Miroslav Kirin’s book of travelogues brings together notes from different periods of the author’s life, but thanks to the coherence of his view and characteristic stylistic refinement, makes an organic whole. You could call it a kind of triptych: it starts with notes from Paris in 2005, the middle and most complex part is dedicated to the author’s sojourns in China, and the book ends with very short notes from various trips through Croatia. The author’s observations move in a wide range: from very simple everyday little things that catch his eye to the broad cultural issues of the Far East. Despite the variety of motives seen in the “touched regions”, the traveler’s eye shows the same curiosity and the same clarity. The moments he records often turn into micro-stories, and out of the multitude of human outlines that appear in his notes and notebooks, some gain fullness and turn into impressive characters. Poetry runs through Kirin’s “notelets” as a kind of weft – sometimes as initiator of travel, sometimes as an object of work and thought, sometimes as a latent awareness of the poetic values of language. Therefore, this book can give pleasure to both travel lovers and to all those who enjoy good literature.
Jana Prević Finderle’s “Herbarium” could both be seen as a follow-up to her debut “The travertine bridge”, published in 2019, and its sheer opposite. One could argue that it’s a follow-up, because it is a book of short prose inspired by the author’s own experiences, delivered in a simple and direct way – and that it’s an opposite, as “The travertine bridge” was dedicated to travels and encounters, a horizontal motion through space, while “Herbarium”, a book about the lives of plants and the people closest to the author, focuses on travelling vertically, through time. For every herbarium, including Jana’s, is a book of memories. It seems that we live in times of increased sensitivity for the green world that surrounds us, a world that is getting more endangered with every day. But Jana’s soft spot for plantlife isn’t a result of any trend, although the need to create a herbarium made of words could have been influenced by the increasing eco-awareness in times of global warming. This author has, since early childhood, been living her life in close connection to plantlife, which enables her to talk about it from a personal, almost lyrical, perspective. Her authentic language depicts a simple closeness. The focus doesn’t lie on a problem or on the author’s knowledge of botany – which she clearly has – but rather on her personal experiences, her discoveries, little miracles she encounters, like the ones where her aunt Mirjana, in Jana’s adolescent days of spleen, tells her about an acorn and an oak.
Biljana Romić, born in 1960, is a Croatian indologist and cultural editor. She gained her Master of Arts title in 1997 in Zagreb, with a study of Bharati Mukherjee and postcolonial migrant faiths. She has ever since actively been researching and writing about postcolonialism and the notion of the Other. Her extensive study The women’s world of British India was written after she spent several years studying diaries and letters written by “memsahibs”. Her work is not simply a historical overview of their lives and roles during colonialism, it puts colonial history, literature and the notion of the “Other” in a contemporary critical context; Romić analyses over one hundred and fifty sources, including Indrani Sen, Amandeep Kaur, Kumari Jayawardena and Shashi Tharoor. When reading about the British colonial venture in India, we mostly encounter works that have been written from the male perspective of conquests and regimen – but colonial women have, almost from the very beginning, been a part of this venture. Biljana Romić’s book brings us the voices of these women and their lives. They journeyed into the unknown, often not prepared for the adversities of a different climate and the social roles they were going to find themselves in. They went into the unknown as wives, governesses, teachers, as young women in search of a husband; sometimes as entrepreneurs, missionaries, adventurers. Many stayed within the expected roles given by the British colonial community, but some of them showed that it is possible to overcome the limitations of their era, class and gender when it comes to their relation to India and Indians. Biljana Romić talks about the so-called “little history”, the one that appears on the margins of big historical events – and without which it is impossible to gain a complete picture of a time that has passed.
The text of these Notes flows like a mountain stream or breeze: it describes scenes from writers’ residences in which the author stayed for a little over a year, and the reflections associated with these places make up the bulk of the book. These are notes about the journey, woven with the subtle skill of a top connoisseur of language and working with words. Atmosphere, associations and images are innumerable; thoughts, questions – we recognize them all, we ask ourselves all that. But here and there, as when the folds of a fabric are separated by a gust of wind, readers see that this is not all: from the notes made between the trips they catch hints of the horizon of harsh and stupid reality that led the author to go on the road again and again. “You cover reality with a veil and you see better,” she writes in this book. Traveling with clear thoughts and open eyes, Sanja Lovrenčić covers and reveals reality with a unique fabric woven of words. (Iva Valentić, ed.)
This study in literary history brings to light various characteristics of the Croatian female literary scene in the late 19th and early 20th century. Focusing on three key figures – Dragojla Jarnević, Jagoda Truhelka and Ivana Brlić Mažuranić – the author makes visible a complex tissue of influences, shared existential preoccupations, positions on writing and recurrent literary motifs. The fundamental question leading her research – what was it like to be a female writer in a period where writing was still largely attributed to a male intellect? – thus gets a rich answer that tries to restore justice to silenced female voices. As the area of Croatian female literature is still largely unexplored, Dujić’s study presents an almost pioneering work that brings the reader not only a historical analysis, but also excerpts from previously unpublished archive materials: letters, diaries and personal notes by the three great writers around whom this book revolves.
