Ana Miloš – occupation or  “a perfect literary crime”

min read

Disclaimer: The story was originally published here.

In the long history of human existence, the kaleidoscope of professions was continuously changing, reflecting the dynamic nature of our society. From ancient times to the modern era, the number and form of jobs and occupations has undergone a fascinating metamorphosis, influenced by countless factors such as cultural changes, technological advances and economic trends. Diving into the intricate history of  professions, we uncover a fascinating narrative that shows the adaptability and resilience of human efforts to work and create or to at least engage in the struggle for self-preservation.

You've certainly heard of occupations such as doctor, lawyer, merchant, nurse, IT specialist. But have you ever heard of the profession "Ana Miloš"? You heard that right. Ana Miloš. A simple and easy-to-remember name has become an occupation. If you're wondering how, then you have to read the book of the same name "Po zanimanju Ana Miloš” (Ana Miloš by occupation) by Miloš K. Ilić, a writer who committed the "perfect literary crime" and shocked and shook the Serbian literary scene with his confession.

In November 2023, a story appeared on the website of the popular Serbian magazine Bookvar (edited by Milan Aranđelović), that turned everything into a puzzle. The title of that story was "Who is Ana Miloš? Is this the biggest fraud in Serbian literature?" The title itself attracted a lot of attention. The story also blew up on social networks, especially on the platform X, where various comments started popping up, as per usual in the former Twitter manner. Many wondered what it was all about. It was clear that a large number of people heard about the story, but few of them made a comment about anything. Is this another journalistic hoax or a marketing ploy? These were just some of the questions from readers. However, the very next day it was clear that the matter was serious because it was reported by all the leading Serbian media.

In order to explain why Ana Miloš became an occupation, we first need to explain who Ana Miloš is. That also isn't easy. Why? Because the creator of this "occupation" skillfully and wisely designed his every move. Nevertheless, we will try to get into this thriller-adventure and at times, the theatre of absurd in the style of Eugène Ionesco.

Until November 2023, Ana Miloš was a young Serbian writer, a great revelation of the Serbian literary scene, the author of several books and the winner of several significant Serbian literary awards. And all of this would be completely normal if Ana Miloš existed. However, Ana Miloš is a woman who does not exist, just like Andrić's Jelena. She is actually a creation made in the talented and intelligent mind of her creator, the young Serbian writer and playwright Miloš K. Ilić. (who may grow into Jozef K. of our time).

Here we also have to look briefly at who faithfully portrayed the character of Ana Miloš and who publicly presented herself as Ilić's literary heroine. It's  Marija Milosavljević, a woman (and the writer's friend) from Belgrade who works in the field of management and production of theatre, radio and culture. For absurdity, it's the same culture that she managed to shake to the core with her false and very believable appearance.

Writers have always written under a pseudonym and that is also nothing strange, but the main character of this story and the creator of Ana Miloš did not stop at just a pseudonym. He went a few steps further. For the sake of curiosity, in the digital age when he could very easily create an avatar or some kind of virtual writer, he decided to try to perform perhaps the last attempt to draw the attention of the inhuman world to all its absurdity in the wake of transhumanism.

And that's when his performance, as he says, called Ana Miloš comes into being. He devises a plan to make a literary star. He starts writing her books, slowly preparing her to enter the harsh world of Serbian literature where, as many misogynistic writers (and there are many) would agree, it wasn't her place. And then he resorts to a very unusual, but brave move. He invites his friend who is an actress to take on that heavy burden, to become Ana Miloš. Fake Ana, fake writer, and to show the fake world all its vanity and mimicry. Although at first glance everything seems a bit confusing, our Miloš K. is actually starting to realise his well-thought-out plan that lasted a full five years. Actually, a plan that lasted until the appearance of his book titled "Po zanimanju: Ana Miloš" (Ana Miloš by occupation).

Miloš K. Ilić and Marija Milosavljević who presented herself as Ana Miloš.

This is also the moment when Ana Miloš died. The great star of the Serbian literary scene, admired by many, died in an instant. Rest in peace to her soul. And did something else die with Ana Miloš? Faith in people? Common sense? Hypocrisy of the fake literary elite? Ana erased all of them in just one stroke of an eraser. In fact, it was done by Miloš, her creator, the man who pulled the invisible strings of his well-crafted literary marionette.

The Serbian literary scene does not remember something like this, everyone agreed on that. However, the reactions of many were that it was just a simple marketing ploy. But if the whole story is looked at from several sides, you come to a number of conclusions, as well as questions.

First of all, how did an anonymous girl have the courage to embark on such a dangerous adventure? Wasn't she afraid of being found out? How did she manage to convince several reputable publishers, numerous media, members of the jury, hosts of various podcasts in which she was a guest presenting herself as the writer Ana Miloš, and finally, how no one noticed it until now? The answer to some of these questions lies in the fact that the girl named Marija, who took the identity of Miloš's literary creation A.M. is actually a person who belongs to the world of theatre (but the one behind the scenes) and who prepared her role perfectly and performed it even more successfully. However, how to explain the reaction of the surroundings. How is it possible that no one in that chain suspected anything? Did our Miloš K. have any other accomplices who wisely remained silent all these years? That remains a mystery. And what is a good literary story without a mystery, nothing! There is no charm there.

