About the Work

by vladislav beronja

The four translated poems are selected from uslovi korišćenja (Terms of Use, 2022), Ognjen Obradović’s second poetry collection published by Raštan, a small press specializing in the work of younger poets from ex-Yugoslavia. Divided into four distinct but interconnected sections, Terms of Use addresses the incursion of the consumerist mentality into all aspects of everyday life in the new millennium—from the built environment (“billboard lane”), clothing (“t-shirts”), and screens (“phones”) to the most private recesses of the self (“this is not me”). Obradović's poetics in the collection are largely conceptual and allegorical: he appropriates the language of contemporary marketing slogans to undermine their messages, turning  readers’ attention to social and historical context. 

The current selection, excerpted from the first part of Terms of Use, registers the specific effects of consumerist ideology on the urban environment, offering jolting snapshots of present-day Serbia, a country stranded between the forgotten and erased socialist past and the failed promise of a prosperous capitalist future. The opening poem is set in Užice, Obradović’s hometown in western Serbia and the historical site of the first Partisan uprising during the Second World War (also the first liberated territory across occupied Europe). During socialism, the town was renamed Tito’s Užice after Yugoslavia’s revolutionary leader and lifelong president Josip Broz Tito, the “marshal” in the poem. This designation was eventually removed—along with Tito’s statue—in the 1990s when Serbia started embracing ethnic nationalism. The poem focuses on the Partisan Square architectural complex as a palimpsest of these different ideologies and their historical temporalities. Significantly, the current moment is represented as a kind of memorial void; it is only the indifferent “pavement,” and not the new generation, that remembers “all that history.” 

In the remaining three poems, the scene shifts to Belgrade, the former capital of socialist Yugoslavia and the current capital of postsocialist Serbia, where Obradović currently lives. Genex, referenced in the second poem, is a brutalist skyscraper towering over the western entryway to the city that has become a prominent symbol of Yugoslav socialism, but also one of its last monumental architectural undertakings. The third poem addresses the increasing commercialization of the publishing industry by ironically incorporating the marketing slogan of one of the largest publishing houses in Serbia, Laguna, into its structure. The final poem centers on Balkanska Street, a steep cobblestone thoroughfare in the center of Belgrade. Historically known for its artisan and pastry shops, the street has been facing gentrification as part of luxury development that has swept the city in the last decade under the increasingly authoritarian government of Aleksandar Vučić. 

In my translations, I follow the idiosyncrasies of Obradović's orthography and style: the avoidance of capitalization, even with toponyms, and the accentuation of “ready-made” language through italicization. The condensed, enjambed quality of his line required much creative improvisation to keep the economy of these poems intact.  


ognjen obradović (b. 1992, Užice) is a poet, playwright, and scholar. He has published two books of poetry, Outflows (2016, Young Dis Award) and Terms of Use (2022). He teaches at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade.

vladislav beronja (b. 1984, Bihać) is a scholar and translator of Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian. His work has appeared in The Offing, Two Lines Journal, harlequin creature, and The Brooklyn Rail’s InTranslation. His translations of Dino Pešut’s novel Daddy Issues and Slavenka Drakulić’s documentary novel about Mileva Einstein are forthcoming. He teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.


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