Featured Author Interviews with Nataša Pantović in 2020

s with Author Nataša Pantović

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Published in Sunday Times

A beautiful mind

Nataša Pantović and her son Andrej at the launch of the novel Tree of Life: A Journey into the Field of Dreams in Valletta 2019.
Nataša Pantović and her son Andrej at the launch of the novel Tree of Life: A Journey into the Field of Dreams in Valletta 2019.

Seated on a panel with her fellow writers, Maltese-Serbian novelist Nataša Pantović has been known to use slam poetry to perform her poetic body of work.

Like her prose, the improvised words, tribal music, percussionist sounds, lengthy ‘aum’ chanting, are neither too preposterous nor too earnest but endlessly curious. A bridge builder between East and West, following ancient archaeological findings, she often dives into historic settings more than 2,000 years back in time.

In her novel, Ama: Playing the Glass Bead Game with Pythagoras, the 52-year-old author makes a bold swerve into less-travelled territory. She chooses for her protagonists  Ama, an African priestess, living in China’s Macao in the 17th century; Ruben, a Portuguese Jesuit priest; and Fr Benedict, an Orthodox Christian.

The book explores the rapidly-growing Macao, its changing sights, sounds and smells from different perspectives, from that of a bat to a goddess to a spirit. Its miracle and its enigma are within the worlds of inner alchemy of the Age of Enlightenment.

Can you tell us about Ama: Playing the Glass Bead Game with Pythagoras?

Both Hesse and Tolstoy were my first spiritual gurus. Through their deep insights and soulful messages, for the first time I experienced the world of spiritual growth and deep contemplation. Many artists have inspired my writings, the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Lao Tzu and Giordano Bruno.  Pythagoras lived on the crossroads of civilisations, as I see us, and he has given us his fascinating research into music and numbers. With my deep respect towards ancient worlds, Pythagoras with his ancient Egyptian mystical knowledge had to be my protagonist.

In your novel, you follow the famous reform of the Chinese calendar during the 17th century. Can you tell us about your research?

I started writing this as a 17th-century novel. In this novel, it was easy to write from the point of view of the main character, a priest or Ama’s mother or a man without a name or a goddess, Lilith.

Holding up a mirror to society of ancient worlds can be fanatical or too obvious within the storytelling environment, so I had to break the rhythm with myths, with art, with dreams

I wanted to bring in the many first-person singular voices, starting with an animal ‒ a bat, as a story-teller, moving to Pythagoras, to people who meet Ama within the setting of her coffee house. This narrative framework is 50 per cent inspired by the ‘yin’ mindset; dreamy and emotional, and five per cent factual, male and mind-driven.

What is it within this black main character that fascinates you so much?

Ama lived with me for 10 years before I knew I would adopt two kids from Ethiopia, yet Ama as the main protagonist of the story has decided to be black.

Was Athens black at the time of the ancient Greeks or was it full of Slavs that during the Dark Ages were not allowed to have their own European history?

All my characters do have strong political, ideological and moral commitments, their ideas are ground-breaking; it is a science against the Church, male against female, East against West conversation.

Holding up a mirror to society of ancient worlds can be fanatical or too obvious within the storytelling environment, so I had to break the rhythm with myths, with art, with dreams.

This novel is, of course, about the search for truth, but from the goddess perspective, about love and union, of the priestesses that have given us the first commandment “Do not kill...”

In this novel you explore the Age of Enlightenment, and ‘Western’ ancient Greek philosophers. Can you talk about your use of the Eastern concept of ‘mindfulness’ in this context?

There are a number of ‘instant happiness’ gurus out there, I do not believe in a ‘get rich in a day’ message, but I do believe that if we learn how to listen to our soul, we will be able to live our highest potential.

We live in a rapidly changing world.  When I was born in Belgrade in 1968, at the time of no TV or internet, the population on the planet was one billion. Now they say it is seven billion.

The changes I have seen during my lifetime are huge. Emotionally, mentally and physically, we have to adopt different behaviour patterns, not just to survive, but to thrive without abusing other social groups or animals or endangering planet Earth.

The next stage, the stage of cultural life, is beyond the knowledge of more than 90 per cent of the population.

Having a percentage of the population that neither collects objects nor watches TV, nor reads newspapers, that is still capable of thinking, un-hypnotised, to appreciate art, or dance or sing, and is able to think creatively, is a part of my research fascination.

