prose

Robert Međurečan: from the novel "Slightly used medals for sale"

Robert Međurečan (b. 1969) - veterinary school dropout (will never finish), former soldier (definitely never again), musician and singer (more and more). He says he's a real Balkan homo universalis – he knows all the things he never went to school for. His first novel For Sale: War Medals, First Owner (2008) entered the shortlists for the main national book prizes (Jutarnji list, Tportal, the MH prize, the HPB prize). The novel Silence of the lambs in Zdihovo (2011) was on the long list for the Jutarnji and Tportal awards. His third novel, with the working title Galloping Birds will be published late this year, as a sort of conclusion to the "war trilogy".



from the novel "Slightly used medals for sale"

 

(...)

 

Suddenly, as they began, the detonations stop. An unreal silence reigned, and then the cries were heard. Viktor raised himself from the trench, shaking off the heavy dirt cover. He feels his body with trembling hands looking for wounds. Nothing. Just blood flowing from the ears. From the detonations. Nothing hurt him. He cautiously came out of the trench and looked for survivors. Soon some other heads appeared out of the other trenches, but the cries are also multiplying. Viktor ran towards Drago's trench. He's sitting and holding his stomach with bloody hands. Blood flows between fingers and rags, mixes with the soil into bloody mud. Belly torn apart by shrapnel. The bloody rags are actually his guts, Oddly, he's conscious, looking through Viktor with a dull gaze.

"Fuck it, buddy... Friday, the thirteenth... - he whispered and expired.

 

(...)

 

- Where do I start... - Viktor whispered, cleared his throat and continued on more determined. - So, my problem is from the war. War couldn't have passed me by because I was young and wild, jacked up. I even started to like it all...

One night we went over to the Serbian lines and set an ambush. The spot was perfect: the dirt road cut through the woods, the sides gently rising up a hill, ideal for an ambush. We knew one of their units would go by there, all you had to do was lie in wait. In the moonlight, we saw them coming from far away. There were about twenty of them... - Viktor's voice trembled and became more quiet. - At the signal, we opened fire. Cut them down like grass, it was horrible to look at... Miraculously one of them was left standing, alive, untouched in that hail of bullets. He stood there paralysed with fear. I came out of cover and went down to the road, the others were still in their positions. The survivor stared at me in terror like I was the Devil himself., he gripped his rifle with trembling hands and then dropped it to the ground. I approached him a couple of feet away. I got a good look at his face, and he looked at me stiffly. He was very young. I pointed my assault rifle at him. He didn't budge, just kept staring. I let out a burst. He fell without a sound.

Viktor was quiet. He took out a worn out ID card from his pocket and stuck it in the priest's hand.

- Nenad Simić... born in 1975. - the priest read the faded letters.

There was a brown stain beneath the photo - the papir soaked in blood.

- Barely seventeen years old. They stuck a rifle in his hands and put him in front of my sights.

- The Lord forgives those who kill in self-defense. All these men on the other side were armed, were they not? They could have killed you.

- Yes, but he wouldn't have taken the shot.

- How do you know?

- I know. His rifle wasn't loaded.

- Maybe he was out of ammo.

. Oh, he had ammo to spare, but he carried an unloaded rifle.

(...)

His first visit to the shrink was forced. At a Christmas party he beat the shit out of a guy who was bragging to women about his war exploits. Viktor could tell by his stories that the guy never held a rifle in his life. The babbling offended him. He remembered Gramps and Siniša and the boys who'd died. He remembered Nenad Simić... He instantly went dark. The cops came just in time.

He assaulted the cops, too. Ended up in Vrapče. The date of the unfortunate event: December, the thirteenth. Exactly a year after the defeat on the river Kupa... In the medical papers it said: "reminiscient circumstances reactivated the memory. Typical anniversary reaction". There it was officially confirmed what Viktor already knew. He had PTSD.