The edition that will thrill every classical music lover! The year is 1840, in the city of Leipzig; the young but already internationally famous pianist Clara Wieck and the still quite unknown composer Robert Schumann just succeeded in getting married, despite various obstacles. The day after the wedding, upon Robert’s whish, they start writing down all their needs and desires, joys and sorrows of matrimonial life. They take turns in writing, each of them covering the events of one week, at first with a lot of passion. Many celebrated musicians of the period pass through the pages of their double diary; Robert and Clara speak about art, home concerts, days and weeks filled with music, but they also speak about love. In these first years of their marriage, years that have been among the most productive for Robert and a sort of setback for Clara, life is good, but it isn’t without its’ own shadows…
Self-Portrait in the Study, the recently published autobiography of one of the leading contemporary continental philosophers Giorgio Agamben offers the reader a wide set of interesting motives. Throughout the book, the author recalls all the intellectual encounters which had a decisive influence on his thought, creating, in this way, a magnificent portrait of the late 20th century philosophical and literary scene: following Agamben from encounter to encounter, the reader meets Martin Heidegger, Guy Debord, Giorgio Manganelli, Elsa Morante, Ingeborg Bachmann, Gershom Scholem… The descriptions of these meetings and friendships are interlaced with authentic philosophical meditations on painting, language, poetry, history and inheritance, and, in the final analysis, with glimpses of that “universal science of man” about which Agamben dreamt together with Italo Calvino and Claudio Rugafiori. Agamben’s autobiography thus offers a lyrical synthesis of the three elements whose endless perturbations characterize the whole of the philosopher’s oeuvre: literature, philosophical discourse and a private life that must remain hidden forever.
In these biographic fragments Jessie Conrad sketches the picture of her husband Joseph, one of the greatest writers of English twentieth century literature: nervous, a bit weird, attached to his family in his own way, but first of all, obsessed with his work. At the same time, the reader catches a glimpse of Jessie herself, the almost ideal writer’s wife of old times: typing his texts, cooking, economizing, welcoming guests, raising the children, coping with reality in every possible way instead of Joseph. But the act of writing puts her beyond the role of mother, wife and housewife: taking the courage to write down this intimate testimony, she creates a place for herself in Conrad’s verbal space and becomes a writer in her own right.
Sanja Lovrenčić wrote the book of prose fragments entitled Zagreb Childhood in the Sixties while she was working on the translation of Walter Benjamin’s autobiographical Berlin Childhood around 1900,and her writing is therefore marked by an interesting duality. Zagreb Childhood functions as an autobiographical discourse and deals with the elements typical for that genre: introspection, sketches of the chosen period, a fine nostalgia for childhood, which an adult can reach only as a selection of fragments that can never be made into a coherent whole; those elements could be labelled as personal and local. On the other hand, however, the book is a response to a literary text, a reaction not to a childhood or a social change, but to a certain type of writing. This leads to a completely different set of ideas, that we might call inherently literary – intertextuality, the fictionalization of the self, the use of poetic language and lyrical fragments that simultaneously connote and transcend personal experience. Thus Zagreb Childhood combines two elements that are necessary to make a quality literature: inclusion in the local context, as well as its constant dissolution – both intimacy and universality.
Over the last few decades Walter Benjamin has become one of the most prominent names in the humanities: considering definitions of modernity, film theory, philosophy of history, cultural studies or criticism of canonical literary texts, his work can hardly be avoided. This is brought about by Benjamin’s broad interests and lucidity, but also by his awareness of the fact that cultural theory or philosophy always implies an act of writing. His penchant towards the use of metaphor, image, allusion rather than systematical argumentation and his insistence on a purified stile rather than a strict composition make Benjamin’s texts – that always place themselves between philosophy and literature – a field of knowledge that never allows an unambiguous interpretation. In his Berlin Childhood around 1900 the dominant element is precisely this ‘surplus’ of literature; applying an autobiographical discourse, Benjamin creates a lyrical picture of his childhood in a rich bourgeois family from Berlin. Nevertheless, this seemingly personal thematic becomes a historically relevant document that bears witness to the life and culture of the big city, evoking a great number of social and philosophical issues: the constitution of subject through memory, the shadow of class struggle, the possibility of objective historical representation, the relation between modernism and messianism. Starting from a specific literary genre, Berlin Childhood around 1900 amplifies the tension between philosophy and literature, the tension that makes them both possible: thus Benjamin anticipates some of the most important themes and techniques of post-structuralism, and stays as modern as ever.
My dearr heart, my lovely little one – thus begin the gentle letters Henri Barbusse wrote to his wife a hundred years ago. What follows is by no means gentle – trenches, shells, mud and the dead, the war that is revealed in its bloody meaninglessness. In the year 1914. the writer of letters, Henri Barbusse, was 41, had a reputation as a writer and editor, was not in the best health and had firm pacifist beliefs. Despite all this he volunteered for the French Army and spent the two first years of war on the front lines – and wrote his novel Under Fire, literary testimony of the World War I, which earned him the Goncourt prize and thousands of readers. Documentary material on which is based his novel is found in the letters he wrote almost daily to his wife Hélyonne. In their immediacy and authenticity, those letters can convey to the reader of today the drama of the beginning of the “short twentieth century” better than any fiction.
A collectionof music critiques and essays by Croatian film director and erudite Zvonimir Berković. Texts he wrote over several decades for newspapers and magazines are collected in this book and divided into four parts: Critique – Portraits – Meditations – Conversations. Collected and edited by Bosiljka Perić Kempf.
Zvonimir Berković wrote about music only occasionally, in the mid sixties and the first half of the seventies, for several newspapers and magazines. He left chronicles of the music lives of festival cities as Dubrovnik and Vienna, but he also wrote reviews of both local and foreign artists’ performances during the Zagreb concert season. Most interesting, however, are the author’s imagination and subtle (and not only musical) taste in the portraits of musicians, interpreters and composers. Music had a deep impact in Berković’s work of movie director, especially in his “Rondo”, a Croatian classic made in 1966.
A biographical novel by Sanja Lovrenčić about the Croatian author Ivana Brlić Mažuranić. Written in the first-person singular, the story develops on two levels, in the past and in the present, unfolding around the changing and yet unchanging topics of family relations, artistic creation and female existence in the world of literature.
“K.Š.Gjalski” Award for the best Croatian novel in 2007.