Book "Po zanimanju: Ana Miloš" (Ana Miloš by occupation), by Miloš K.Ilić.

Miloš K. played his part as a playwright perfectly. He wrote his play, chose an actress and watched the audience's reactions for five years. We can somewhat envy him. If only we had the courage. But we didn't. That's the difference between us and him. He turned his Ana Miloš into an occupation, while we wandered blindly and aimlessly (and somewhat cowardly) through the dark corridors of the Serbian literary scene.

The same Serbian literary scene reacted very shyly to the appearance of the book by Miloš K. There was no word among writers, editors and cultural workers about the literary fraud of the decade that the media pompously announced. Why? Is it out of fear, powerlessness or complete disinterest? Here and there someone dares to speak a word or convey the news about this literary scandal that the Serbian literary scene does not remember, but everything remains silent and almost invisible.

Although Miloš's biography (he published several books under his own name) is much richer than the biography of his female literary creation, he seems to have remained on the margins of Serbian literature, while his creation Ana Miloš, absurdly achieved much greater success. To make things even more absurd, Ana Miloš also has her own page on Wikipedia (which was renamed to Miloš K. Ilić after the literary precedent was discovered) and an Instagram account from which she communicated with her loyal readers. Ana Miloš is actually the last literary reincarnation of Miloš K. Ilić. Before that this author presented himself as Kosta Carić, Ivan Drnčula, Vladan Olgin. From a psychological point of view, the creation of alter egos or fictional characters for the sake of representation in real life can be connected with different psychological factors. This need to be someone else can come from a desire to escape, or a way to deal with identity issues, or a means to express aspects of one's personality that feel repressed. This behaviour can also be a form of self-discovery or a way to navigate social situations with a perception of safety. Understanding specific motivation would require a deeper exploration of the individual's personal history and experiences. We are not talking about that here, although as a psychological phenomenon it's also very interesting for research.

And how to explain it. While the author signed his name, as a male author he was not accepted in the literary public and in the important artistic circles. On the other hand, when he breathed life into Anna Miloš, selflessly handing over all his writings to her, he became accepted, celebrated and popular. Simply, people accept and love someone, and hate and never accept another. And the predominantly male population that rules the Serbian literary scene accepts young female authors the best and most willingly. This is another aspect that Miloš K. points out to us. His Ana appeared to the publishers, the media and the members of several juries that officially presented her awards, as quite acceptable. For what reason, we will never know. Some people simply have such karma; they attract envy and jealousy, while others attract pity or acceptance for reasons only known to them.

Book "Grad govori" (The city speaks) by Ana Miloš.

Another potential topic that arises through this case of Miloš K. is the question of the so-called ghost-writing. In Serbia, this type of literary black market is insufficiently researched. There is no exact data on how many people actually write in the name of more or less famous writers. It's certain that something like that exists in Serbia, because it exists all over the world. Miloš K. was the ghost-writer of Ana Miloš. And with that he said everything, although he may have not said everything, but he said enough.

The legal consequences of this act will not be discussed here because it's not the topic, it will be dealt with (if they deem it necessary) by those authorities whose job it is. The topic here is the phenomenon itself - Ana Miloš as a picture of a time, a society or a part of it, in this case it is the Serbian literary scene.

When asked if the publication of the book "Po zanimanju: Ana Miloš", to put it conditionally, dropped a weight off his chest, bearing in mind that for years he lived and created in a kind of illusion, and how his feelings changed during the duration of this literary experiment, the author said in an interview for Kulturne novine: 

I was glad that the whole project came to an end, more or less as I wanted. I felt the need to write the book "Po zanimanju: Ana Milos" and that meant that the game ends here. Of course, it’s quite a shame that I didn't manage to do two or three more things that I had planned. However, in the whole game, experiment, literary subversion or however to call everything that happened; so, I was not alone in the whole project. I also had to think of Marija, who presented herself as Ana Milos. It was also getting more and more tiring and boring for her to do it. We got too deep into the "scene" and her presence became mandatory in many situations which she wanted no part in. The feelings were varied, but mostly I was elated. Sometimes I fell into darker moods, because I was constantly confronted with the emptiness of the whole world. And no matter how much I undermined it from the inside all the time, I was still struck by the enormous hollowness of which it was made.

In addition to numerous questions that he raised with this action, Miloš K. also drew attention to the issue of the position of women in literature. Whether the success of Ana Miloš is hidden in the fact that the publishers who read her manuscripts recognised male writing or vice versa, did the writer's friend play a good role as a contemporary Serbian writer who is in accordance to the customs of the male world of literature, are questions that can be widely written and talked about. And to have discussions about. Although such discussions usually lead to nothing.

Until the appearance of a new Ana Miloš, until some new fake writer shines, we are left to read the book(s) of Miloš K. Ilić and to observe in which direction his literary career will go, now that he has been freed from the burden of the great lie he carried like his cross. That certainly wasn't easy either.

Those who fell for this scam may miss Ana Miloš. Still, they had high hopes for her and her career. Time will tell who the winner is and who the loser is. Nevertheless, the case of Ana Miloš is proof that there is no perfect crime!

Author: Ana Stjelja

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