review

Marin Franičević: Dobriša Cesarić and his unique poetry

Dobriša Cesarić (1902 –1980) was a Croatian poet and translator born in Požega. Despite his limited output, Cesarić is considered as one of the greatest Croatian poets of the 20th century.
His first appearance on the literary scene was when he was 14 years old, with a poem "I ja ljubim" (eng. "I too love") which was published in a magazine for the youth called "Pobratim" (eng. "Stepbrother"). His work as a poet consists of ten poem books and a few translations.
He translated from German, Russian, Italian, Bulgarian and Hungarian to Croatian.

The article had been written by Croatian poet Marin Franičević (Vrisnik 1911 - Zagreb 1990), and it was originally published in Most/The Bridge literary review in 1981.



Dobriša Cesarić's[1] poetry, original and lyrically distinctive, has been with us for half a century. Critically acclaimed and accepted by the public as early as his first collection, The Lyrics, which won the Yugoslav Academy’s prize, Cesarić has not only kept, but has confirmed his high reputation, remaining in the first rank of Croatian literature...

Cesarić’s The Lyrics opens with a bright and clear „Autumn Morning“. Its free verse form (in which there are pentameters and hexameters) is not of most importance. What fascinates is an amazing simplicity and striking pellucidness. Of what? The image of autumn? Yes, of autumn, with its wet coats and the scent of rain. But also of the words, fresh „as oranges on a branch after rain“ and of something else which is unique. Namely, nothing, except lyricism is to be found in this unobtrusive lyrical image. However, this is not a new Cesarić, it is authentic Cesarić. The same suggestiveness and the same naturalness are to be found in Cesarić's „Autumn Afternoon“ with its usual and unusual, but always sonorous, rhymes which are organicly fused with the poetic tissue of his poetry. The sound is central here - the whine of autumn knocking on the window pane, the sound of sawing. The snarling of a saw (the autumn of „cheerful vineyards is far away“) and drops of rain on a window-pane could give a completely different image of life. For, autumn appears again and again in Cesarić's poetry („Late Autumn“, „A Day before Autumn“, „Autumn“, „A Cricket“), autumn calling forth winter, city street autumn with idle ice-cream vendors and the first yellow leaves, country autumn with flocks of storks and smoke, jackdaws, crickets and a man walking down the road with his coat over his shoulders, the Slavonian autumn and the Zagreb autumn which is never just simply autumn, because it emanates another, lyrically as intensive, life. The presence of the countryside on the city street is presented in the best, simplest, and most subtle way in the poem Hay. Fresh hay. and heavy, lumbering horses, - an image, emanating unsaid and unsayable longing, which is emphasized by the scent of the countryside among the well-lit houses, the scent of the freshly reaped meadow and especially by the peasant sitting on the cart „his legs and the pipe bumping around“ ...

