Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that even the cruelest and most sanguinary of human “monsters”, people responsible for the cruelest of crimes against humanity and genocides – have a human side to them as well, albeit not necessarily a pretty one.
The following are excerpts from recorded conversations between Slobodan Milosevic and his son Marko. I find them both incredibly funny in their banality, and yet disturbing at the same time. They were published in Harper’s a few years ago, but for some reason I never wrote about them here (hmm, did I even have a blog back then?). Anyway, they are completely worth reading.
All in the family
By Tanja Bosak (Trans.)
The following telephone conversations among members of the Milosevic family were recorded in 1997 by Croatian intelligence agents and released in January 2002 to Globus, a weekly newspaper in Zagreb. Prior to his death on March 11, 2006, Slobodan Milosevic was on trial in The Hague for several counts of war crimes, including genocide; Mira Markovic, his wife, and Marko, his son, currently live in Moscow. All three were alleged to have embezzled billions of dollars. Translated from the Serbian by Tanja Bosak.
Slobodan: All right, Pretty. Listen, Marko. I talked to a doctor and I’ve done some thinking. You don’t need surgery on your ears.
Marko: Oh Daddy, I knew you’d do that.
Slobodan: Wait a little, I’ll explain something to you. Do you know why you see it that way? You see it that way because you are terribly skinny and every donkey your age looks like that. As soon as you gain a little weight and stabilize, it’ll all feel the way it should. I used to look worse when I was skinny.
Marko: See, I agree, but I have no intention of getting more handsome in fifteen years.
Slobodan: Marko, I want to tell you that the consequences of being skinny can’t be seen like that. Even a chicken has a little meat behind its ear that one can eat. And all you have is bone, you understand? All violence against nature is stupid. You’re handsome like your daddy. Don’t you fuck around with me!
Marko: Daddy . . .
Slobodan: I’m against it and I am the parent, see?
Marko: Great. And I am for it and I am an adult.
Slobodan: Well, if you are such an adult, I’ll beat you when you show up here.
Marko: Don’t worry, Daddy.
Slobodan: I want to tell you that it’s all because you’re skinny. Your head is pointy and your stomach is like a five-dinar bill. Why don’t you add a belt of bacon onto your stomach?
[Milosevic transfers the line to Dojcilo Maslovaric, the Yugoslav ambassador to the Vatican]
Dojcilo: Don’t do it. Are you crazy? Which female gave you complexes?
Marko: No one, but I can’t drive an expensive car, dress well, and be floppy-eared like cattle at the same time.
Marko: I just want to see whether they have prescription contacts that are colored. That would make me especially happy.
Slobodan: Why colored? Don’t pull my leg.
Marko: If I have to wear this shit, I want to get something out of it.
Slobodan: Come on, Marko, why change the color? Which color would you get, please?
Marko: I’ll get them in all colors, depending on what I wear.
Slobodan: Come on, Marko.
Marko: If I wear black, I’ll put on blue contacts; if I wear something colored, then I don’t know, purple or green.
Slobodan: Are you fucking with me?
Marko: No, I’m not fucking with you. Seriously. Get this, Mengele was trying it in the concentration camps. However, Wiesenthal did not understand it.
Slobodan: Marko, don’t fuck with me anymore.
Marko: Mom, I’m having all my teeth replaced. There are twenty-nine teeth in my head, and I’m having twenty-nine teeth replaced. I am not having my teeth repaired but replaced.
Mira: Let me tell you something. It is well known that the health care in the West is horrible. Inhuman. They perceive it as a consumable and rip off foreigners terribly. Yugoslavs who work abroad always repent and say that they could have done it for nothing or much cheaper in their own country.
Marko: This is a Croat.
Mira: You’re really nuts.
Marko: An ustasha.11. ustasha—Reactionary pro-Nazi forces in Croatia during the Second World War. You know how they talk. I can’t understand a thing. Just like Tudjman.22. Tudjman—Franjo Tudjman, president of Croatia from 1990 until his death in 1999. Those tight lips, popping eyes. He’s all fascistically feminized. Fuck him.
Marko: Daddy, where’s my mom?
Slobodan: What do you need your mom for now that your daddy’s here?
Marko: Well, I’ve got an idea, Daddy.
