Viktorija Božina: Turbofolk

Viktorija Božina was born in 1990 in Zadar, Croatia, where she is currently working on her master’s degree in Croatian Language and Literature. She spent three years in the U.S. studying Information Technology. She has published short stories and she recently finished her first novel, Turbofolk.

Turbofolk is a very popular type of music from the Balkans that has its own subculture. It’s loud, in your face, there are often horns involved somehow and popular themes include cheating and relationship issues, money and living fast. Critics call it trashy and it’s a phenomenon, especially among younger generations: on any given weekend the majority of clubs catering to under 30 year olds, whether in cities or small towns, will not only be playing turbofolk, everyone in the club will be singing along to the lyrics.
Božina’s semi-autobiographical debut novel is part chronicle of her time in America but also a look into the semi-rural Dalmatian environment where she grew up and an exploration of her generation and their experience in time, place, and in the time of turbofolk.

Read an excerpt from Božina’s novel, Turbofolk, below
Translation by: Una Krizmanić Ožegović


Turbofolk by Viktorija Božina


I'd go out to turbofolk parties, wait for Krešo to fuck me... All in all, there was nothing else to live for. While it seemed to me I had died and buried myself to the sounds of turbofolk music, to those around me it seemed I had come to life.

I'd buy drinks, spread my arms in a super-tight outfit and without anything close to reasonable between my legs. I'd be with Krešo every Saturday, sometimes even Fridays, just like the good old times. Other days were for all his other customers, and besides, I couldn't find a ride from my village to Benkovac on those days anyway. Plus, the dogging hotspots in the middle of nowhere were far more alluring on Friday and Saturday evenings. Fuck me if I know why.

I needed to get some, and Krešo was still the most familiar and the easiest choice. Since Benkovac is a small town, the word would spread fast to my folks if I had been whoring with multiple guys, which was something neither them, nor me really needed. That's why I'd choose him, such an inexplicably discreet guy, at least with me. Or maybe that was how he lured in steady customers, I don't know. I'd get sad whenever I thought I'd been screwing the same guy since high school. Winters are long, my mother used to say. And rightly so.

Cvita, Lilja and I were going into the Benkovac nightlife, no holds barred. It was December and all the students were about to return, all of them had left their family homes, the past and the present were about to meet, all on the same dancefloor at Margarita with turbofolk music blaring.

It had only been a few weeks, but I couldn't make out who or what I was anymore. Soon, I realized I was searching YouTube for Mešaj, mala and Plačem, mišu moj or whatever it was they were playing in that hell hole. Money was running out and I started to feel tired. Mother scowled at me, as well as my father and brother. But, they knew I was leaving in a few months, so they didn't make much of a fuss. What they didn't know was that our American cousins had invited me over again as early as Christmas, which was something I was dwelling on endlessly in my turbofolk debauchery. I kept quiet about all of it, thinking they couldn't really worry their heads about things they didn't know about.

That's when my own head started to worry me. I was having headaches, it was the first week of December and my period was ten days late. Every little things got on my nerves, I had already decided that I was going to skip Benkovac and Krešo not only on Friday, but also Saturday. To my surprise, Cvita didn't call me the following Saturday either. Usually, she'd call around two in the afternoon, but I couldn't get a beep out of her now. I let the bora swoop me to her house, peered through her misty kitchen window and saw her sitting next to the stove with her legs crossed, shivering and smoking her slim cigarettes like a chimney. I rang the bell twice and barged in like a ghost.  

- Goddamit, it's you, why did you ring the bell, come on in! Where have you been? – she shouted.

- Well, I dunno, didn't get your call... I don't feel like going out tonight – I implored. She knew what was up because I had already mentioned it to her before.

- Hell, I don't wanna go either, not anywhere – she replied and went back to her spot next to the stove.

A wobbly kitchen table leaning against the wooden paneling decorated with traces of smoke from the wooden stove, a greasy tablecloth blotched with crayons and markers by Cvita's younger siblings, a four-pinter with some leftover wine and a glass waiting for Cvita's Dad to come back from his coffee, along with that water in the jug, a sink ful of clean dishes, a greasy pan cooling down at the window, the buzzing of the fridge in unison with the TV in the living room, fire crackling and Cvita holding a slim cigarette as the most elegant part of that scene. I sat across from her and waited for her to speak. I knew something wasn't right. Before she could say anything, her brother Joso burst into the kitchen.

