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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.



 

The Croatian writers chosen to read their work, meanwhile, exhibited a predilection for bold, frank, challenging, experimental material. Their writing seemed utterly of our time – that is to say, fresh and relevant, but also embodying a certain melancholy, a quiet angst that perhaps reflects the uneasiness of the contemporary Balkan state. This disquietude was intimated in several conversations with the various Croatian writers on the tour, and could be sensed behind certain facts about the country that were offered – such as the population drain that some argued was taking place as a result of the shortage of jobs, with a figure of 50,000 migrants to other EU countries over the past few months alone from one city. (Other facts were anchored more obviously in the country’s recent history, such as the revelation that Rijeka was the only city that had never elected a leader from amongst the nationalist right, and the impending change of heart over the currently named “Marshal Tito Square” in Zagreb.)

And yet, which country amongst us is immune today from a general sense of unease and glumness about the direction of politics, civil society, literature? Certainly, the ostensible theme of the Lit Link tour – “Despite Brexit” – pointed to the UK’s own complete turmoil, and it was presumed that the subject need not even be broached directly as part of the trip, rendering the theme ironic. No one complained. (More than one Croatian writer expressed a surreal dismay about Brexit, having once looked to Britain as a bastion of opportunity and freedom from the vantage point of their own, then-isolated country, and now having that equation virtually reversed in many ways.)

Needless to say – perhaps because we participants were so effusive about it during and immediately after the tour – the hospitality, conviviality and generosity displayed by the Croatian organisers and contributors was impeccable. Daytimes afforded ample space in which to get to know most everyone personally and professionally (not always easily done on such trips), to exchange views and to obtain a good frame of reference for the three cities visited and points in between. Highlights included learning about fellowship programmes, support for translation, the scarcity of literary agents, the earning potential for writers in Croatia, certain untranslated “greats” and even the lack of any firm distinction between “fiction” and “non-fiction” in Croatian literature.

Evenings were given over to the readings in highly compelling venues, and the parties afterward were no less stimulating in their way. Robert and Ivan formed an almost comically balanced partnership, and the result was an unrushed yet well-timed, well-planned tour over a considerable distance with attendant logistics.

The value of such trips for foreign publishers, I have long felt, lies not in the expectation that we shall return to Britain and immediately and automatically begin commissioning and translating titles from the country in question (although that can and does happen). Rather, having made a serious acquaintance with the literary culture and context of a place, having met with writers, publishers and translators and opened several channels of dialogue, having acquired a feeling for the nuances of the place and its language, we are fortified with an appreciation that informs all future encounters or opportunities with work and people from the host country. Having absorbed it all, recognition will thus be immediate at the next turn, and good work will often ensue (even if unrelated directly to publishing activity – these trips are an excellent means of extending “soft power”). Another benefit, Europe being what it is, is that recognition often spills over tangentially: familiarity with Lithuania ties into encounters with Polish culture, for example, as familiarity with Croatia can help establish a feeling for Serbia.

The Lit Link festival, coming up on half a dozen years of operation, has undoubtedly supported Croatian writers and writing in ways that are otherwise unavailable. It is not difficult to discern the benefits to foreign publishers and writers, either – and that brings us back to the care taken in curation and execution.

Hvala svima!

By Mitch Albert

 

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Advent in Zagreb 2018

Zagreb's Advent has been voted Europe’s Best Advent for three years running with good reason, but it’s best to find out why for yourself. Check out all the info on this year’s Advent in Zagreb in the link below.

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Cool Things To Do in Zagreb

Zagreb is Croatia’s relaxed, charming and pedestrian-friendly capital. Check out Time Out’s definitive Zagreb guide for a diverse set of options of what to explore in the city from unusual museums to legendary flea markets and everything in between.

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Jonathan Bousfield on Diocletian's Legacy in Split

Diocletian’s Palace is the main attraction in Split, the heart and soul of the city. Because of the palace, Split’s city center can be described as a living museum and it draws in the thousands of tourists that visit the city annually. But how much do we really know about the palace’s namesake who built it, the last ruler of a receding empire? Jonathan Bousfield contends that history only gives us a partial answer.

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The Poetry of Zagreb

Cities have served as sources of inspiration, frustration, and discovery for millennia. The subject of sonnets, stories, plays, the power centers of entire cultures, hotbeds of innovation, and the cause of wars, cities are mainstays of the present and the future with millions more people flocking to them every year.

Let the poet, Zagreb native Tomica Bajsić, take you on a lyrical tour of the city. Walk the streets conjured by his graceful words and take in the gentle beauty of the Zagreb of his childhood memories and present day observation.

news

Vlaho Bukovac Exhibition Opens at the Art Pavilion

Vlaho Bukovac (1855 - 1922) was one of Croatia’s most famous and prolific painters. He came from humble beginnings, but his raw talent was recognized by a mentor and with some financial help, he went to study painting in Paris. This exhibition features a collection of Bukovac’s paintings alongside paintings by his influential Art Professor at the Ecole de Beaux-Arts, the French painter, Alexandre Cabanel. The exhibition is now open at The Art Pavilion and runs through January 6th, 2019.

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Jonathon Bousfield's Take on the Croatian Cultural Landscape in 2018

What could possibly tie together island musicals, political thrillers, 60s Yugoslavian culture, contemporary Croatian authors, graphic novels set amongst a backdrop of urban decay, Le Cobustier inspired architecture and a classic 20th century author’s firsthand account of 1920s Russia? Proving that he really does have his finger on the pulse of Croatian’s cultural scene, Jonathon Bousfield expounds on all of this and more in his 2018 Croatian Cultural Guide, check it out in the link below.

review

Jonathon Bousfield Reviews the English Translation of Krleža's Journey to Russia

Krleža, a giant of 20th century European literature, is woefully undertranslated into English. Read Jonathon Bousfield’s compelling review of the master Krleza’s part travelogue, part prose account of the time he spent in Russia as a young man in the mid-1920s, Journey to Russia, which is accessible to English readers for the first time.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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'...

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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

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