Olja Savičević Ivančević: Postcards from Istanbul (a selection)

Maybe it's time for a bit of poetic reflections from Istanbul.




I didn't die in an earthquake and I wasn't killed by the bomb which exploded yesterday in Istanbul due to the election campaign. I know that newspapers don't carry the news about the proportion of turquoise and purple in this city, because who in the world would be interested in something like that, these things are for housewives. A death is a news, and among the living things – only those of political nature.

You forgot it, darling, we survived fear on both sides of the sight, it was back at home.

The injustice inflicted upon us by our bodies, experience tells us, must stop at some point.

All butchers will be put behind bars, the earth tremor will cease, but the satisfaction we call justice will not come. Still: there are many satisfactions, it is worth while to concentrate on them.

The only fear I will hold on to is that a sudden break of the show, an idiotic disaster, will prevent me from grabbing your hands, and the other, tiny ones, which have always been catching me napping, combing me and pushing me doggedly out of doors.

Today as well as tomorrow, for the whole mankind, whatever way you look at it, there's no news more important in the world than your having taught our little one, just yesterday, in Split, how to ride the bicycle. 





Along the gaudy road through Beşiktaş, I set out for Ortaköy.

This Ortaköy is a surreal place, but the three hours of dilligent walking aren’t mentioned by anyone.

The relations here are different.

There is a million women passing by the road, and not one of them wears a hat.

Fishermen in the port, cab drivers in their taxies, believers in front of the mosque, guards with their rifles, girls by the fountain: a foreign woman under the wide brim.

On my way back, nevertheless, don’t be crazy, I catch a bus to Taxim, the conductor says: a lira and some small change. It seems to me that we are being stuck in one of the three endless lines, without anyone cursing anyone else’s mother; passengers just follow the things through the window. I’m peeking at them (they might know something), they’re peeking at me (under the brim). Half an hour is not a big deal. The relations here are different, I imagine.

And a million women in Taxim, yet not a single one with hat.





A coffee and water. Checking news off-hand, hanging the wet washing, going to a store. I like the routine, it has its rhythm.

A standard life is a pleasant day without a plot.

I’m drawing back the curtains and I’m already near the first guests on the top of the restaurant; it seems we’re always having breakfast on the same terrace.

In passing, I knock on the dirty glass for the dove on the drain pipes to come near and I put down the bread for her. Strolls are long and I always bring something new in the apartment, things I shall write down and thus retain: a book or a recorded Turkish movie with English subtitles, and groceries.

And then: photographs of passers-by, because people in a city are the same thing as water is in the nature.

A foreign woman is sometimes also consoled by stallkeepers’ smiles (yes, these are hugs among unknown people).

When the city takes a breather and the terraces are emptied, while the night is filled with white birds, I open the windows wide, counting the beats of wings. I like the routine, it has its rhythm.




                                                                Orhan Veli Kanik


In the morning, it’s a silent saxophone on the terrace of an adjacent bar, here, upstairs, on the top floor; seagulls, other birds, and the frequent sound of ship’s sirens from the Golden Horn, street repairs, occasional fragments of conversation on the staircase, foreign language. A superhuman voice from within minarets is followed by collective murmur from the mosque, and afterwards tiny cats, amiable at close range and small-headed, appear screaming; then oriental rhythms, a female singer with sad voice, vendors of fish and spices, performers with instruments I cannot name. On the Istiklal street an old man is singing and dying, his grandson holding the microphone for him. I don’t hear the street-car’s bell and a young man with big white teeth, almost a child, puts me away from the rails. His friends laugh merrily when I say: you saved my life. Taxi drivers, waiters and storekeepers jump out of their boxes, offering anything for a few liras: madame, lady, put your glasses off, lady, let me see your eyes. Humans and dogs and cars, the noise of supporters. And a heart full of blood beating in your ears, an ear winking like an eye: the city is a DJ and has at least 50 million hands playing discs on gold-plated counters, on butchers’ counters, on merchants’ counters, on sacred counters, and at least 50 million human, canine, feline, rubber feet, feet dancing as if the place is getting too hot for all of them, as if they’re losing their footing and pawing, as if all this evades all reason.    


Translator: Dinko Telećan


Istria Through a Literary Lens

It’s not hard to feel the pull of the glistening Adriatic in these especially hot summer months. Istria exerts a special magnetic pull with its rolling, green Tuscanesque hills, stunning historical towns, not to mention excellent seafood and local cuisine washed down with Malvazija wine, numerous blue flag beaches with crystal clear water and of course proximity to Zagreb.

Jonathon Bousfield as usual takes a look at Istria with a touch more depth and sophistication than the average visitor, inviting readers to observe it through the immortal words of famous writers who have some kind of connection to the peninsula.

Read Bousfield’s literary guide to Istria in the link below.


Review of Daša Drndić's Belladonna

One of Croatia's brightest literary stars who sadly passed away last year left a trove of brilliant writing as her legacy. Read a review of Daša Drndić's novel, Belladonna (2012), in the link below.


Zagreb's Street Art

So you're visiting Zagreb and are curious about it's underground art scene? Check out this guide to Zagreb's street art and explore all the best graffiti artists' work for yourself on your next walk through the city.


An Interview with Olja Savičević Ivančević

Step into the award-winning author Olja Savičević Ivančević’s world as she peels away the many layers of her hometown Split and all of Dalmatia in the interview below.


Zagreb's Amazing Daughters

International Women’s Day offers the opportunity to reflect on amazing women that have made a lasting impression on the world. But recognizing the important ways women shape and impact our world shouldn’t be limited to one day out of the year. Check out some of Zagreb’s most memorable women in the link below.


Untranslatable Croatian Phrases

What’s the best way for an open-minded foreigner to get straight to the heart of another culture and get a feel for what makes people tick? Don’t just sample the local food and drink and see the major sights, perk up your ears and listen. There’s nothing that gives away the local flavor of a culture more than the common phrases people use, especially ones that have no direct translation.

Check out a quirky list of untranslatable Croatian phrases from Croatian cultural guide extraordinaire, Andrea Pisac, in the link below:


Jonathon Bousfield on the Museum of Broken Relationships

Just got out of a serious relationship and don't know what to do with all those keepsakes and mementos of your former loved one? The very popular and probably most unique museum in Zagreb, the Museum of Broken Relationships, dedicated to preserving keepsakes alongside the diverse stories of relationships gone wrong, will gladly take them. Find out how the museum got started and take an in-depth look at some of its quirkiest pieces in the link below.


The Lasting Impact of the 1980s on Zagreb

Find out how the 1980s, which saw the pinnacle of the domestic music scene, uncertain and rapidly changing political circumstances, and a more open and critical media, shaped the soul of modern-day Zagreb.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 PRAVOnaPROFESIJU LitLink mk zg