Food for Thought-Mr. Andric Meets Mr. Tagore For Dinner (The Thirteenth Letter)lm


9 May 1957
Belgrade, The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
In the afternoon, waiting for the parades to end

Dearest Hero, Friend, and Caretaker of the Past,

You know I have never been much for our public victory celebrations. To have lived through the war and survived is a daily celebration in and of itself. Would you not agree? Besides, no one wants to hear stories that begin with, “I knew Tito when he was still ‘Josip Broz’”. *

As the sky darkens in the east, I’ve spent most of the day watching the sound of the wind falling between the clouds. The noise of nothingness is deafening, even on a beautiful day. Sitting high above the Sava*, I wanted to find one gust, a single breeze and follow its course to the flowing water below. So certain, was I, that air and water would meet to produce a new language, I began to compose a verse in Bengali*. Perhaps it was the waiting, or the water, or the late night reading of Tagore*.

অন্ধকার আকাশ নীচে, সেদিনই বৈকালে আমি অক্ষয়বাবুর বাতাস অপেক্ষা, তাদের আর্তনাদ শুনতে,*

Today, many waited upon the Marshal*. On other days, we wait upon our food, we wait upon the Picus Viridius, and today I waited upon the wind. While we wait, in these vast and varied places, may we make our waiting matter? As we listen for the bird, are we listening to those around us and each other? Do the overwhelming sounds of nothingness prevent us from hearing the songs we are seeking?

These were the questions that once dominated our lives. It seems they have come to do so again.

Until tomorrow.

Your friend,


*Josip Broz the given name of Marshal Tito, late dictator the former Yugoslavia
*Sava the river running east to west through Belgrade, Serbia
*Bengali the language of Bangladesh. Many British officers who worked with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Yugoslavia had served in India and spoke languages of the subcontinent. It is probable V was exposed to Bengali at this time.
*Rabindranath Tagore Bengali Poet and Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913
*Beneath Darkened Skies, I wait upon the winds, and wait upon their cries…
*Marshal Marshal Tito
*Picus Viridius the common European Woodpecker