Steven Wingate
From: American Book Review
Volume 34, Number 4, May/June 2013

Perišić neither sentimentalizes or demonizes the worship of global capital, making his novel that much more tough-minded.

Three quarters of the way through Robert Perišić’s Our Man in Iraq, when its ersatz journalist protagonist Toni is getting into petty (though vicious) fights with seemingly everyone he knows in Zagreb, Croatia, I wanted to get into fights, too. With my wife, with my mother, with the jerk who parked so close to my driver’s side door that I had crawl in from the passenger side, with the punk kid at my oldest son’s hockey practice who kept ringing unnecessary slapshots off the glass. Everybody crowded my space. Everybody challenged my right to existence, and I got so surly that I had to sequester myself and finish the book just to regain some sense of personal peace.

In retrospect, this desire to fight is a visceral endorsement of Perišić’s novel; he pushed me into a fight-or-flight response mode that primed my psyche to receive his story. Though the presence of the word “Iraq” in the novel’s title will no doubt lead some to assume it’s a war novel, it really doesn’t count as one. It contains ramblingly incoherent reports from Toni’s unhinged cousin Boris—an Arabic-speaking Croatian whom Toni has dispatched to Iraq to cover the American “Shock and Awe” invasion of 2003— but no scenes actually take place in the country, and Iraq functions mostly as a metaphor and a pawn in Zagreb’s inbred journalistic war.

Our Man in Iraq is ultimately about the psychic experience of Balkanization and capitalization, which Toni, like the rest of the former Yugoslavia, has undergone. The dissolution of the communist stronghold into a tangle of struggling and (particularly from 1991–1999) warring states has been narrativized in the West as a victory of capitalism and democracy: communism fell, people fought over territory awhile, but they eventually got with the program of global capital and market-driven thinking. The novel shows the working through of this national history in Toni’s mind and life; he not only endures all phases of this transformation but is keenly aware of them, and in fact discusses them openly. “We’d grown up in strange European systems and placed too much hope in rock ‘n’ roll,” he says of himself and a friend.

Toni is the anti-rube, the anti-innocent, fully invested in and responsible for the changes he embraces. He arrives in Zagreb from his home village as a young economics student, joins the Croatian’s Army, returns to “study” at university (seemingly majoring in drunken antagonism), picks up an actress girlfriend, and somehow works his way to the editorship of a newspaper. The turn of the millennium was a very opportunistic time in Croatia, apparently, and when we meet him, Toni is nothing if not an opportunist. Perišić neither sentimentalizes the old ways—what I can only describe as tribal crony Communism—nor demonizes the new worship of global capital, which makes his novel that much more tough-minded. He doesn’t get polemical and drag Toni through the mud to demonstrate the difficulties of any social or economic system. Instead, he shows us the mud that Toni, whatever personal identity he once had now lost among the choices he’s made, drags himself through in search of things he does not understand and has never asked himself if he truly wants.

It is the way he handles his cousin Boris—the titular “Our Man in Iraq”—that most reveals Toni’s specific species of lostness. We first meet Boris through his email reports from Iraq, cascading and looping works of stream-of-consciousness prose poetry that reflect an intensely immediate life. Boris, a fellow Croatian war veteran generally considered mad by all concerned, sees events in Iraq quite nakedly, partly to his environment and partly to his own buffer-free nature. Meeting Boris solely through his voice gives him an almost oracular authority within the book. He seems, in his unfiltered worldview and expression, to grasp the chaos of human life more essentially than Toni, who largely spends his life in Zagreb pursuing other people’s lines of bullshit thinking.

While Toni rides along the waves of bullshit from possibility to possibility—whether ton move into a bigger flat with his actress fiancée Sanja, whether to assist a friend in “re-inventing" the public image of a provincial thug- his cousin Boris gats on his hands and knees and grapples with the mess of life. "You have to grasp for every scrap of sence, you just have to, for every propaganda of sence, for every lie of sence" he writes from lraq. "Days go by before I finish a sentence. There's no full stop. I finish cigarette after cigarette. Baghdad is burning, part of the Old Town, parts of the best-known old street Rashid are in flames, the old buiIdings are made of wood, there‘s no fire brigade, as we know they died in the World Trade Center, the fire spreads unchecked."

Back in Zagreb, Toni rewrites these chaotic missives for his newspaper. But he himself, as narrator of his own tale, doesn't quite reach such flights of language until his own life begins to unravel. Boris stays behind in Iraq while other journalists depart once the “shock and awe“ grows too great, and this leads to an extended personal train wreck that undoes Toni completely. Here, Perišić pulls off the deft move of making us worry about Boris‘s physical safety while, in the city, we worry increasingly about Toni's psychic safety. Sanja becomes an overnight sensation for baring her breasts in an avant-garde play; his best friend Markatović buys shares in a failed bank; Boris‘s mother castigates him publicly for sending the "boy" to Iraq in the first place, and this becomes a weapon in the internecine warfare of Croatian journalism.

Toni's life ultimately breaks like a raw egg dropped from several stories up. But then, after it splatters and he loses everything he has clung to, he learns that he's not allowed to break but has to pick up and keep moving on. Whether he learns this with any degree of finality or not—whether the lesson of freedom that he glimpses in the dissolution of his own expectations will truly stick, or whether it will be replaced with a new set of fascinations, opportunities, and bullshit lines of thinking—is a question Perišić leaves open. I‘m not sure that Toni himself knows where he lands, which is one reason why the book stuck with me after it stopped making me want to fight everyone in my immediate orbit. His irresolvability is ultimately at the core of his identity, and the dramatic realization of this fact may simply be enough for him. I suspect I'll have to read this book again, a little older and without the need to make sense of it for a review, to figure it out.

Sometimes we get too caught up in the Eastern European-ness of writers from that part of the world, putting undue energy into keeping on the lookout for the absurd, for the darkly humorous, for the shadow of a not-quite-forsaken communism. With luck, Perišić's novel will dig beneath perceptions of regionalism and come to readers as what it is: a tale of one man‘s confrontation with the limitations and crossed wirings of his own desires, the likes of which take place every day on every square foot of this modern earth we tread.




Stevenen Wingate's debu short story collection Wifeshopping won the Bakeless Prize for Fiction from the Bread Loaf Writers‘ Conference and was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2008. His prose poem collection Thirty-One Octets: Incantations and Meditations is forthcoming from WorldTech Communications/CW Books. He is contributing editor for Fiction Writers Review and assistant professor at  Soth Dakota State University where he directs the Great Plains Writers‘ Conference.

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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.

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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).


Mira Petrović: Bye bye baby bye; Zana


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.


Dinko Kreho: Zoja


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.


Leonarda Bosilj: Ptice ne lete


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.


Toni Juričić: Con calma


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 [ sessions] i [ 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.


Iva Sopka: Moje pravo, nezaljubljeno lice


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.


Maja Klarić: Japan: Put 88 hramova (ulomak)


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.


Iva Hlavač: Humoreske o ženama koje se ne smiju


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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