions or “non-reality” of their apparent present own. Such works embody the genuine “danger” of books that has served as the pretext for censorship for centuries: opening an unknown book, one can have their entire world and worldview shattered and transformed, entire worlds discredited or revealed… And such books, as is well known to those who should know, rarely lie waiting out in the open (if they do, then such is only one aspect of their concealment), and they and their authors’ names pass hands at first only between small circles, often exerting their impact and worlding long before they ever enter the “public bibliography”, the “general market”, or the sights of critics and scholars…

These observations outline at least one of the possible paths leading to the works of Boris Nad

In the English-language domain, the name and works of this Serbian author have hitherto been known primarily among more or less “special” circles, on rare occasions “leaking” out into rough translation excerpts and brief online interviews. Nad’s debut in English-language literature came in 2016, when Manticore Press released The Return of Myth, now out of print, as an abridged, makeshift edition of Nad’s 2010 magnum opus of the same name in Serbian. Only recently, in December 2020, did a sizable portion of Nad’s already lengthy Serbian bibliography appear in English. The Reawakening of Myth, the largest collection of Nad’s writings in any language outside of Serbian, was inaugurated as a volume of selected works of multiple genres, ranging from philosophical essays to short stories, the novel A Tale of Agartha, and accounts of visionary experiences weaving between modern geopolitics and ancient legends. 

With The Reawakening of Myth, the opportunity has now presented itself to introduce Nad’s works in a broader scope to wider audiences. Without a doubt, numerous essays and reviews could be devoted to any one aspect of Nad’s writings. Alternatively – and, we think, more accessibly – Continental-Conscious is pleased to have had the opportunity on this occasion to conduct an interview with Boris Nad, featured below, as well as to compile with him a bibliography for readers and researchers intrigued to take the further dive into Nad’s works and worlds. Naturally, such an interview can only field so many questions, and such a bibliography cannot reflect hundreds of articles published across various media, but it is our hope that such can serve as a first starting point for a journey with many possible paths…

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(Re-)Writing Myth: An Interview with Boris Nad

Jafe Arnold: Mr. Nad, it is truly a pleasure to be able to sit down with you and discuss your authorship and the words and worlds of your many books. I think that this is especially timely now that PRAV Publishing has published the first volume of your selected works in English, The Reawakening of Myth, hopefully to be followed by many more…

Without getting ahead of ourselves, I think the first question begs itself: How would you introduce yourself and your works?  

Boris Nad: First of all, I hope to continue the collaboration with PRAV Publishing. And thank you for offering this opportunity. 

How might a writer introduce himself and his work? First and foremost, I would introduce myself as a Serbian writer. A writer “belongs”, above all, to the people whose language he uses. This is the language in which, in addition to writing, the writer thinks and dreams. The best way for the writer and reader to meet is for the reader to take this book, The Reawakening of Myth, into their hands (and there must already be a certain affinity for this encounter). If the reader feels drawn to something, let them read this book which, it seems to me, turned out quite well. In any case, it meets what I wanted to achieve with such a first volume. This book, The Reawakening of Myth, is basically my first fully-fledged introduction to the Anglophone reader. 

Jafe Arnold: Following up on that, how would you introduce The Reawakening of Myth to English-language readers discovering you for the first time, as well as to your readers around the world who have been familiar with your previous books in Serbian? 

Boris Nad: It is a truly representative book. I would say that in every sense. It provides representative insight into my work – one possible insight which, of course, could have also been a different one, but we (the publisher and I) decided that it be just as it is. 

The book is divided into three parts, which is to say that it consists of three independent books. In the first part there is a renewed, modified, and somewhat expanded edition of The Return of Myth, a book I had published in Melbourne in 2016. In itself, it is a retrospective based on the Serbian edition of the same name from 2010 (Povratak mita). Of course, the new edition is not identical. The retrospective form makes this possible. The Return of Myth consisted of altogether different genres: from essays, tales, and short stories to poems and various prose. It is not just about ideas, “ideology”, or what makes up my own “worldview.” The book includes many things that have been experienced (or read), even dreams. It is, therefore, “the work of a writer” in the full sense.