Nataša Pantović is a Maltese-Serbian novelist, management consultant, adoptive parent, and ancient worlds explorer based in Malta. Ama: Playing the Glass Bead Game with Pythagoras and other books by Pantović can be purchased on Amazon.

Published in Ponto Final Macau

A-Ma: Alchemy of Love, uma narrativa passada em Macau sobre “a busca pela verdade”

“A-Ma: Alchemy of Love”, um livro cuja acção se passa na Macau do século XVII. Agora, em entrevista ao jornal Times of Malta, a autora, Nataša Pantović, explica que o romance “é sobre a busca pela verdade”. A história tem como protagonista Ama, uma sacerdotisa africana.

Nataša Pantović escolheu como cenário para “A-Ma: Alchemy of Love” a Macau do século XVII e colocou como protagonistas Ama, uma sacerdotisa africana a morar na região, Ruben, um padre jesuíta português e Benedito, um cristão ortodoxo. Ama reunia artistas, pregadores, padres e filósofos de todo o mundo, dentro dos cenários mágicos do seu café. O livro explora o crescimento rápido de Macau, quer nos horizontes das cidades, quer nas mudanças socioeconómicas.

Retratando a vida na Europa e em Macau no século XVII, a obra é vista como uma fábula histórica e dos hábitos e costumes dos chineses e dos portugueses que viviam em Macau. O livro tem 12 capítulos e Nataša Pantović coloca Deus e outros espíritos a narrar a acção.

A autora do livro, que foi publicado originalmente em 2016, deu agora uma entrevista ao jornal maltês Times of Malta, onde explicou que o romance foi escrito “do ponto de vista da personagem principal, Ama”.

“Todas as minhas personagens têm fortes compromissos políticos, ideológicos e morais, as suas ideias são inovadoras, é uma ciência contra a Igreja, homem contra mulher, uma conversa do Oriente com o Ocidente”, explicou a escritora com ascendência maltesa e sérvia. Neste caso, o tema central é “a busca pela verdade”.

A filosofia da Grécia antiga também é abordada neste livro. Questionada sobre as influências filosóficas, a autora respondeu apenas: “As mudanças que presenciei durante a minha vida foram enormes. Emocionalmente, mentalmente e fisicamente, temos de adoptar diferentes padrões de comportamento, não apenas sobreviver, mas prosperar sem abusar dos outros grupos sociais ou animais ou colocar o planeta Terra em perigo”.

“O facto de haver uma percentagem da população que não vê televisão, não lê jornais e que ainda é capaz de pensar, de apreciar arte ou dançar e cantar, e é capaz de pensar de forma criativa, faz parte do fascínio pela minha investigação”, atirou a autora.

A autora vê Hermann Hesse e Leo Tolstoy como os seus primeiros “guias espirituais”: “Através das suas percepções profundas e mensagens emocionantes, pela primeira vez experimentei o mundo do crescimento espiritual e contemplação profunda”. A escritora diz ter sido influenciada por outros artistas, e destaca Leonardo da Vinci, Lao Tzu e Giordano Bruno.

Published in Malta Times

Nataša Pantović: ‘I meditate in an attempt to recall my dreams’

Maltese-Serbian novelist Nataša Pantović tells all in our Q&A

 

Nataša Pantović is a Maltese-Serbian novelist, management consultant, adoptive parent, and ‘ancient worlds explorer’ based in Malta. Ama: Playing the Glass Bead Game with Pythagoras and other books by Pantović can be purchased on Amazon.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

Meditate in an attempt to recall my dreams. A dream diary is the most beautiful technique I’ve learned from Jung – he understood dreams to be messages from the unconscious, and through his own self-analysis, containing imagery that illustrates our internal soul “messaging” system.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

My dad, who had a PhD in law, used to discuss ancient philosophers with me, introducing me to Aristotle’s ‘eudaimonia’ - the “long-term happiness” that achieved throughout a lifetime when human beings achieve health, wealth, knowledge, friends and this in turn leads to the perfection of human nature...

What do you never leave the house without?

A book or a note-book...

