One of the most widely read mid-generation Serbian authors recalls what he learned from his dog – the difference between winning and losing, and the paramount importance of love and courage.
“I didn’t ask for a dog, even when I was a child. But this one followed me half-blind and injured; it just would not go away. So she slept that night with me at my place, and then stayed for next 16 years,” Ivan Tokin says, talking about his latest novel called The Dog, written not from the narrative view of the human pet owner, but from the view of man’s best friend.
There is a lot to learn from dogs about the nature of life first through their unconditional trust, and by becoming worthy of it, Tokin observes, marking that one of the most precious understandings he obtained this way was about living without self-pity, accepting events as they occur, and living in the moment.
Nothing is random
“The novel was born unintentionally, when my former wife and I were short of money. She works in the advertising business and asked me to start a blog about dogs. I guess that, while writing about my dog, I was telling my readers more about myself and about life; people liked it, until eventually it wasn’t necessary to mention the advertised products any more. Then my editor saw it and asked me to turn it into a novel, and everything just clicked.”
Tokin says that while life is sometimes separate from writing, it can also be at one with it:
“There are times when I find messages to myself in my own words, as a kind of an omen, and then wonder: ‘Where did this came from?’ So I learn about myself through writing. Nothing is really random; there are always a thousand things, decisions we made, leading us to the point where we are now.
“Somebody may say that I was lucky, to which I reply: ‘Do all the things I have done and then say that.’ So, both experience and its interpretation are equally important.”
Praised by both critics and his audience, Tokin’s readers often approach him, eager to meet the person behind the words they love. It even happens while this interview is in progress.
He does not mind. “I can’t say that I do not feel fond of support, or of achievements, for that matter; but what is really important for me is love, and courage also. In life it is good to do things one is afraid of,” he says.
Tokin also points out that it takes a lot of bravery for people to dare to be themselves.