Tea Tulić: Merman

J.A. Hopkins on Tulić’s writing in her novel, Hair Everywhere: “As the fragments gleam with images and insights, Tulić guarantees her story the vitality of fiction rather than allowing the prose to dwindle into maudlin memoir. Indeed, cumulatively, these short, tender sentences deliver something of a benediction, a gentle laying on of hands, to remind us all we’re human.”

Read Tulić's short story, Merman, below. Translation by Mirza Purić.


In March, my husband gets up at five in the morning. He brushes his teeth, washes his face, puts on a pair of jeans, a hoodie, a brown corduroy jacket and a pair of trainers, kisses me and takes the bus to a nearby island. At the beginning of his forty-minute ride, he bids his fellow passengers a:


Every morning, when he arrives on the island, he pulls on a pair of rubber trousers reaching up to his belly. They are braced, bright yellow trousers. You are my sunshine, is what I say to him in the morning. He puts on the Wellingtons which he has brought from home. He walks into the semi-open hangar and strews salt and pours brine on anchovies and sardines. This he does with his gloves off, for small fish are delicate, they break easily. In the semi-open hangar, spring mornings are chilly. It’s quite cold, darling, is what he says to me.

The fish arrives in big plastic buckets. It’s salted fresh only. It’s salted whole, after it’s been drained of blood. It’s salted with koshering sea salt. It’s salted till October. My husband lines them up neatly, fishy after fishy next to fishy, puts salt between them, pours brine over them, lids them up then puts weights on the lid. Sardines are oilier, and the white crates in which they are kept soon turn brown with oil.

Every night, round seven, my husband sits in the tub, in a magnolia-scented bath, and rubs his fingers with lemon. After that he bends his knees, puts his head on the edge of the tub and takes a kip. Later, when we make love, he doesn’t touch me with his brown palms. He rests his elbows on the pillow and kisses me with his cracked lips, his palms facing upwards. We don’t breathe. Our bed is like a ship in a ship breaking yard, such are his cries, such are his snarls when we make love. It is almost morning, my husband whispers and sinks into sleep. He can’t stretch his legs in the bed, the wooden footboard gets in the way. I lie like a closed oyster, light and firm. Sleepless, I stare through the crack in my shell at his neck where wrinkles form a pattern like those on a sock. We never switch sides.

The hangar is like a tiger, he says, that sea is its swimming pool.

Sometimes I hear him whimpering in his sleep when he’s having a nightmare. In his dream, he slips into the mouth of the tiger, lands on the beast’s wet tongue, in his jeans and hoodie, and he can’t get up no matter what, nobody hears him, nobody reaches out their hand, everyone just keeps working in silence, and he’s wriggling and I don’t know if I should wake him up and tell him it’s all just a dream. I don’t know, I’m not sure.

He is so beautiful when he sleeps. If I were a big woman, I would sit on him with all my weight and strangle him like a two-day old kitten.

In the morning I bid him a G’mornin’.

My husband is burly, and when he walks, it’s as if his steps are yawning. He stumbles over me as if over a pet. I sometimes hide behind a tree and wait for him to turn around. Or leave. If we’re going to a birthday party, I’m the one who wraps and carries the present. If he’s had a lot of wine, the room takes on a smell which makes me put on my shoes and walk up and down the street. If we don’t go out, he washes up and rubs his fingers with coffee dregs, and divines. He says great beasts will devour us on a safari.

The fish arrives in big plastic buckets. It’s salted fresh only. It’s salted whole, after it’s been drained of blood. It’s salted with koshering sea salt. It’s salted till October. My husband lines them up neatly, fishy after fishy next to fishy, puts salt between them, pours brine over them, lids them up then puts weights on the lid.

Today, instead of the Wellingtons, he took his blue flip-flops to work. In the morning he said, I’m taking my blue flip-flops. He slipped in the hangar, fell, wallowed in the brine and laughed. When he got up, he salted everything that needed salting. Lidded it up and placed the weights. He took his big rubber trousers out in the sun, hosed them down and lit up a cigarette. On his ride home, no one would sit next to him. As if the others smell nicer, he texted me.

