Montenegro: Religions and Nations

Now I can honestly say I am as far outside of my comfortable zone as possible. The Mountain Wreath by Petar II Petrović-Njegoš is a sad turbulent history of Montenegrin history written in poetry form. The author apparently was once considered the only educated man in Montenegro. As a bishop, he knew a lot about the religious life in the country. The core story is the battle between Christians and (Turkish) Muslims.

Poetry is not always the easiest genre to tackle, especially translated, and the story is cultural and religious in its nature, which makes it one of the most challenging reads during my reading trip around the world. The poem is strongly relying on symbolism, which make it even harder to follow at times. I think that to fully understand and soak in everything you have to read it several times.

I am not as familiar with Serbian or Montenegrin history that I would like to be, so this was an educational read as well. One thing I am unfortunately too familiar with is the age-old battle between religions. The setting is 18th-century Montenegro. The author’s forefather is concerned about how Turkey is strengthening its power in Europe, which is the basic storyline. It is scary how some things do not change on our planet.

The poem plays around an event that supposedly happened back in the days; a mass execution of Muslim Montenegrins. The basic themes of nations are part of this poem: freedom, ethical values and good versus evil. How much of the story is based on actual events I cannot even guess. The main themes are still, unfortunately, as current today as ever.

This is not the easiest of books to read, and once again, I am sure a lot is lost in translation. Poetry as a genre was not meant to be translated in most cases, if you ask me. The book is worth a read, and at some point I will probably read it again.

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