Cesarić has very skilfully sailed through the „dangerous“ motifs and his finely tuned sense for words and nuances has helped him to avoid the shallow waters of the quotidian the common, and to avoid becoming stranded on the flotsam of superficial sensations which flood the contemporary man who has no time for discrimination. But, this skill alone would not have been enough to save him from sentimentality or the banality imposed by the taste of the times. Cesarić quite simply could not enter the port of worn out, temporary social exclamation, as no true poet has ever done in moments of truth. One has only to remind oneself of the truthfulness, lyrical and therefore human, of „The Circus Sketch“, or of the conviction which marks the beginning of „Flight“. There, everything is expressed with precision and experience, but the poem does not achieve its effect only because of that. The words in Cesarić's lines have their full poetic justification, even when, not entirely unexpectedly, we find ourselves in „The Suburb“. „The Suburb“ is primarily an image, a poetic image, closely connected with a sense of time and place. The image consists of details which can be „miserable red eiderdowns“ airing on the window-sills of cold „tenements“, or girls grimacing in front of mirrors, girls in gaudy blouses and cheap stockings, stunted fuschias or old worn-out tunes, damp stains on the walls or simply a rickety chair. Shop-windows, trams, bells on shop doors, drinking dens, churches - they all become a part of this lyrical story about a Sunday afternoon in an actual suburb, and the story is saturated by the authenticity of experience and the power of its realisation. This power, from an inner impulse, emanates a true poetic excitement that does not permit of discussion along programmatic or non-programmatic lines, but directly reaches the reader, who, like the poet, commits himself along the lines of that inner, artistically expressive, commitment. „Waggon Dwellers“ and „A Morgue for the Most Wretched“ are similar poems. It is not a question of the carefully chosen details which make up the poem „Waggon Dwellers“, nor is its poetic force to be found in the sad disused railway line, or in the old rickety waggon with its crooked chimney, nor in the fortunate image of the big, white railway-car number. Nor does it lie in poverty and liquor. In Cesarić's poetry, there is something more profoundly human and authentic, something that is at the same time a social protest and a lyrical expression of human compassion; a final form, clearly defined and complete and thus untrammeled by place and time: a poem. Shut into a morgue of the wretched and laid out on „two long wooden tables“, human misery becomes all the more expressive and from this exceptionally condensed image, i. e. poetically clearly defined frame, this common story, taken from the margins of everyday city life, about washerwomen and whores, bums and convicts, escalates to a new meaning, and, what is even more important becomes an intense lyrical expression which loses none of its topical social orientation. The poem „Hurdy Gurdy Man“ which is of a later date, is no less a „protest“ poem, but it speaks in another, perhaps more subtle and discreet, manner about the old oft-repeated tunes and the grumbling of the organ, always from the same „doorway“. „Suburb Ballad“ is just as striking. However, its impact is not achived just by the reddish-yellow kerosene street lamp on the corner, or by the mud and bricks next to the old fence, or by the same old paupers coming out of the dark and disappearing for ever into the dark – better to say it is achieved by all this and by that indefinable something which emanates from it and creates a lyrical experience. Thus, this simple and harsh, albeit masterfully composed poem, intensive and wide in its range, is a private rebellion which touches the social one and becomes universal. „The Trumpeter from the Seine“ and „The Poet“ also sound a rebellion, as does playful „Li-Tai-Po“ who on discovering the meaning of his existence sets aside his lyre and starts cleaning the rust from his forgotten sword. But rebellion is poetry itself, the very existence of poetry. The humanisation of as yet non-human, expressing the usaid, reaching for the not yet reached: the dance of a straw and a searchlight, foaming seas and a crazed bird, a cloud disappearing in the heights and a comfort in the days to come. It is the desire to break away from oneself and „to break the harness“. Cesarić has understood and accepted pain as a sign and an exclusively human experience, which always contains a germ of desire. Pain is the prime-mover and there is a core in it, a seed which sprouts a poem and the poem gives pain a poetic and human radiance. The lyrical humanisation of pain is Cesarić’s permanent obsession. Pain vibrating and „noticed only in a quiet voice“, pain concentrated and well-hidden, pain „which does not want to calm down“ and pain „which never appears“. The pain of the poet in his hours of doubt is the pain which „makes gold“ (a poem „growing like a drop of blood“).