- Don't worry about treatment - Davor Tot, his bunkmate, comforted him. - Here they shoot us up with one set of drugs until we're hooked, then we get off them by getting hooked on other drugs. And so it goes until we go bonkers.

When the doctor asked Tot why he wanted to blow himself up with a bomb, he answered briefly:

- Because I'm in an elevator.

- What kind of elevator?

- Narrow one. Can barely fit inside. And the elevator is in a commercial building. And it's Friday night, and everyone's away until Monday. I'm the last one. I go down and then the power goes out. Darkness. The walls of the elevator are closing in. I get panicked, I bang on the door, I scream, but in vain. My screams get lost in the deserted hallways. Monday is far off. The darkness turns to jelly, gets in my nostrils, my mouth. It chokes me. I scream, I bang the walls until my hands bleed... I scream, and the walls crush me. Darkness slides down by throat, goes through me. And it's a whole eternity until Monday...

Viktor never heard a better description of the way he himself felt.

- You're all a bunch of fakers - Kruno the Slavonian would yell back then, when there were no doctors around - I don't have that four letter syndrome. It doesn't exist. It was made up by the doctors just to keep me here.

- And throwing a potato masher grenade at the cops?

- I was framed by the Serbs, the motherfuckers. And you're helping them. You're one big fifth column. I'm the only one with the balls to tell the truth around here. I don't need any pills, I don't want them taking pictures of my brain, I don't want a binder full of faked reports. I'm healthy. I want to go home.

On New Year's Eve, Kruno the Slavonian blew himself up with a grenade in the park in front of the hospital. Because of his wife. She filed for divorce.

Viktor was terrified that Olga would come too and say, I've had it with you, I'm leaving until you ruin my life completely.

In the Fall of Ninety-Two, Viktor wanted to deal with himself. He slit his wrists with a razor blade and lay down in a hot bath. He was still conscious when Olga found him. The scars on his wrists still itch, sometimes. They tried hard to take away all importance from that event. Nobody knew it happened. Not even her parents, always ready to shove their nose in their business.

Much later, Davor Toth explained the rules of suicide to him.

- For starters, you have to pick the right way to kill yourself. Only depressed teenagers and pregnant girls slit their wrists anymore. That's beneath you. You're a warrior, and warriors kill themselves with guns. Pistol, rifle, grenade... Can you imagine a samurai drinking poison instead of cutting open his stomach? He'd bring dishonor to his family, eternal shame.

- But poison is less painful...

- Yeah... So? - that accountant from Daruvar was surprised.

He died a few years later. Kidney failure. From the pills, they say.

panorama

Zagreb Classic Open Air Festival Kicks Off on June 23rd

Zagreb’s annual Open Air Classic Festival kicks off this week. The festival encompasses a series of classical music concerts and will take place downtown in Tomislav Park, with the beautiful backdrop of the Art Pavilion. The festival runs from June 23rd to June 29th, 2022.


panorama

Rebecca Duran's Take on Modern Day Life in Pazin (Istria)

Croatia is a small, charming country known today as a prime European tourist destination. However, it has a complicated often turbulent history and is seemingly always destined to be at the crossroads of empires, religions and worldviews, with its current identity and culture incorporating elements from its former Communist, Slavic, Austrian-Hungarian, Catholic, Mediterranean, and European traditions.

review

Review of Dubravka Ugrešić's Age of Skin

Dubravka Ugrešić is one of the most internationally recognizable writers from Croatia, but she has a contentious relationship with her home country, having gone into self-exile in the early 90s. Her recently translated collection of essays, The Age of Skin, touches on topics of of exile and displacement, among others. Read a review of Ugrešić’s latest work of non-fiction, expertly translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac, in the link below .

panorama

Vlaho Bukovac Exhibition in Zagreb Will Run Through May

Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922) is arguably Croatia's most renowned painter. Born in the south in Cavtat, he spent some of his most impressionable teenage years in New York with his uncle and his first career was as a sailor, but he soon gave that up due to injury. He went on to receive an education in the fine arts in Paris and began his artistic career there. He lived at various times in New York, San Francisco, Peru, Paris, Cavtat, Zagreb and Prague. His painting style could be classified as Impressionism which incorporated various techniques such as pointilism.