The second part is the novel A Tale of Agartha (published in Serbia in 2017). This is a short fantasy novel about one of the fascinating and important myths of the East, that is, a myth that survived in the East but which was largely forgotten in the West: the myth of an underground kingdom, a kingdom hidden in the “depths of the earth”, Agartha. 

The book is closed by Sacred History and the End of the World, a selection of essays about, among other things, the end of the world and the Antichrist. This is a very important topic in Eastern Christianity. I think that the book is adequately rounded off with an essay on East and West which does not avoid the topic of the modern pandemic, which it sees through the prism of René Guénon. Guénon’s theses regarding the current “clash of East and West” have proven to be most penetrating and far-reaching (in my opinion,  Guénon went the furthest in this, even further than, for example, Spengler). According to Guénon, in short, the East is the pole of spirituality, while the West does not cease to “change” and “revise”; it “revises” and overthrows even that which is not subject to doubt. The West is the first “materialist civilization” in human history, which means that it has fallen away from the great spiritual principles upon which civilizations were once built. The “West”, in fact, is the name of modernity and everything that accompanies it. In other words, the West allowed itself to be the first “infected” (by modernity). It plays the role of the “historical mold.” After all, the West, or what is called “the West” today, is, in our opinion, not a real civilization; it is only a very superficial ideological “narrative” which, for now, keeps one group of countries bound together.

Compared to the 2016 edition of The Return of Myth, this new edition is much more integral, rounded, and complete. Which does not mean that there shouldn’t be more…I sure hope there will be. 

Jafe Arnold: Indeed, The Reawakening of Myth represents how your writings do not “stick” to any one genre. You are a prolific author of geopolitical articles, of essays on philosophy and mythology, of mythical plots themselves and novels, and even of poetry. Could you tell us a bit about why or how all these different forms come together? 

Boris Nad: You are right, I cannot “stick” to one genre. If I was forced to do so, it would probably be storytelling, short stories, but life is much more complex, is it not?

Actually, this might surprise you, but I believe that there is a relatively narrow, limited number of basic motifs and themes in my books – the rest are variations. My first book, Time of Empires, is actually not that (essentially) different from Povratak mita, even though it is its own other book. My new book in Serbian, New Gods,often varies the same motifs, though in different ways. I think that any evolution and development is excluded here; the diversity which you are talking about mainly refers to form, technique, or genre. What was either a poem or a story can give impetus to an essay, or, conversely, could become a novel. The results can sometimes be surprising. Such would be a site of “merging.”

In fact, I think that writers are divided into two types. On the one hand, there are those who constantly write the same book. The others write something “new” every time. I hope to belong to these others. 

Jafe Arnold: It is hard to imagine this not bringing us to the most obvious and yet most mysterious topic around which many of your works revolve: Myth. Please allow the frontal but much-anticipated questions: What is Myth, or what are “myths” and “mythologies”, in your vision?

Boris Nad: This is an important and inevitable question. What is myth, really? Every story, every “real story” (and Borges claims there are no more than four) is basically mythical: one situation, seemingly everyday and “ordinary”, rises to the level of myth, is brought to mythical meaning. If definitions are allowed at all, then myth is a “true story” which did not happen “anytime or anywhere” (certainly not in the way it is told), but which, nevertheless, happens and will happen in the future, just as it has happened – to a certain extent – in the past. It is just necessary to know how to recognize it. In fact, we are always continuing on to “something”, to something “that was.” This “return of the mythical” is indeed “eternal”, something that is happening incessantly. There is no exception to this. We are always accompanied by “mythologization” and “de-mythologization.” Contents which are “eternal” and truly mythical are wrapped in the clothes of the times, while others are lost. This is a “natural”, necessary process. And it is happening constantly, always, over and over again. 

Today, however, we have a new situation: we live in a civilization from which the Holy (the Sacred) has been banished, that is, we live in a civilization which has tried to expunge the Sacred. Man is supposed to become “rational.” But is this possible? Obviously not. Myth returns again and again, often in an unexpected way. As, let’s say, in the novels of the 19th century. We can read them as transpositions of mythical plots in an age when “God has withdrawn”, when he is “absent” (God, in our opinion, cannot “die” – that is why God is God). The spiritual role of literary works in the modern age, in the 19th and 20th centuries, consists precisely in that they retained and transmitted numerous, sometimes degraded myths and mythical tales. Let us take Dostoyevsky and his Idiot as an example. Or does the “most modern novel”, James Joyce’s Ulysses, which “parasitized” and “parodied” the mythical plot of Odysseus, not also testify to this? And does this mean that all of modernism is but a parody of tradition? The decisive fact, meanwhile, remains that we cannot understand Joyce’s Ulysses without knowing his real template: Homer’s Odyssey.

