Suffled How It Gush: A North American Anarchist in the Balkans
Suffled How It Gush is so beautiful it may as well be a novel. The confident, fast-paced prose is history, politics, memoir, travel guide, and a call to action all in one—and all seeping with deep humanity. Shon Meckfessel takes us along on his trips backpacking through the Balkans and ex-Yugoslavia one country at a time, from Slovenia and Croatia through Romania and Albania.
As one may expect from the book’s title, the author allows his anarchist leanings to shine through both in his conversations with others and his choice of lodging and cultural events (numerous punk shows, moshing, and political groups). But despite Meckfessel’s opportunity to take sides as he explores the history, ethnicities, and political activism of a vast and complex region, he zooms in on individual struggles and lays open different views to allow his audience to make up its own mind. (Note that the fact that I agree with a lot of his perspectives may be tainting my opinion.)
This multi-layered book is a pleasure to read—the anecdotes, political analyses, clashing cultures, adventures, long nights, endless cigarettes, flowing beers, jokes made between people who barely speak the same language, dance parties, and other gems are regaled in a warm and colorful manner. That’s not to say that some aspects of Meckfessel’s accounts aren’t heartbreaking and disturbing: Roma refugees ignored and abandoned by the world, racism, sexism, extreme poverty, persecution, and violence abound. We hear the stories of those entrenched in these situations first-hand.
Meckfessel makes evident his sympathy and respect for the myriad denizens he meets through the ephemeral yet intricate portraits he paints of them. There is nothing impersonal about this book. Meckfessel shreds many of the barriers often placed between reader and writer, letting us in on his intimate musings and trepidations. The book’s pages are laden with photos of parks, vendors, graffiti, refugees, his anarchist friends, and curious objects to help the reader delve deeper into his narrative.
Ultimately, Suffled How It Gush is a love story. The author reminds us that many strangers are generous, trusting people who can easily become dear friends, and that humility and love—or at least humor and good will—are everywhere despite corruption, discrimination, and suffering. In the midst of bombings, Meckfessel’s friend Andrea tells us that Belgrade was full of people partying and enjoying life in any way they could because, “You see, when you finally decide you have nothing left to lose, only then you are free!” Beauty is everywhere, the author suggests—you just have to open your eyes to see it.