Pick three words that describe yourself

“Arche”, “Logos”, and “Harmonia”.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I could morph into a dolphin…

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Reading the Babylon stories written in 2,500 BC. Researching Ancient Greek, Chinese and Egyptian characters or Akkadian that symbolically narrate the stories of advanced civilizations of 2,500 BC. Discovering “real” history or how I call it “playing the glass bead game with Pythagoras”.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

I “jumped” into the role of parenting, adopting as a single mother, two instead of one kid (as originally planned) even though I had no husband to support me within this journey. The madness of my little “mission” left me at home, babysitting and writing books, one after the other, since my creative flow kept overpowering me.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

Leonardo da Vinci’s A3 size Complete Book of Art.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

Music, one thing I did not get as a gift from my parents. Perhaps I will be reborn as a musician.

Who’s your inspiration?

Giordano Bruno, Herman Hesse, and Tolstoy.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Original thinking. Any author’s dream is to be able to play the audience like a conductor does an orchestra. Take it onto a journey.

If you weren’t an ‘Ancient Worlds Consciousness Researcher’ what would you be doing?    

I have already hugged a 3,000-years-old Maori tree in New Zealand and crossed the Savanah on foot and slept in the deserts of Africa, and climbed the hills of Nepal, danced barefoot under starry nights… so not researching, assuming the kids are no longer in need of my support, would probably take me back to exploring Serbian hills...

Do you believe in God?

As a dynamic, Orphic, hermaphrodite Universe of Consciousness, Yin and Yang manifestations... then yes.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

The full cast of Ama, my fiction book: the bat, who is also a story-teller, Pythagoras, who I (as a writer) meet jumping through a universal consciousness portal, Ama, the Kenyan goddess who meets the philosophers in her coffee house, Father Benedict, an Orthodox priest, her father Ottavio who is an alchemist… wow, what a party!

What’s your worst habit?

Never ending my stories. I was re-writing A-Ma for long 10 years. The issue of white supremacy, the institutional racism, female vs. male conflict, the East vs. West struggle, the Yin vs. Yang or Dogs vs. Cats, it is a story repeated over and over again.  If you are a reader, you probably get one masterpiece a year, a book that is a must read, and as an educated audience, you are deeply grateful to be holding this type of a book in your hands, but it still does not change your life. How many books have changed your life? Will a book be read in 30 years? Will my book be read in 30 years?

What are you like when you’re drunk?

I have never ever been drunk. Can you believe this? I also do not take any medication...

Who would you have play you in a film?

I wouldn’t have me “played” in a film. But I would have my daughter play Ama...

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Conscious and sub-conscious abuse of one’s own body or mind or emotions... I feel deep sorrow when people abuse the gift of life.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

Jamming jazz by all participants.

What is your most treasured material possession?

Tobby, my cat, even though she “owns” us, not the other way round.

What is your earliest memory?

Taking a teddy bear to the hospital in Belgrade, Serbia, that was closed for visits, to my sister who was operated and was gone from my life, for more than three months. I recall, at the age of 3, running under the nursing sister’s legs to give her the bear.

When did you last cry, and why?

I cry at all times. My friend Karl Pace has just died of burning injuries, his boat set on fire...

Who would you most like to meet?

Quentin Tarantino.

What’s your favourite food?

As a vegetarian, a veggie meal from Krishna or a mix of forest berries from Serbia.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

I’m old-school. I read the newspaper. I still watch movies in the cinema, I buy the front row tickets. When I write a poem, or a story, I do not do it on a computer… all these handsome actors trying to act tortured, trying to look miserable. The life that is not real, does not appeal to me. So, no social media for me. Thanks, but no thanks...

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

Ancient Malta’s Temple culture, and the time of Serbian Vinca so that I could compare the two.

What book are you reading right now?

Babylonian Life and History by Ernest Alfred Wallis Budge (1884). Together with Lingua Maltese Studio Storico Etnografico e Filolgico by Caruana, published in 1896 in Italian. The latter, I have had the honour of holding it in my hands.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Travel through time.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

Spend two months in Peru.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

A soundtrack from Emir Kusturica’s film “Arizona Dream” by Goran Bregovic.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

Mantras of all religions like Kirya Si, Shiva Shakti, Halleluya, AuM allaH, my kids hate me for it... the neighbours are convinced that I am a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Hindu, or a Christian in a dire need of some psychiatric help. Sometimes the kids, passers-by or dogs sing with me.

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