Either way, the images, symbols, and myths that have been forgotten or suppressed in the West since the 19th century reveal to us the most hidden, the most mysterious modalities of human existence. And they reveal to us our human essence: the essence of man as “mortal”, as a mortal being. Today we can ask ourselves: did the banishing, the persecution succeed? Alexander Dugin has expressed the opinion that science itself is only one “special variation of mythology.” It certainly has its limitations, its limits. Perhaps this is necessary: now comes to the forefront the new “understanding of mythological constructions” (and here we are once again witnessing “de-mythologization” and “re-mythologization”). Apart from these changes (and these are just “superficial changes”), this would mean that man remains the same as he has been, and that all development is fundamentally cyclical.

Indeed, myth will exist as long as man himself exists. Man cannot exist without mythical tales. It would be erroneous to see in myths the “superstition of the ancients.” Man’s existence is always (in certain ways) mythical – even when he rebels against the Gods (e.g. Prometheus). Odysseus, whom we have already mentioned, presents us with our existential situation in a lucidly clear way: his wanderings across the seas are our wandering throughout the material world in order to finally return to the center, to the homeland, to “Ithaca.” Recognizing oneself, like Odysseus, to be wandering and seeking – is this not the literal meaning of the “return of myth”? 

Jafe Arnold: By all means, please expand on the latter point: what does the “return” or “reawakening” of myth, after which your works are titled, mean in our days?

Boris Nad: In fact, this is about one sense: the feeling that the world is not at all as it is presented to us (in the mass media, for example). In the latter case, the world is made into a sad and boring place. There is talk only of banal things. You ask yourself: what is this world made or meant for? Moreover, what about the great questions of human existence? What is the meaning of our obviously short-lived existence on earth? 

Max Weber spoke of the “disenchantment of the world” and “life in an iron cage.” Are we really doomed to this cage, or have we locked ourselves in it? This is, first and foremost, an intuition: life is much more than this. In spite of everything, in spite of all our attempts to “rationalize” it, to make it comprehensible and predictable, life nonetheless remains a mystery. In its “great return”, myth can tell us about what this mystery is. Perhaps we can expect a great wave of “re-mythologization”, the creation of new mythologies after the general banalization that has now reached an unprecedented extent. The future, however, is unpredictable. Even today, man does not live fully in a rational universe, one part of him forever belongs to the great realms of the mythical. 

Jafe Arnold: Is there a particular myth or type of myth which you think is most relevant to our current situation? Perhaps to your own writings? 

Boris Nad: Perhaps the myth of the Titans? This was revealed by Ernst Jünger. It fits perfectly into our times. The myth of the rebellion of the Titans, the ones who launched their assault on Olympus. It seems that the myths of the Titanomachia most accurately describe our times, wherein we are, in fact, the Titans. Jünger’s Worker is fundamentally a titanic figure, who for now lacks a cult substance. Indeed, the Worker (and let us underline the “for now”) has no relation to the Sacred. He hasn’t established such yet. It is an open question whether he will. Personally, I think he will. This is a question of higher meaning: we cannot live by expressing ourselves through the cramped language of technology or, even worse, as mere consumers, customers. That is a liberal illusion. In man, in every person, there always remains something more, something that “doesn’t fit.” We might imagine how Jünger’s Worker changes as his eyes are opened to the Sacred. Maybe this will happen, or already has happened, for example in the constant catastrophes that he is forced to go through. 

Mircea Eliade warned that there is no absolutely profane existence. That is, even in “profane life” we keep that part which experiences itself as “divine.” This is in our “mixed nature.” We are half animals, half gods. But we tend to forget this.  

Jafe Arnold: You also often write of the face of the modern world in geopolitical terms. What is the relation between Myth and Geopolitics? 

