Our vendors: Radomir (Surprise, Basel, Switzerland)

Interview by Georg Gindely, Surprise

I have struggled with life since I was a baby. Immediately after birth, the doctors had to connect me to a respirator. Today, I still struggle with life, but in a different way. I question the structures of our society and the many constraints that we submit to. It seems so incredibly important to everyone to be integrated today: in the job market, the family, the circle of friends. People who are different are condemned by society—like me for instance.

I was born in the midst of the war turmoil in former Yugoslavia. We fled to Switzerland; I grew up in the vicinity of Zurich. I already polarized as a kid: the fact that I was different didn’t go down well with some people. But it made me stronger to have to assert myself and my individuality. The past is the past. For me, there is only the present and the future.

In the present I sell Surprise. For over a year, I’ve been working at the Basel train station, and many people say that they notice me. All I do is what a good vendor should do: I extol the virties of the magazine. I may do that in an unorthodox way. I summarize the content of the magazine in succinct words, show people the magazine, throw it in the air, juggle, dance, and I smile at people. Many people like this.

Photo by Matthias Willi

There are also people who criticize me and say that I should sell the magazine conventionally. To each his own. In my opinion, it takes a lot of creativity and ideas to succeed in my job. I do my best every day, because I sell a well-made magazine that provides a livelihood and a home to people who are not so well integrated into society. I also want my behaviour to contribute to people having more respect for us, the Surprise vendors. I think I’ve succeeded, at least here in Basel.

I am a very modest person: material things are not the first priority for me. I use most of my earnings to support a family that is currently in need. It makes me feel good, being able to help, but it’s also a burden because I know that others depend on me. When I sometimes sell no magazine for a whole hour, I feel the pressure. I set high standards for myself. As for the future, I have many ideas.

One of them is to become a writer. Actually, I already am. I’ve been writing for five years. I have written about three novels, but I’m not happy with them yet. I want to write a work that combines everything: entertainment, social criticism, imagination, attention to detail, complexity, authenticity. I’m not even interested in publishing the book. I write for myself. The fascinating thing about writing is that so many unexpected, new things emerge that I am often surprised myself. When I started writing, I thought I was lacking in creativity. The opposite is true. I have been a philosopher since my childhood.

Recently I’ve also been writing for others. A customer, whom I told about the writing, asked me to write a story for his grandchildren. I agreed and I’m curious what comes out of it. The only problem is that I have so little time to write outside of work.

Translated via Translators Without Borders