Are you a fellow bookworm traveling to Croatia soon? You might wanna read these 5 books about Croatia before visiting.
The Return of Philip Latinowicz (Miroslav Krleza)
Of Krleža’s many writings – poems, plays, short stories and novels – The Return of Philip Latinowicz is the most widely acclaimed. Philip, the protagonist, is a successful but disillusioned painter of some international repute who returns to a small cathedral town in Croatia after an absence of twenty-three years. He hopes that revisiting his cultural roots will inspire him to create the perfect work of art and thereby restore his faith in both art and life. Haunted by his troubled childhood, however, he falls in with shady characters and discovers the emotional, intellectual, and imaginative poverty of small-town decadence.
In The Return of Philip Latinowicz Krleža explores the rottenness at the heart of bourgeois life, its dishonesty and its poverty of spirit. At the same time, he explores the tensions pulling on an artist caught in two worlds and facing existentialist doubts.
Cyclops (Ranko Marinkovic)
In his semiautobiographical novel, “Cyclops,” Croatian writer Ranko Marinkovic recounts the adventures of young theater critic Melkior Tresic, an archetypal antihero who decides to starve himself to avoid fighting in the front lines of World War II. As he wanders the streets of Zagreb in a near-hallucinatory state of paranoia and malnourishment, Melkior encounters a colorful circus of characters–fortune-tellers, shamans, actors, prostitutes, bohemians, and cafe intellectuals–all living in a fragile dream of a society about to be changed forever.
A seminal work of postwar Eastern European literature, “Cyclops “reveals a little-known perspective on World War II from within the former Yugoslavia, one that has never before been available to an English-speaking audience. Vlada Stojiljkovic’s able translation, improved by Ellen Elias-Bursac’s insightful editing, preserves the striking brilliance of this riotously funny and densely allusive text. Along Melkior’s journey “Cyclops” satirizes both the delusions of the righteous military officials who feed the national bloodlust as well as the wayward intellectuals who believe themselves to be above the unpleasant realities of international conflict.
Through Stojiljkovic’s clear-eyed translation, Melkior’s peregrinations reveal how history happens and how the individual consciousness is swept up in the tide of political events, and this is accomplished in a mode that will resonate with readers of Charles Simic, Aleksandr Hemon, and Kundera.
How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed (Slavenka Drakulic)
Hailed by feminists and scholars as one of the most important contributions to women’s studies in recent decades, Slavenka Drakulic’s gripping, beautifully written account—newly reissued in paperback—describes the daily struggles of women under the Marxist regime in the former republic of Yugoslavia.
In this provocative, acutely observed essay collection, renowned journalist, novelist, and non-fiction writer Slavenka Drakulic writes with wit and heart about her experiences under communism—as well as those of other Eastern Europeans, primarily women, who lived and suffered behind the Iron Curtain. A portrayal of the reality behind the rhetoric, her essays also chronicle the consequences of these regimes: The Berlin Wall may have fallen, but ideology cannot be dismantled so quickly, and a lifetime lived in fear cannot be so easily forgotten.
Many of the pieces focus on the intense connection Drakulic discovers between material things and the expression of one’s spirit, individuality, and femininity—an inevitable byproduct of a lifestyle that, through its rejection of capitalism and commoditization, ends up fetishizing both. She describes the moment one man was able, for the first time in his life, to eat a banana: He gobbled it down, skin and all, enthralled by its texture. Drakulic herself marvels at finding fresh strawberries in N.Y.C. in December, and the feel of the quality of the paper in an issue of Vogue.
As Drakulic delves into the particular hardships facing women—who are not merely the victims of sexism, but of regimes that prevent them from having even the most basic material means by which to express themselves—she describes the desperate lengths to which they would go to find cosmetics or clothes that made them feel feminine in a society where such a feeling was regarded as a bourgeois affectation.
There is small room for privacy in communal housing, and the banishment of many time-saving devices, combined with a focus on manual labor, meant women were slaves to domestic responsibility in a way that their Western peers would find unfathomable. From this vantage point, she provides a pointed critique of Western feminism as a movement borne out of privilege.
How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed is a compelling, brilliant account of what it was really like to live under Communist rule and its inevitable repercussions.
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg (Dubravka Ugresic)
According to Slavic myth, Baba Yaga is a witch who lives in a house built on chicken legs and kidnaps small children. In Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, internationally acclaimed writer Dubravka Ugresic takes the timeless legend and spins it into a fresh and distinctly modern tale of femininity, aging, identity, and love.
With barbed wisdom and razor-sharp wit, Ugresic weaves together the stories of four women in contemporary Eastern Europe: a writer who grants her dying mother’s final wish by traveling to her hometown in Bulgaria, an elderly woman who wakes up every day hoping to die, a buxom blonde hospital worker who’s given up on love, and a serial widow who harbors a secret talent for writing. Through the women’s fears and desires, and their struggles against invisibility, Ugresic presents a brilliantly postmodern retelling of an ancient myth that is infused with humanity and the joy of storytelling.
No-Signal Area (Robert Perisic)
Oleg and Nikola–hustlers, entrepreneurs, ambassadors of capitalism–have come to the town of N to build an obsolete turbine, never mind why. Enlisting the help of former engineer Sobotka, they reopen the old turbine factory, preaching the gospel of “self-organization” and bringing new life to the depressed post-communist town. But as the project spins out of control, Oleg and Nikola find themselves increasingly entangled with the locals, for whom this return to past prosperity brings bitter reckonings and reunions.
At once a savage sendup of our current political moment and a rueful elegy for what might have been, this sprawling novel blends tragedy and comedy in its portrayal of ordinary people wondering where it all went wrong, and whether it could have gone any other way.