Boris Nad: Geopolitics, as you know very well, is derived from mythological notions and motifs. It springs out of sacred geography, which is certainly not a science in the modern sense of the term. Sacred geography deals with a space that is completely differently from “scientific space” which is “always and everywhere the same.” Every space, even “earthly” space, has its own special quality…

Thus, no matter what place we find ourselves in on Earth, it is always inhabited by certain “forces” and “beings.” Man and (earthly) space come into contact, into “interaction.” To say this in a different way, the Russian scholar Lev Gumilev viewed ethnogenesis as a “phenomenon of the biosphere” and its evolution. We can assume that this is the case with outer space as well. We know too little about such for now, but astrology is based on this and presents us with a cosmos filled with or inhabited by various “forces.”

These “interactions” between a person, and by relation a people (as a people is “a person” in plural), and their “soul” and earthly space make up the real basis of geopolitics. This is being forgotten today. Geopolitics is a term which is by and large used in its profane meaning, operating with what is measurable and visible, ignoring the spiritual components. It is reduced to banal things: to technology, demographic questions, economic development… But the spiritual component is undoubtedly more important. Geopolitics is not a science in the usual meaning of the term: it is not “value neutral.” It does not approach the object of its study with the coldness inherent to scientific “reason.” The reach and “discoveries” here (among many other things) directly depend on the geopolitician’s personhood, on the “prejudices” that he carries – so, on the component which we would call “spiritual.”

With regards to the modern world and its face, I would like to remark on this occasion that it suffers most of all from a lack of imagination, which threatens to turn existence in this world into something monotonous and gray, almost boring. 

Jafe Arnold: What authors would you be willing to say have influenced your writings on these topics and visions? 

Boris Nad: Certainly, there are many. Many authors come to mind. Undoubtedly, many of them have been an influence. By enumerating them in such a way, we would be doing “injustice” to some. Bear in mind that any enumeration in this way is always incomplete and arbitrary, and I could cite many others with equally valid arguments. In fact, I do not know in what way some such writers exerted an influence in terms of “literary style” (although they certainly did), so maybe it’s better to talk about affinity or emanation. Which writers, then, do I consider to be of more affinity than others? Some writers are simply closer to you; some are, by the nature of things, more distant. 

Among Serbian writers, in the first place would be the great Miloš Crnjanski (who is insufficiently known across the world, because he belongs to such a “small people”). 

Ernst Jünger, because of his powerful style and equally powerful and disquieting flow of thought. 

Arthur Rimbaud, for instance, who someone has already said is the “greatest poet in the world” despite the fact that no one knows for sure what he was talking about. 

Dostoyevsky, who is not merely a “psychologist”, but something much more, or Gogol, who is much greater than is recognized today. Take, for example, Gogol’s stories about Ukrainian (in actuality Russian) folk legends. 

Borges, who flaunted his erudition even if it was false (fictitious)…

…but any such selection is necessarily arbitrary. 

Jafe Arnold: Thank you, Mr. Nad, for your time and words. Would you be willing to leave any parting words for readers? 

Boris Nad: No, actually – it is too early to part ways. Thank you for these questions, which were really unexpected and exceptionally challenging. Instead of bidding farewell, let us rather think of opportunities for new encounters – with yourself and with readers.

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The Boris Nad Bibliography (Annotated)

Books in Serbian:

Vreme imperija (Time of Empires). Belgrade: Rivel Ko, 2002. 

– compilation of (geo-)political essays 

– foreword by Dragoš Kalajić

Gozba pobednika (The Feast of the Victor). Belgrade: Žagor, 2005. 

– short epic-fantasy novel

– third, amended edition published Belgrade: Metaphysica & Zlatno Runo, 2018.

Nova Itaka (New Ithaca). In: Undus Mundus, Niš: Niš Cultural Center, 2007. 

– selected essays, poems, and short stories

Nemi bogovi (Silent Gods). Belgrade: Žagor, 2008. 

– short stories

Povratak mita (The Return of Myth). Niš: Niš Cultural Center, 2010.

– collection of essays, stories, and poems in four parts: 

“The Idea of the Center”

“The New Ithaca”

“The Argonauts”

“Symbols of Hyperborea”

Postapokalipsa (Post-Apocalypse). Undus Mundus, Niš: Niš Cultural Center, 2011.