Slobodan: Let me hear.
Marko: Since you’re a conservative guy, I don’t want to ask you. I want to ask Mom.
Slobodan: Ask me.
Marko: Ask you?
Marko: I already know your answer.
Slobodan: Say what you want.
Marko: What do you think about me starting a maternity clinic?
Slobodan: What do you mean by a maternity clinic?
Marko: A maternity clinic. You know what a maternity clinic looks like.
Slobodan: I do.
Marko: Here33. Here—Pozarevac, Serbia. they are dying not only of heart disease but of plague too. Imagine if I employed respectable gynecologists, offered agreeable prices, ideal conditions, and special rooms for women with complete amenities.
Slobodan: Don’t fuck around. You’d better keep Madona [Marko’s discotheque].
Marko: I didn’t mean to start a maternity ward in Madona.
Slobodan: So where did you think of starting it?
Marko: I’d start it casually, independently of the discotheque. I’ve been thinking about activities that are lucrative and good for society at the same time.
Slobodan: Yes, and where would you put it?
Marko: Somewhere close to you by the Cacalica.44. Cacalica—A picnic area near Pozarevac.
Slobodan: By the Cacalica?
Marko: Wonderful greenery, a fenced park, a garden, nice rooms with TV sets, satellite TV, telephones, bathrooms. Visits allowed all the time. Here the doctors are asking for a lot of money just to let the husband be present at the birth.
Slobodan: That’s slightly more expensive fun.
Marko: Okay, but generally, I am asking you what you think about it.
Slobodan: Generally speaking, it’s not so bad in a humanitarian sense, but in a business sense it’s nothing. A flop.
Marko: Daddy, do you know how much abortions cost here in the sheds in Pozarevac?
Slobodan: I don’t know.
Marko: 150 marks55. 150 marks—$70..
Slobodan: Marko, abortion is not performed in maternity wards. Children are born there.
Marko: There is a clinic nearby, but imagine, for an abortion that lasts about 3.5 minutes, in pigsties that are called medical offices, they ask for 150 marks!
[Milosevic hands the phone to Mira, who listens to her son briefly.]
Mira: Your idea is superb.
Marko [shouting delightedly]: You’re my mom! You’re my mom! She said superb. Of course. Isn’t it wonderful?
Marko: Do you know that the water in my swimming pool is at 100 degrees?
Slobodan: You’re a fool. It’s unhealthy. It shouldn’t be over 86. Why are you fooling around?
Marko: Why shouldn’t that be allowed? I take baths at 104 degrees.
[Slobodan hands the phone to Mira.]
Mira: Honey, my sweet puppy.
Marko: Mommy, I warmed up the water in the swimming pool to 100 degrees. It’s wonderful, you know.
Mira: Tell your mom what you’re up to.
Marko: Mom, I haven’t gone out of the house for seventy-two hours.
Mira: Oh, honey, isn’t it wonderful there?
Marko: And you know what? I’ve come to the conclusion that under such conditions you always have an appetite and you never suffer from insomnia, and these problems are all in my past. First, I’ll gain some weight here because I’ve been eating like an abyss. I can eat whenever. Second, I cannot suffer from insomnia and I cannot be bored because I have so many forms of amusement that it’s wonderful. I haven’t left the house at all.
Mommy, do you know how pleasant it is to have floor heating in the bathrooms and everywhere? It’s not like you step barefoot and your foot sticks to the floor. There isn’t any draft; it’s not cold; sheer beauty.
Mira [laughing]: Enjoy, honey!
Marko: And I’ve done one smart thing. Since I don’t wear slippers, Ljubisa asked me before New Year’s what to buy me and I told him to buy me some beautiful sports shoes that I’d need anyway, both at home and outside. Now I have new sports shoes and I haven’t taken their label off, so when I enter the house I take my shoes off immediately, and I wear clean sports shoes at home.
Mira: But, please, wear slippers at home.
Mira: Wear slippers!
Marko: What do you mean?
Mira: Well, at night when you go to bed, you have to have slippers beside you when you go and pee.
Marko: No I don’t, because I have the floor heating, so I can go barefoot.
Mira: Don’t, that’s impolite. That’s hick style. That’s doglike.
Marko: Okay, Mom.
Mira: Your mommy loves you.