review

Croatia via Iraq

Brave New Words, Thursday, April 18, 2013

B.J. Epstein

I had never read a Croatian novel, though I’ve been to Croatia, until a few months ago. Here’s my review of that Croatian novel in English translation. The review was published in Wales Arts Review.

Our Man in Iraq
Robert Perisic, translated by Will Firth



  

I must confess: as far as I can recall, Our Man in Iraq was the first book I’ve read that is set in Croatia. And what an introduction to the country it is.

 
Robert Perisic’s Our Man in Iraq is about Toni, a journalist who grew up in a rural village and now lives in Zagreb, the capital city, with his girlfriend, an actress whose fame is steadily growing. Besides dealing with his feelings of insecurity due both to being a country mouse as well as to having a partner who is suddenly more successful than he is, Toni makes the mistake of sneakily getting his boss to hire his Arabic-speaking cousin to be their newspaper’s reporter in Iraq. Unfortunately, Toni’s cousin Boris doesn’t seem terribly mentally stable, so Toni ends up ghost-writing Boris’s articles for him. Understandably, this eventually leads to Toni getting in trouble, especially when Boris stops communicating with his family and they fear that he’s been lost and go to the media about it. Meanwhile, the war in Iraq rages and reminds the former Yugoslavians of the terrible war that they lived through, and the current war between the generations that they seem to be experiencing as well. Apparently Perisic is known as an anti-war writer in Croatia, and that comes through very clearly in this novel.

 
While this plot might sound like a strange combination of seriousness and slapstick, it actually works quite well. The subjects and styles shift, and you just have to give yourself over to the story. Our Man in Iraq explores topics ranging from journalism to good versus evil, from relationships to the effects of war. And in Firth’s translation, Perisic’s prose is often lovely and thought-provoking.

 
When Toni and his friend have returned to university after serving in the war, he finds that people’s attitudes towards them have changed, and their own attitudes have changed as well. “During this period the world fell apart. Nothing was permanent, authorities faded and people flinched before us. We realized that we belonged to a generation that had a moral advantage because it was defending all those old folks accustomed to the molds and models of socialism. Lost as they were, they patted us on the shoulder as if they were thanking us for something. We vocally despised socialism and they agreed with us on that. We despised their life’s experiences and they agreed with us on that too. We disdained all they’d done and stood for, and again they agreed with us. To leave no doubt that the future belonged to us, we rejected everything that until yesterday had been of any worth. They agreed with us on all that.” (p. 27) As one might expect, Toni too is later forced to confront the things he thought he stood for, and the choices he made, or thought he had.

 
As he puts it, “I’d fled to Zagreb and become a city boy; here I went to a thousand concerts, lived with an actress who played avant-garde dramas, I acted cool, and did everything right. The fear of someone thinking I was a redneck made me read totally unintelligible postmodernist books, watch unbearable avant-garde films, and listen to progressive music even when I wasn’t in the mood. I was terrified of everything superficial and populist. If something became too popular, I rejected it. Even in moments of major inebriation when I felt like singing a popular peasant song I stopped myself. I maintained discipline. But in vain. All at once they were breathing down my neck again. I thought I’d given them the slip, but now they’d encircled me, having used Boris as bait, and were closing in for the kill.” (p. 104)

 
You’ll have to read Our Man in Iraq to see if Toni breaks free or if he ends up trapped, or both.

 
I’m so pleased that more publishers are publishing literary translations, and that more of these translations are from languages other than French or German. It’s essential that we learn about other people, other cultures, and other “life’s experiences”, and fiction is one of the best ways to do this. Think of each translation as an Our Man in… book, so Our Man in Iraq serves as an Our Man in Croatia, letting us know a little bit about what is going on in Croatia. But of course we must remember that each translated text is only one story. We need many more translations so that we can get access to more stories. One can only hope that publishers such as Black Balloon will continue this important work.

 
Our Man in Iraq is in a sense about trying to control what is actually uncontrollable. “We try to make sure things don’t get out of control. There’s always that danger here on the slippery edge of the Balkans. Here we always squabble about what we’re allowed to enjoy and what not.” (p. 115-6) Whether those in the Balkans are allowed to enjoy Our Man in Iraq or not I can’t say, but those of us in English-speaking countries certainly can, and should.

o nama

Nagrada Sedmica i Kritična masa 2019. za Miru Petrović

Pobjednica ovogodišnje nagrade "Sedmica i Kritična masa" za mlade prozne autore je Mira Petrović (1989.) iz Splita.
U užem izboru Nagrade za 2019. bili su: Leonarda Bosilj, Iva Hlavač, Toni Juričić, Maja Klarić, Dinko Kreho, Mira Petrović i Iva Sopka.
Ovo je bio četvrti natječaj koji raspisuje Kritična masa, a nagradu sponzorira cafe-bar Sedmica (Kačićeva 7, Zagreb).
U žiriju nagrade Sedmica i Kritična masa bili su - Viktorija Božina, Branko Maleš i Damir Karakaš.

o nama

Nagrada Sedmica & Kritična masa 2019 - uži izbor

Nakon što je žiri Nagrade Sedmica & Kritična masa za mlade prozne autore bodovao priče autora iz šireg izbora Nagrade, u uži izbor ušlo je sedam autora/ica.
Pogledajte tko su sedmoro odabranih.
Sponzor Nagrade je kulturno osviješteni cafe-bar "Sedmica" (Kačićeva 7, Zagreb).