– essays

Poslednja Tula (Ultima Thule). In: Undus Mundus, Niš: Niš Cultural Center, 2011. 

– collection of stories

Ka postistoriji sveta (Towards the Post-History of the World). Belgrade: MIR Publishing, 2013.

  • collection of essays

Sedam kula Satane (The Seven Towers of Satan). Belgrade: Opus, 2015. 

– compilation of fantasy short stories

Nevidljivo carstvo (The Invisible Kingdom). Belgrade: Metaphysica, 2016. 

– compilation of fantasy short stories

Hiperborejsko nasleđe (The Hyperborean Heritage). Belgrade: Pešić i sinovi, 2017.

Kratka povest o Agarti (A Brief Tale of Agartha). Belgrade: Metaphysica & Zlatno Runo, 2017.

– fantasy novel

Američka ideologija (American Ideology). Belgrade: Pešić i sinovi, 2018.

Na prelomu epoha (At the Turn of the Era). Belgrade: Pešić i sinovi, 2019.

– selected essays and articles 

Novi bogovi (New Gods). Belgrade: Prometej, 2020. 

  • short stories

Argonauti (Argonauts). Kraljevo: Poetikum, 2021.

  •  collection of poetry

Translations:

The Return of Myth. Multiple translators. Melbourne: Manticore Press, 2016. 

– abridged, rearranged English translation of Povratak mita (2010) with various additions

El retorno del mito. Huesca: Hiperbola Janus, 2018.

– Spanish translation of English edition of Return of Myth (2016)

Una historia de Agartha. Huesca: Hiperbola Janus, 2020. 

– Spanish translation of Kratka povest o Agarti (2017)

The Reawakening of Myth. Selected Works of Boris Nad, Volume I. Translated and edited by Jafe Arnold and Zinka Brkić. PRAV Publishing, 2020. 

– Collection of works in three parts: 

I. “The Return of Myth” = new English translation of The Return of Myth with additions

II. “A Tale of Agartha” = English translation of Kratka povest o Agarti

III. “Sacred History and the End of the World” = selected essays from Vreme imperija, Povratak mita, Nevidljivo carstvo, Postapokalipsa & previously unpublished.

Articles in English:

“The Eurasian Vision: From the End of History to a New Beginning”, New Dawn Special Issue Vol. 15 No. 3, 2021.

“Sacred Geography and the Legend of Agartha: A Spiritual Journey between History and Mystery”, New Dawn Special Issue Vol. 15, No. 4, 2021.

Contributions to collective volumes: 

Serbian:

Postapokalipsa” and “Povratak mita” in the anthology Rodna vera: Zbornik tekstova o stari veri Slovena (Naive Faith: A Compilation of Texts on the Old Faith of the Slavs). Belgrade: 2012.

Sedam kula Satane” in the almanac Književna fantastika (Literary Fantasy). Belgrade: Art Anima and Čarobna knjiga, 2015.

Russian: 

Interv’iu – Boris Nad: Nashim proektom politicheskogo budushchego dolzhna stat’ Era Evrazii” (Interview with Boris Nad: The Era of Eurasia should be Our Project for the Political Future) in the almanac Chetvertaia Politicheskaia Teoriia (The Fourth Political Theory) No. 5. Edited by Alexander Dugin. Moscow: Eurasian Movement, 2013. 

Spanish:

“El Anticristo” in Mos Maiorum No. 1. Hiperbola Janus, Verano, 2019. 

Discography: 

TSIDMZ (ThuleSehnsucht In Der MaschinenZeit): Ungern Von Sternberg Khan, track 7: “Itaca”, text by Boris Nad, Label: OECD 181, Old Europa Cafe, Italy, 2013.

TSIDMZ (ThuleSehnsucht In Der MaschinenZeit), Suveräna Vanguard, featuring Corazzata Valdemone, La Derniere Attaque, Sonnenkind, Stefania Domizia and L’Effet C’Est Moi): “Sailing to Itaca”, MCD, Skull line, Germany, 2013.

EAA (Eurasian Artists Association): The 4TH Revolution, TSIDMZ + La Derniere Attaque & Sonnenkind – “War Song”, text by Boris Nad, digital album, 2015.

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