I didn’t reply. Tonight I’ll paint my face white and my lips black to make it easier for him to read them.

He came home at five in the afternoon, the sun was already down, our feet were already swollen. We ate some potatoes and two chicken drumsticks each. Two coffee cups were left in the sink, unwashed. I took him to the beach, we slowly stepped into the shallows, till the sea reached my breasts. He started swimming, swam a circle round me, then turned on his back, stuck his white belly out and stopped moving. I took him into my arms and carried him across the sea, between the land and the offing. Away from the island. He hugged me, laughed, brought his large feet together and splashed on the surface. With his flowing hair and gleaming skin, he looked like a merman. It is almost autumn, he whispered.

Translated by Mirza Purić


2018 Lit Link Literature Festival Begins, Welcoming American Authors This Year

The annual Lit Link festival brings together notable foreign authors and Croatian authors for a three-day event packed with bilingual literary readings across several Croatian cities. This year’s American guests include the author Nell Zink, the author and musician Elijah Wald, and two authors who Granta Magazine named among the Best Young American Novelists in 2017, Jesse Ball and Catherine Lacey, as well as a number of American editors and publishers. The festival opens Thursday (28.6) in Pula, moves to Rijeka on Friday (29.6) and concludes with a big closing event in Močvara Club in Zagreb on Saturday (30.6).

Festival Program
Pula: 28.6, Thursday, 20:30; “Dnevni boravak” in DC Rojc
Rijeka: 29.6, Friday, 19:00; Book caffe Dnevni boravak
Zagreb, 30.6, Saturday, 18:00; Močvara Club


Jonathon Bousfield on the Heyday of the Iconic Yugoslav Record Label, Jugoton

Jonathon Bousfield recounts the rise of Jugoton, the iconic Zagreb-based Yugoslavian record label that both brought Western music to Yugoslavia and later was at the forefront of the massive post-punk and new wave scenes in the region.


Mirogoj Cemetery: An Architectural Jewel

Going to a cemetery may not be the first idea that pops into your mind when visiting a new city. But the stunning Mirogoj cemetery in Zagreb, which was designed by the renowned Austrian architect, Herman Bolle, is definitely worth a bit of your time. Read more below to find out why.


You Haven't Experienced Zagreb if You Haven't Been to the Dolac Market

Dolac, the main city market, is a Zagreb institution. Selling all the fresh ingredients you need to whip up a fabulous dinner, from fruits and vegetables to fish, meat and homemade cheese and sausages, the sellers come from all over Croatia. Positioned right above the main square, the colorful market is a beacon of a simpler way of life and is just as bustling as it was a century ago.


How to Spend a Spring Day in Zagreb

Wondering where to start exploring Croatia’s small but vibrant capital city, Zagreb? Check out Time Out’s list of must sees in Zagreb from the most famous market in town to where to sample the best rakija (local brandy).


Croatian Phrases Translated into English

Do you find phrases and sayings give personality and flair to a language? Have you ever pondered how the culture and history of a place shape the common phrases? Check out some common sayings in Croatian with their literal translations and actual meanings below.


Discover Croatia's Archaeological Secrets

Discover Croatia’s rich archaeological secrets, from the well known ancient Roman city of Salona near Split or the Neanderthal museum in Krapina to the often overlooked Andautonia Archaeological Park, just outside of Zagreb, which boasts the excavated ruins of a Roman town or the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, Vinkovci.