Cesarić always sings his own poems. It does not matter if it is a poem about autumn („Autumn Morning“), about a night stroll with a friend or about one morning's „early bird“ which is „absolutely clear“ and „restorative“ and „profound“, or about a crazed bird which rides the wind with her wings - and her song. To this poet of everyday life each poem is another drop of his own blood, a scab on a wound, a cry, a scream to the world from the depth of his being, a word in search of harmony and echo. It is a speach „full of gifts“, a consolation (in the dark), an ecstasy „contained within sounds“ and a hymn to dawn; a longing for freedom „without borders“ and a simple tune on a zither (but a tune which brings back the sunk Atlantis of one's childhood); a „small drop“, but a drop in a magnificent waterfall of poetry and life, a healthy shoot in the field of humanity. Cesarić’s poet is a man who wilts in the heartlessness and indifference of his environment („like a flower during a drought“) living in a city where „only footballs“ have souls (that’s why they are kicked“), he is a cloud who „bleeds beauty“ in vain „onto earthly things“, but also a hurdy gurdy man whom many, though always the same people, hear, a comforter who himself seeks consolation in a poem as well as purity, the whiteness of life, the sense of existence. A blackbird in the fresh grass and the last cricket in a garden long past its prime. A longing for continuity and intense human ecstasy, for a word which lights up and finds an echo in the human heart, a prayer of a dead poet for a moment of harmony. Undoubtedly, Cesarić is a meditative poet. But his reflections upon life which can be followed from his earliest poems, such as „The Dead Harbour“, „Nietzsche“, „When I Am Grass“ or „The Return“, are always lyrical, and even when they are commonplace and everyday they burn with the intensity of a true poetic flame. Also, when meditating upon „the fragility of knowledge“ Cesarić speaks from the depth of his emotional spring, and the brackets in which he shuts off this „additional“ thought neither can nor want to cheat anyone, they just emphasize and thus strengthen the lyrical „antithought“. Soon we arrive at love, a kind of love which „might happen“. Another phrase would destroy the fine poetic tissue of this exceptionally powerful poem and those drops of life (which are constantly evaporating and disappearing) which, because of the potential imaginary kiss „from the same lips“, diverge somewhere in empty (yet limited) eternity, would lose their sense. To write „The Return“ with „a heart full of you“ or to write a poem about a „new voyage“, about a heart which has raised itself and „must fall“, about a premonition of a meeting with an unknown woman and to smile into the distance, confronting a true or imaginary love in a small Zagreb café, to watch clouds in the evening and to listen to »mysterious speech of trees and grass“, for Cesarić always means to align the rhythm of his rhyme with the rhythm of his inner being and to speak „in harmony with the beat of the heart“. The heart is the centre for moments of glory as well as for the triumphal arches under which „ove passes“ and for partings and memories which fall like leaves after the long gone summer. Once again, vague longing and real or unreal love: A foaming sea, an ancestral chain and an escape which is a return. Cesarić's poetic reality consists of unexplained looks and unrealized dreams hidden in the depth of being and love in which one could disappear „without trace“, love in which poetry is born, a night of mystery. Whether Cesarić is primarily a poet of love lyric is a superfluous question, just as it is superfluous and abstract, and almost out of place, to ask whether his contemplation, which is profound and subjective in its lyrical and poetic intensity, is profound and penetrating. From the perspective of his desire, his repulsion by life and his opposition to the inhuman acquire another, more definite, sense.

...  The city is to Cesarić the street of his childhood with hackney-carriages and old gas-lamps, and in his later years the noise of trams and rush of pedestrians, red advertisements, suburbs and a morgue, and disused railway tracks. But all this is only the space for sensations which are realized through words and become poems. Cesarić’s interest and poetic enthusiasm, his identification with human drama, bring this space to life. For Cesarić’s city is not only a place in which only footballs have souls. His city is not outside him. It survives within him and is realized as a part of his poetic experience. His city realizes itself through the snarling of the saw in „Autumn Poem“, the sound of the chain-saw on the street in „Autumn Afternoon“, the glinting of the sun in a little café, a longing look in a little-known restaurant, the murmur of the railway station or a song from a second-storey window („about beautiful Manon“). Its voice is the song of a hurdy-gurdy in a house's doorway, the harsh sound of the hurdy-gurdy crying in the evening, a car's horn or far-off bells before the sunrise. It reveals itself in a multicoloured throng of people and yellow lamps or, more discreetly, through the chattering of sparrows in an old chestnut-tree under a window. It is a hackney-carriage in front of a grey house, a light flickering behing the shutters, and an unknown woman „dressed in blue“. Trams and birches, chestnut vendors and lamps which are lit and extinguished. Cesarić's city is neither a theme nor a motif, nor an „external“ element of his poetry. The city is the lived experience from which the lyrics originate, just as childhood or Slavonia is, - somewhat different though, because Slavonia exists as pure memory of that strongly drawn peasant whose legs and pipe bump around on the hay-cart, of the train speeding through the plain, of the autumn with „the chimneys’ smoke“, of „the mysterious speech of trees and grass“ and „the light of the sky's smile“. Memory and recognition. A shepherd wawing his stick over reeds and flood water. Flocks of storks. Sad eaves and faded gardens. Iced-over springs. A look into the past. The childhood sled. A memory of a forgotten word, of the past which announces itself („like a flute“), - long gone voice. A cricket in a field. A loud song and a woman walking towards „a far well“. Slavonia brought back with jackdaws and hamsters, with stubble-fields and Indian summer’s dodder and a strage boat in a foggy river between Barč and the far-off horizon. Also, the small yellow bitch Lola, the well and the swing in the garden. Grass and birds. Childhood on the Drava. Slavonia therefore is not only Cesarić's lyrical moment, but an authentic part of his poetic being. It is within him in reality and in poetry right from the beginning, and thus is it realized, even though indirectly (through memories).

