prose

Jasna Žmak: Three stories

Freelance dramaturg, playwright and scriptwriter, assistant researcher at the Department of Dramaturgy at the Academy of Drama Art of the University of Zagreb where she graduated in 2011. She is the co-screenwriter of three short feature films. Her author script was chosen as a part of the Zagrebačke priče 2 (Zagreb Stories 2) omnibus. She coordinates the screen-writing project Hrvatski filmski savez Palunko (Croatian Film Clubs' Association Palunko) and the editor of the screen-writing portal palunko.org. Since 2009 she is the director of the advanced screen-writing workshop in Kino klub Zagreb (Cinema Club Zagreb) and the art editor of Filmske mutacije – festival nevidljivog filma (Film Mutations – Invisible Film Festival). As an attendant she took part in several screen-writing workshops (Sarajevo Talent Campus, Visions of Paris...), and also as a member of the jury in several screen-writing competitions. As a dramaturge she worked together with producers Oliver Frljić and Borut Šeparović. She is a member of the editorial staff of the magazine for performing arts Frakcija (Fraction) and web portal drame.hr. She publishes short stories and critical reviews.



all you know about me

 

I won you over with my stories. Long before you met me, you met them, you created an image of me through sporadic publication of my stories, an image made of the words of my fiction. Reading my words you throught they were my reality. You believed my stories were my autobiography.

What confused you was that you often, in a strange way, found yourself in them, that you often felt you yourself were a character in my stories. But that's impossible, you persuaded yourself, two people who don't know each other can't share one biography. That's why you'd quickly drive away that thought and let yourself read fiction that wasn't.

You hadn't yet fallen in love with me back then, but you had fallen in love with my stories. And if my stories were me, as you believed, then perhaps you were a step away from falling in love with me as well... but back then you didn't yet know me in real life and you were convinced that you couldn't fall in love with something you don't know, let alone someone. That's why you'd swiftly ignore those thoughts and return to my made up words.

When you finally met me, you thought you knew all about me. You were convinced you knew all my loves, all my habits, all of me, just all of it.

When you came into my life, in reality, you told me that, you said you already knew everything about me. The first time you entered my apartment, you felt like home. The first time you lay in my bed, it felt like you'd already been in it.

That's why it confused you when you realised I know nothing of love from experience, and everything from dreams... It confused you that I could write about love without ever having lived it.

You're like Jules Verne, you told me, you never were where your stories take place.

Not physically, I replied, but in language, yes. You just laughed and gave no reply.

I didn't know you before my stories, that's true, in real life I didn't know anything about you, I didn't even know you exist, that someone like you exists.

But all the things I didn't know about you I wrote down as if I knew, as if I had been there. All the things I didn't know about you fit into one collection, my collection, the one you're reading right now. Long before you existed for me, I wrote you.

My collection was my journey into the center of you.

 

 

untranslateable

 

Your stories can't be translated, you concluded today after two weeks of persistent attempts to translate at least the shortest one into English. You came out of your own living room and said in a resigned manner: You can't even translate them to Serbian, let alone English.

Actually, you concluded that on the first day, but you didn't have the heart to tell me that right away, or maybe you didn't have the heart to tell it to yourself, a professor of English language and literature, a professor of Croatian language and literature, who can't translate a story of barely a page from one language to another. These two professors inside of you tried and tried, but they didn't succeed. They spent two weeks in that room, with four pounds worth of dictionaries and a couple of poorly sharpened pencils. But nothing helped, the translation never occurred...

When you finally stepped out and admitted defeat, (Like poetry, your prose is untranslateable, that's how you put it), I wanted to tell you I told you so. Because I've known for a while now that my stories don't exist in a language different than our own, they can only be read in the language in which I write them, this little disappearing language.

Yes, my stories are made in something that's disappearing. And my stories will some day disappear like that language, without a sound, like that tree that falls in the forest, but there's no one around to hear it. They'll fall with a whisper.

English too will one day disappear, I tell you, to comfort you, everything disappears eventually. And everything that appears is always created on something that disappears, that's how I want to continue my talk, but then I still give up. Because I know you know that already.

How can it be, you want to ask me, and how can you live with it. How is it possible that there are so many unread books, so many sentences written out, that used to be important to someone, and today are completely forgotten? How can you write, knowing that all you write will some day disappear?

You want to ask me all that, but you never do.

And I, just the same, want to tell you that I can do no other and that what seems impossible is, to me, the only thing possible.

 

 

a love story

 

I dreamt the word love didn't exist. People still had all those feelings, but they didn't know what to call them, they didn't have the words to describe them. And love wasn't the only thing to unexist, there was no falling in love, no verb to love, get to love, be enamoured, nor all of their derivations and variants, there were no amorous adjectives either. And it was the same in all of the world's languages. Love simply disappeared from the dictionary.

As soon as I woke up I immediately grabbed the dictionary, to check how love was defined anyway, convinced it was actually impossible, but also a little apprehensive that love won't be in it, and still holding out hope that love could be one of those words that have remained unchained by the shackles of definitions.

Still, I found it soon enough. It was there, in no way standing out, in no way special. Love didn't vanish from the dictionary.

Then my eyes wandered to all the other dictionaries stacked on your work desk, so, out of curiosity, I opened each one and checked what they had to say regarding love. In the end I spent a whole afternoon studying all the entries that had anything to do with that sort of feeling, I spent a couple of hours between Amor and yearning. At first I was fascinated, then I became angrier and angrier, only to become completely enraged by the end of the evening.

Because I discovered that a component of half of those definitions was - a person of the opposite sex. Yes, half of those dictionaries told me in no uncertain terms that I can't love you, that, actually, I could never have fallen in love with you. I read and couldn't believe from how many entries my feelings towards you were excluded, like they didn't exist, like they were impossible.

This upset me so much I decided I would write a dictionary, a completely new dictionary, which will exclude no one. Although I'm no philologist, although I had no experience in this sort of work, I sat at my desk and started. From A.

You were the one who interrupted the forging of my philological career, somewhere around abacus already. You approached me from behind, asked me what I was doing and then, just by the way, you gave me a kiss. You kissed me in a way that made me forget what I was doing.

When I came to my senses a few moments later I realised something that wasn't in the dictionaries. I realised some things, like, say, that kiss of yours, really have no name. And so I gave up on my dictionary and, instead, went with you into the nameless lands for which dictionaries have no words, and sometimes, neither do I. 

panorama

An Interview with Bekim Sejranovic

Read Bekim Sejranović's thoughts on adventure, the flow of life and why Rijeka is why one of the most special places in the world to him.

panorama

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.

panorama

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:

panorama

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.

panorama

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.

panorama

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.

panorama

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.

interview

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.

panorama

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.

panorama

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.

panorama

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.

panorama

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.

panorama

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.

panorama

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.

report

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.

panorama

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'...

report

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...

panorama

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.

panorama

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.

panorama

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