An exhibition dedicated to the works of Vlaho Bukovac will be running in Klovićevi dvori Gallery in Gornji Grad, Zagreb through May 22nd, 2022.

review

Review of Neva Lukić's Endless Endings

Read a review of Neva Lukić's collection of short stories, Endless Endings, recently translated into English, in World Literature Today.

panorama

A Guide to Zagreb's Street Art

Zagreb has its fair share of graffiti, often startling passersby when it pops up on say a crumbling fortress wall in the historical center of the city. Along with some well-known street murals are the legendary street artists themselves. Check out the article below for a definitive guide to Zagreb's best street art.

panorama

Beloved Croatian Children's Show Professor Balthazar Now Available in English on YouTube

The colorful, eclectic and much beloved Croatian children's cartoon Professor Balthazar was created by Zlatko Grgić and produced from the late 1960s through the 1970s. Now newer generations will be able to enjoy the Professor's magic, whether they speak Croatian or English.

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New Book on Croatian Football Legend Robert Prosinečki

Robert Prosinečki's long and fabled football career includes winning third place in the 1998 World Cup as part of the Croatian national team, stints in Real Madrid and FC Barcelona as well as managerial roles for the Croatian national team, Red Star Belgrade, the Azerbaijani national team and the Bosnian Hercegovinian national team.

news

Sandorf Publishing House Launches American Branch

Croatian publishing house Sandorf launched their American branch called Sandorf Passage earlier this year.

panorama

Jonathan Bousfield on the Seedy Side of the Seaside

From strange tales of mysterious murders to suspected criminals hiding out to scams, duels and gambling, Opatija, a favourite seaside escape for Central Europeans at the turn of the last century, routinely filled Austrian headlines and the public's imagination in the early 20th century.

review

Review of new English translation of Grigor Vitez's AntonTon

Hailed as the father of 20th century Croatian children's literature, Grigor Vitez (1911-1966) is well known and loved in his homeland. With a new English translation of one of his classic tales AntonTon (AntunTun in Croatian), children around the world can now experience the author's delightful depiction of the strong-minded and silly AntonTon. The Grigor Vitez Award is an annual prize given to the best Croatian children's book of the year.

news

The Best of New Eastern European Literature

Have an overabundance of free time, thanks to the pandemic and lockdowns? Yearning to travel but unable to do so safely? Discover the rhythm of life and thought in multiple Eastern European countries through exciting new literature translated into English. From war-torn Ukraine to tales from Gulag inmates to the search for identity by Eastern Europeans driven away from their home countries because of the economic or political situations but still drawn back to their cultural hearths, this list offers many new worlds to explore.

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More Zagreb Street Art

Explore TimeOut's gallery of fascinating and at times thought-provoking art in the great open air gallery of the streets of Zagreb.

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Welcome to Zagreb's Hangover Museum

Partied too hard last night? Drop by Zagreb's Hangover Museum to feel more normal. People share their craziest hangover stories and visitors can even try on beer goggles to experience how the world looks like through drunken eyes.

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Jonathan Bousfield on the Future as Imagined in 1960s Socialist Yugoslavia

How will the futuristic world of 2060 look? How far will technology have advanced, and how will those advancements affect how we live our everyday lives? These are the questions the Zagreb-based magazine Globus asked in a series of articles in 1960, when conceptualizing what advancements society would make 40 years in the future, the then far-off year of 2000. The articles used fantastical predictions about the future to highlight the technological advancements already made by the then socialist Yugoslavia. Take a trip with guide, Jonathan Bousfield, back to the future as envisioned by journalists in 1960s Yugoslavia.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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'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.

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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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