Nikola Tesla – Mind from the Future - Multimedia Exhibition in Zagreb

A spectacular multimedia exhibition honouring Nikola Tesla, one of the world’s greatest visionaries, titled ‘Nikola Tesla – Mind from the Future’, will stay open until 20 March 2018.
“Immersed into the magical world of the genius Nikola Tesla, by merging the elements of a ‘live’ film, video set design, computer game, and magical hologram and light adventure into a unique multimedia experience of extended reality, with this exhibition we seek to take you on a contemplative ‘journey’ without beginning or end, through a process of inspiration, creativity and production.” - Helena Bulaja Madunić, exhibition author


Hollywood and Dubrovnik

The medieval city in Croatia is having a geek-culture moment as the setting for King’s Landing in the HBO series “Game of Thrones”.
Hollywood seems to have discovered Dubrovnik. Parts of The Last Jedi, the eighth episode in the Star Wars saga, also take place in the fortress town. Filming wrapped this year on a new Robin Hood film starring Taron Eagerton, Jamie Foxx, and Jamie Dornan (and produced by Leonard DiCaprio). The 25th James Bond film is reported to begin shooting in the city in January 2018.
But not everyone appreciates all the attention.


Great films shot in Zagreb

There's a surprising raft of indelible productions shot in and around Croatia's capital, like the world-dominating spy-caper 'James Bond: From Russia with Love' and Orson Welles' interpretation of Kafka's absurd, existentialist novel 'The Trial'...


LitLink Thoughts. The Publisher's View by Mitch Albert, Periscope Books.

The curation of a festival of literature naturally entails the “curation” of its participants. Lit Link excelled in this regard – the authors invited from the UK represented a very fine, accomplished tranche of contemporary British writing, and the publishers, for the most part, represented a scrappy, independent ethos and pride in advancing thought-provoking fiction and literary fiction in translation.


LitLink. The Editor's View. By: Anna Kelly

As far as I know, LitLink festival is unique. Each year it takes a group of writers and publishers to three Croatian cities – Pula, Rijeka, and Zagreb – for a series of evening readings. Along the way there are coach journeys on winding roads, stunning vistas of deep green fields and icy mountains, excellent Croatian wine and food, sea swimming, plenty of book chat...


A very rough guide to LitLink. The Author's View. By: Joanna Kavenna

Each night there is a bilingual Croatian-English event. Translations are projected behind the writers as they read. It becomes apparent that many contemporary Croatian writers are high ironists, forging dark comedy from aspects of life that most disturb them – war, corruption, the riotous hypocrisy of those who claim to govern us.
The tour runs from Zagreb to Pula to Rijeka...


Olja Savičević Ivančević: Singer in the Night review

Read a review of the much acclaimed contemporary Croatian writer, Olja Savičević Ivančević’s book, Pjevač u noći (2016) (Singer in the Night).


New wave in Yugoslavia

As its counterparts, the British and the US new wave, from which the main influences came, the Yugoslav scene was also closely related to punk rock, ska, reggae, 2 Tone, power pop and mod revival.
Important artists were: Azra, Šarlo Akrobata, Idoli (famous for their song "Maljčiki" and its respective video in which they ridiculed the soviet soc-realism), Pankrti (first Yugoslav punk band), Prljavo kazalište (started as a punk unit; the title of their second album Crno-bijeli svijet which means "black and white world" holds a reference to the 2 Tone movement), Električni Orgazam (punk at the beginning, they moved towards post-punk and psychedelia later and were described as "The Punk Doors"), Slađana Milošević, Haustor (mostly reggae, ska and similar influences, but with a more poetic and intellectual approach compared to some danceable bands), Buldožer, Laboratorija Zvuka, Film (one of the first new wave groups), Lačni Franz and many others.
New wave was especially advocated by the magazines Polet from Zagreb and Džuboks from Belgrade.


Croatian Sites on UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List

A little know fact is that Croatia, together with Spain, have the most cultural and historical heritage under the protection of UNESCO, and Croatia has the highest number of UNESCO intangible goods of any European country.


Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb

The National Theater in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, is one of those things which always finds its way to every visitor’s busy schedule.


Zagreb Festivals and Cultural Events

Numerous festivals, shows and exhibitions are held annually in Zagreb. Search our what's on guide to arts & entertainment.

Authors' pages

Književna Republika Relations Quorum Hrvatska književna enciklopedija PRAVOnaPROFESIJU LitLink mk zg