Cesarić saw the sea when he was a child. First at Kraljevica, then during a journey from Rijeka to Kotor while a pupil at elementary school in Osijek. His first poetic experience seems to have been the lifeless harbour of Kraljevica and its tired boats, either standing in it or, wounded, leaving on yet another journey. The sea and the boats calling each other across the water. A boat on the sea and a boat on a river. On the Drava or the Danube, in shallow waters or on deep seas, a boat which like a train disappears in a distance, taking with itself some dream. A sea, a cradle and the dark of the depths which have for ever swallowed the rock: a sea of life which is foaming and awakening desire; a sea in which the same droplets disappear and come together again. The depths may swallow a straw, but the sea continues to breathe as in „The Trumpeter from the Seine“ and to stimulate dreams, as in „Li-Tai-Po“. The sea thus also becomes Cesarić’s sea, a world which gives rise to a sensibility and emotion that are already within him. In this way it becomes a longing for the unreachable, for the far away, for the depths and - for voyages, in fact, within the dead harbour, but nevertheless voyages which never end, because „the sun shines and the grass grows“, and a straw dances in the sunshine until it gets swallowed up by the depths, and life remains „eternal“. The water also. A river roaring far away, „the waves of an underground stream“ moving inaudibly. A spring and a waterfall. The sea. The Drava. The Danube. A ship in the night. The Sava as seen from the streets of Paris and from an old bridge. A rainbow in the waters of a fountain in Rome and a boat on the Styx („the sound of black water“).

The dream about a waterfall and the individual drops which help it form itself are Cesarić’s lyrical symbols. The symbols are also „the autumn without withered branches“ from „The Poem about Death“, the last cricket who dies singing, and the afternoon wind from the collection „The Spring Which Is Not Mine“. But Nature is a larger, more elusive, experience. It has as many meanings as life itself: it is the grass, which Cesarić is also obsessed with, a bird, a cloud, a flower in a drought, the silence of a forest, leaves shaken by the wind and rain beating upon them, an orange on a branch and an orange in a hand, frozen waters and willows, tree-lined streets in a small town, a beetle in the grass and a beetle among the hexameters. The symbolic grass waving above „the clods of earth“ and the real grass growing in the sunshine and rustling under our feet. The fresh grass in which the first blackbird evocatively whistles and the yellowed grass in the front garden or somewhere on a forgotten Slavonian meadow. The grass growing out of one's own speech. Also the birds. Flocks of birds and clouds. Birds waking up the woods. The song of birds in Maksimir or somewhere above the fields. Flocks of sparrows and storks. Jackdaws, blackbirds, an eagle in a loft, early birds, crazy birds, birds flying above the clouds. The vineyards, frozen fields, birches and rains, fire in a stove and the amazing „fruit-tree after the rain“. There are also images, like a lyrical image of a train departing „full of lights“, a faded leaf on the road, a restless flock of storks, or autumn in a cloak of fog, but these images have long been part of Cesarić, since they are part of his experience itself, the elements of his expression and the component parts of his poetic diction.

In Cesarić, time moves like the sun, in a circle. It is indifferent but continues. Moments pass away, and we with them, but life remains. Cesarić is not a poet of abstractions. Winters and autumns come and go, and, ever faster, springs and summers. The Moors on the Torre dell' Orologio in Venice are symbols of immobility and permanence, but a poem is not their permanence - the time towards which they are indifferent still wakes them up. Their echoing sound has been heard by „many more dead people than living“. Chronos gets its meaning through man and his walk through life, even though it leads to death („everybody marches to his end“). Time wipes away even what has been cut in stone („In Front of an Old Tombstone“), but it becomes a part of an experience: memories, reminiscences of the past, dreams and the rest are all shaped according to human measure. The details which make up Cesarić’s poetry: wrinkles on the faces of circus women, the summer fading and the last cricket in a dead garden, the corpse on the bier, beyond recall, and smell of roses, saving oneself from death which cannot be sensless because life also is not sensless, saving oneself from empty years, from nothingness. A man is a straw swallowed up by the depths, a heart which is rapidly aging, a cloud torn apart by winds, a never repeated word. This, however, is a reflection which is in Cesarić on the periphery of his poetic experience. The emotional is the center of his poetry. Not just as soil and grass, but as a poem which confronts the darkness of „the coming days“. The fear of empty years and silence. From therein come past summers and long gone moments, death by degrees and the words of a dead poet. And desires: to walk grey-haired under chestnut trees of some city, or to be grass, but grass on which dew sparkles, or to be a drop, but a drop in a sunny waterfall. To exist in a line of poetry. To be a human voice in a multitude of living voices. His note on his contemporaries is a poem of transience, „a dark poem of transience“, like „Chronos“, but it is also the possibility of a poetry which might outlive death. It is wider and has more meanings than that about which it directly speaks, especially in the poems in which those external motifs are reduced as much as possible...