–What are you doin' here, just what I needed – she yelled at him.

– Jesus wept, don't I live here too!? – he retaliated.

Cvita was upset, she was shaking. Then she stood up and put the coffee kettle on, even though it was already evening. Joso was lighting a cigarette and making himself comfortable at the other side of the table. It was just before Christmas time that he started working only part-time because they were making fewer truck deliveries from the quarries. No one needed stone around Christmas. Come spring, everything would go back to normal. They wouldn't have even given him the part-time position if it hadn't been for the cousin on his mother's side, pull some strings, you know what it's like, right? right!, he's a good kid, let him work.

- Amelka, when are you gonna get married? – Joso uttered the question a had heard as often as my mother say winters are long. I didn't reply, so he went on – Just asking, c'mon, I don't know if I'd ever seen you with a guy, or maybe you're a lesbo so you do it with other girls, dunno... – before I could say anything, Cvita jumped in.

- Gods almighty, what do you care, what are you on about, that's out of line!

- Jesus wept, c'mon, who asked you anything, why do you have to... – he tried to shut her up, to no avail.

- You're out of line, I said. And why the fuck are you here, anyway, getting on my nerves, ha? Get out, get out, or help me God, I will beat the living shit out of you like a whip snake. Get out! – she screamed excessively. Something was definitely not right. Joso already stubbed his cigarette and was heading towards the door. Cvita's anger was not something he wanted to mess with.

- Jesus wept, you're not all there, you've got a few screws missing, why the fuck are you screaming? You've gone completely off the wall, Jesus... – he muttered as he left.

- C'mon, c'mon, oh, Christ almighty, get out already, we haven't got all day – she saw him off and he shut the front door loudly. – Yeah, that's right, now do the same with the garden gate, so that it doesn't bang all they in the bora, banging all night and getting on our nerves! – she had a few final words to share. Bore blew his reply to smithereens, but he managed to close the garden gate. Cvita, what's wrong...

- What's wrong, why are you yelling at him like that, he didn't get a word in edgeways – I said after the kerfuffle.

- Why shouldn't I, dear? Why shouldn't I? I've had it up to here with questions about when I am gonna get married. Everyone up in my business! When you gonna get married... What, a woman is supposed to get married, pop a few kids and then who the fuck cares? I've had it up to here! – she was hitting the top of her head – I'm sick of all of it, the nosy motherfuckers, all of them!

- What's wrong? – I had a hunch that what she was saying wasn't all there was to it. She was cursing more than usual and there had to be good reason for that. She looked at me for a while, lit another cigarette, her eyes welled up, she was shaking and started talking with derision.

- Why shouldn't I... First you tell me you're scared you might be pregnant, then I realize I'm late, too, fuck, even more than you, didn't cross my mind, motherfucking shit, not once! I'm sick of it. That doughboy... It all came back to me. You know that time, when you and Ljilja stayed at Marga, I went with him in the bushes for a quickie and he, the degenerate, because only a degenerate would do that, he forgot to pull out. And he told me: I forgot... Can you imagine? He forgot. I lost my shit! But, okay, I'm thinking, it's the first time, it's not gonna stick, he forgot to put the gear in reverse, so what, it happens. And I forgot all about it, I swear. And then you told you were late and then... – her story came full circle as she bitterly inhaled on her cigarette. – I'll kill him, I swear to God, I'll kill him if he got me pregnant. He's dead! – she sobbed into the palms of her hand and folded onto her knees.

I sat with her over the longest, bitterest coffee that winter, until past ten at night when her folks came back. We didn't talk much, kept staring blankly. Even though Cvita had a boyfriend for about three years, she had no intention of getting married any time soon. She was only twenty-two and that was too early to settle down. Ever since she lost her job in Benkovac, she was waiting anxiously for the tourist season, hoping for a summer full of surprises once she's out of the village. Even though she and her boyfriend were going strong, she couldn't help but hear a voice whispering to her that there's still a bit of life left before she got married, had kids, started a family. That's why we made a deal to go to a gynecologist in Benkovac next Friday, when the number of nosy women in the waiting room hits an all-week low, and see what's up.


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