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Mira Petrović: Bye bye baby bye; Zana

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Mira Petrović rođena je 1989. u Splitu. Predaje engleski jezik iako bi više uživala s talijanskim. Piše prozu, ponekad odluta u poeziju. Objavila priče i pjesme na raznim portalima i u časopisima. Bila je u užem izboru za nagradu Sedmice i Kritične mase 2017. Jedna od deset finalista međunarodnog natječaja Sea of words 2016. Dobitnica Vranca – 2015. i Ulaznice 2016.

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Dinko Kreho: Zoja

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Počinjemo s objavom radova koji su ušli u širi izbor... Dinko Kreho (Sarajevo, 1986.) diplomirao je književnost na Filozofskom fakultetu u Sarajevu. Bio je član uredništva dvotjednika za kulturu i društvena pitanja Zarez, te suradnik na projektu Alternativna književna tumačenja (AKT). Autor je knjiga poezije Ravno sa pokretne trake (2006.) i Zapažanja o anđelima (2009.), kao i koautor (s Darijem Bevandom) radiodramskoga krimi serijala Bezdrov (2013.). Književnu kritiku, esejistiku i poeziju u novije vrijeme objavljuje u tjedniku Novosti, na portalima Booksa i Proletter, te u književnom dvomjesečniku Polja. Živi u Zagrebu.

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Leonarda Bosilj (2000., Varaždin) studira psihologiju na Filozofskom fakultetu Sveučilišta u Zagrebu. Tijekom srednje škole sudjelovala je na literarnim natječajima (LiDraNo, Gjalski za učenike srednjih škola), a ovo je prvi put da šalje svoj rad na neki javni natječaj.

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Toni Juričić (1990., Labin) diplomirao je komparativnu književnost na Filozofskom fakultetu u Zagrebu. Objavljivao je u književnim časopisima Fantom Slobode, UBIQ, Zarez i u zbirkama spekulativne fikcije Transreali, Sfumato i Futur Crni. Režirao je kratkometražne filmove (Momentum Mortem, Preludij Sumanutosti, Rosinette) i spotove za glazbene skupine NLV, Barbari, BluVinil, Nellcote i dr. Osnivač je i predsjednik udruge Notturno za produkciju i promicanje audio-vizualne djelatnosti. Pokretač je i producent projekata [noir.am sessions] i [noir.am storytellers] čiji je cilj promoviranje nezavisne glazbene i književne scene. Režirao je monodramu Sv. Absinthia. Dobitnik je nagrade "Slavko Kolar" Hrvatskog Sabora Kulture za prozno stvaralaštvo mladih autora. Trenutno je na doktorskom studiju u sklopu Sveučilišta u Durhamu.

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Iva Sopka: Moje pravo, nezaljubljeno lice

NAGRADA "SEDMICA & KRITIČNA MASA" - UŽI IZBOR 2019

Iva Sopka (1987., Vrbas) objavila je više kratkih priča od kojih su najznačajnije objavljene u izboru za književnu nagradu Večernjeg lista „Ranko Marinković“ 2011. godine, Zarezovog i Algoritmovog književnog natječaja Prozak 2015. godine, nagrade „Sedmica & Kritična Masa“ 2016. i 2017. godine, natječaja za kratku priču Gradske knjižnice Samobor 2016. godine te natječaja za kratku priču 2016. godine Broda knjižare – broda kulture. Osvojila je i drugo mjesto na KSET-ovom natječaju za kratku priču 2015. godine. Trenutno živi u Belišću i radi kao knjižničarka u osnovnoj školi.

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Maja Klarić (1985., Šibenik) diplomirala je engleski jezik i književnost i komparativnu književnost na Filozofskom fakultetu u Zagrebu, s diplomskim radom na temu „Suvremeni hrvatski putopis“, a radi kao književna prevoditeljica. Vodi Kulturnu udrugu Fotopoetika u sklopu koje organizira kulturne manifestacije. Objavila je poeziju i kraću prozu u raznim novinama i časopisima: Zarez, Quorum, Knjigomat, Poezija, Tema... Zastupljena je u antologijama Erato 2004. (Zagreb), Rukopisi 32 (Pančevo), Ja sam priča (Banja Luka), Sea of Words (Barcelona), Castello di Duino (Trst), Ulaznica (Zrenjanin). Nagrađena je na međunarodnom pjesničkom natječaju Castello di Duino (Trst, Italija, 2008.), međunarodnom natječaju za kratku priču Sea of Words (Barcelona, Španjolska, 2008.). Dobitnica je UNESCO/Aschberg stipendije za rezidencijalni boravak na otoku Itaparica, Brazil, 2012. te stipendije organizacije MOKS za rezidencijalni boravak u Estoniji (Mooste, Tartu). Objavila je tri zbirke putopisne poezije - Život u ruksaku (AGM, 2012.), Quinta Pitanga (V.B.Z., 2013.) i Nedovršeno stvaranje (vlastita naklada, 2015.) te prozno-poetski putopis Vrijeme badema o hodočašću Camino de Santiago, 880 km dugom putu koji je prehodala 2010. godine. Urednica je brojnih domaćih putopisnih izdanja kao što su knjige Davora Rostuhara, Tomislava Perka, Hrvoja Jurića i ostalih.

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Iva Hlavač (1986., Osijek) diplomirala je na pravnom fakultetu u Osijeku. Objavila je dvije zbirke kratkih priča; „I obični ljudi imaju snove“ (2009.) izašla je u sklopu natječaja Matice hrvatske Osijek za osvojeno prvo mjesto, a „Svi smo dobro“ u izdanju Profila (biblioteka Periskop) 2016. godine te je, između ostaloga, dobila stimulaciju Ministarstva kultur za najbolje ostvarenje na području književnog stvaralaštva u 2016. Živi u Valpovu.

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