„A Fruit-tree After Rain“ is inventively realized, both in its splendour and its misery, through two nine-syllabic quatrains. They condense a rich experience which is thought out and complete, and which stems from an inner sense of drama reduced to two simple images which emanate wisdom and, what is even more important, some unusual emotion, expressed without reservation and with powerful poetic conciseness. But it is not just a matter of the „amazing luxury of its branches“, nor of the sun which has hidden „for a moment“, nor of the sadness suggested by a „poor, small tree“, since one is dealing with „magic“, lyrical. poetic „magic“, unique in this final form. It seems as if the magic of the similarly short and simple poem „A Night“ lies in its last line („and then I remembered she was gone“). But, if separated from the rest of the poem, the last line would be completely lost, remaining, a banal, everyday statement, and the night would continue „restful and silent“. The same completeness can be seen in some other poems, for instance, „The Waterfall“ or „Softly, Oh, Softly Speaks the Autumn“. The emotional as well as the experiental-lyrical background can be completely different, but the waterfall and the small drops which helps it shimmer are examples of Cesarić's lyrical condensation and his submitting to his inner being as well as the intensity of the poetically animated word, while the silence of the rustling leaves and the whispering rain, condensed within darkness and in snowflakes completes extremely well Cesarić's exceptionally gifted and exceptionally carefully wrought poem.

Cesarić's poetry composed of simple elements, is also simple in its workmanship and its appropriateness of expression. Cesarić evaluates words only in poetic terms. He uses „štokavian“ dialect, but not in the same way as A. B. Šimić (in his early phase) or some other poets. His „štokavština“, though also based upon the vernacular, is a language strictly determined by literary norms. To Cesarić all words are equal and he uses the language of the city as well as of the country, but the choice is determined by strict poetic criteria. He is a master of form and his poetry is polished skilfully as well as patiently and wisely. His versification reveals an original personality and an authentic poetic talent. In his essay „Searchlight for Distances“ Jure Kaštelan has writen that „Cesarić is a poet of completed forms and of rhymed lines. In this he follows the path of Matoš and Vidrić, but his lines contain new elements, entirely his own, and they are more natural and flexible“ ...

There have been various opinions and contradictory conclusions about Cesarić's thought. It has often been forgotten that his experience of the world, as well as his expression, are esentially lyrical. It is true that his so-called reflective and social poetry sometimes seems to be concerned exclusively with a condensation of living experience, but, even then, its reflective quality is markedly lyrical, which means that in its own way it is fully original and inimitable. Cesarić does not sing about a suburb but about a man in it, about his destiny, about his own experience of a suburb and the morgue of the most wretched ones, - and he does it in an inspired and mature way, spontaneously and thoughtfully. His poetry is exactly this: a drop in a magnificent human waterfall and a cry on behalf of human misery. True from its inception, his poetry is as vital as it is emotive, as intimate as it is open to life. It is natural and clear, like moving around in a familiar area; complex and uncatchable as life whose sense is only glimpsed; multifarious and immeasurable as the world we live in. It is as optimistic as the very existence of life and as pessimistic as a life full of cracks and doubts. It is the work of an artist who always creates anew the common everyday language, thus reviving it and giving it his own, and therefore new human sense, and who thus becomes a maker and a poet, which is the same thing. It has been said that Cesarić’s expression is determined by simplicity and clarity. Cesarić is a true master of rhyme, but what is more, he is a poet who looks for and finds ultimate precision. However, his precision is not a precision for precision’s sake and he does not impress us only by his skill, but also by his expressiveness. His language is natural, though carefully chosen. While always remaining within the norm his language is as free as it can be. This is why his language is so condensed, especially in lyrical poems like the already mentioned „A Waterfall“, „A Fruit-tree After Rain“ and „Softly, Oh, Softly Speaks the Autumn“. We can know or surmise the magic of a small fruit-tree basking in the sun, but we cannot discover the real focus of his poem. It is neither in the concreteness of the poetically evocative matter nor in its reduction to the essential. The center of the poem is not to be found either in its symbolism or in the suppleness of its unobtrusive iambic meter. „A Fruit-tree After Rain“ is something more - a poem, created through the achieved harmony of discovery, experience and expression. The image of the waterfall is also not „concretised“, because then the „small“, though precious, drop would be lost in it or it would lose its poetic power and remain somewhere in the air. Only after this crucial drop has been lyrically realized can the rainbow fully shine (in a thousand colours). The point about the human waterfall and one man’s drop seems so simple and easily attainable only because it is made, and this simplicity and concentration are exactly that which makes Cesarić inimitable. To reduce it to its component parts is of no help, nor can a poem be made from similar elements or proportions. What, for instance, is „An Autumn Morning“? „I dressed. / Went to the window, / There outside: Autumn“. This has happened to all of us innumerable times and anyone could have said it. When Cesarić says it, it is a poem. Of course, it has to do with what follows, but not only with that. And what follows? A friend in a wet coat, the scent of rain or emphasized autumn („fresh / as an orange on a branch / After rain“)? Is it the harmony of simple statements springing from the depths of emotion and a recognition of things? Is it the polish of the expression? The sound? No, it is „an autumn morning“, one of many mornings, but the only one to be poetically realized and thus unique. How does Cesarić gain our confidence in his poetry so that even such a naive lyrical story about the doll, Dorica, becomes so suggestive? Its banality is overpowered by its inner strength and virtuosity. But how? What is one to say about the strange poem full of silence („Softly, Oh. Softly speaks the Autumn“). Rustling of leaves and murmur of rain? Is it that which is most common but in fact hardest to discover? Winter. Snow. Dark. Silence in snowflakes. Or more precisely: „In the snowflakes silence is all alone“. This is an original discovery which realizes lyrically a complete silence, but a discovery which in itself does not make a poem, as neither do excellent musicality, nor the colour of light vowels and their contrast to the falling dark, nor the rustle of the sibillant consonant š, which appears five times in the second line. Where is, then, the magic of Cesarić's silence, so full of intimate and fresh ozone and nostalgia for forgotten childhood and so much else? Cesarić's poetry is never the sum of its parts, but much more - a fully realized poetic work...

Cesarić's poetry is harmonious and understated, whether it expresses the image of the world which is its permanent part or springs from a sudden experience. It is always turned towards man, whether he is dehumanised by the inhuman form of life or whether he sounds an alarm. Man is the measure for everything, including the poem which expresses him. Patriotism, lyrically discreet love towards his home town and his native Slavonia are fully integrated in Cesarić's relationship with life, whose sense he has been permanently seeking. Kaštelan has mentioned „the pain and the light“. But it is a pain which is not only found in the dephts, nor is it only compassion. Pain in Ccsarić is the pain of endurance and death as well as the pain of birth, the joy of poetry. Nor is there light only in the heights. It is in man and emanates from his permanent struggle for a poetic and, therefore, particular and universal human expression. This light is not an abstract life, but living, the beauty of living, enduring even then when everything is „cold, and bitter, and grey“ and when a neighbour (or fate) after each sip waits eagerly to „pour on“ more bitterness instead of wine.

Cesarić and his lyrics are one in the same way as his poetry's profundity and simplicity, polyphony and harmony are one. His poetic expression is based on a perfect unity of the image and the sound of words and the symbolism of things. The exterior structure of his poems corresponds to the inner one. Its rhythm is his own, unique. His poetry is both original and familiar, new in its motifs and treatment, powerful and enduring, tightly connected to man’s past as well as to his future.

 

 

 

Translated by Vanja Matković

 



[1] a Croatian poet who died on December 18, 1980.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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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.

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