Reading the poetry in translations resembles “a kiss through a veil”.
Nazim Hikmet, Turkish poet
Before saying anything about English translations in the Journal of Croatian Studies I would like to give a brief introduction about selection of translated original texts, from Croatian language to English, in order to provide context for my paper.
The Academy itself, and Journal as its chief publication, was a unique organization in this hemisphere. In order to explain its mission and influence in the past and present, one must understand men, times and circumstances since the journal was conceived.
The first journal was published in the sixties, fashioned by Croatian immigrants who arrived to the United States after World War II. In contrast to the earlier waves of Croatian immigrants, the post war II immigrants were almost entirely an educated group. Marija Tuskan, the Academy executive secretary identified two groups of immigrants; first, which came in the early fifties from different refugee or deportation camps or some intermediate stations around the world in which they acquired another language and witnessed another culture. Another group came gradually over the years directly from the homeland. For the most part both groups of expatriates wore fresh scars of the war, and post war tragedy of the Croatian nation. At the same time, translations of literary works offered a possibility to make Anglo-Saxon cultural circle aware of Croatia, its history, strengths and its difficult position within the former Yugoslav state. As the poet Nikola Milicevic points out, “The poets and not the soldiers have saved this nation in its struggle for existence.” Hence the editors predominantly selected the patriotic verses and protest poetry for the Journal translations in its early stages of publishing. These lyric had an enduring value. Here is an example of lyrics written by Vlado Gotovac, in Ante Kadic’s essay (The role of Vlado Gotovac in the Croatian Democratic Movement, Journal of Croatian Studies, Volume 21, 1980).
Croatia is a merciless homeland,
On each step she is dangerous.
Pain which she inflicts upon us
Makes of us the angels in heaven
And refugees on this earth.
Only insensible hearts betray her…
Gotovac addresses bitter condemnation of Croatian Patriots, turned refugees and their dangerous journeys. His thoughts are concise, powerful wording even in translation evokes mystical vision of the responsibility of intelligentsia toward their native land. Betrayal of ones’ country, Gotovac maintains, is insensible deed.
Vlado Gotovac: Translation from (The Croatian weakly) – Hrvatskog tjednika, as main editor, Vlado Gotovac (1930). He asserted: “The destiny of our poetry is more similar to our own.” Gotovac, who was a jailed victim of political persecution, is a good example with both his poetry and political career in former Yugoslavia, of how poets and poetry can cause turmoil in the oppressive countries. Another good example is Nikola Martic poem, “Croatia the Land of Tragic poets” (Volume 21, 1980), where Martic reaffirms the stance of writing poetry being a dangerous job.
To go back to my point, Croatian literature had entered the corpora of world literature, in the act of translation. Further, Journals’ editors selected the writings which both speak of their situation, and testify about typical themes and genres in Croatian literature. Although patriotic poems can be linked more with the period of National Revival, than with Croatian postmodern poetry, there are some successful works among émigré poets such as poetry written by Vida, Kerestinac, Maruna, and others which were included in Journal translations.
To summarize, Journal features selections of poetry (both émigré and domestic), essays, short stories, and sizable selection of renaissance writings which were translated for the Journal publications. The role of this literature is nevertheless significant because it represents a pioneering attempt to present another culture within an English speaking world.
Translations of Poetry
Most universal assumption memorably voiced by Robert Frost, that poetry is what is lost in translation. I suppose there is no point in arguing against it, however cliché Frost’s aphorism became. However, paradox is that good translators of poetry are adept at doing the impossible. For this paper I inquired, What are the translator/poet’s tasks and roles? To what extents translators are re-writing the poem in target language? How was that achieved in translation? True enough, the potential is limitless. All it takes is a critical number of translators, scholars, and editors, willing and qualified to prepare quality manuscripts of translated poetry. Hence the success of Journal of Croatian study literary translations.
To begin with, I focused on listing chronologically translated poetry in Journals’ editions over almost sixty years of publishing. A noteworthy selection of translated poetry was published even in the very beginnings of the Journals, for example the first translated poem was “The Tomb in the Cathedral” by Lucijan Kordic, which appeared in Volume 3-4 (1962).
In the opening years of 20th century, poetry was the dominant genre, much of it influenced by the Aestheticism movement and concerned with the inner struggles of modern humans with their world and the search for meaning in individual existence. These common Western themes were modified by specifically Croatian concerns with the country’s lack of development and political subjugation (to Hungary at that time). Well known writers of that time include Vladimir Vidric, Antun Gustav Matos and Vladimir Nazor. Two poems on written by Vladimir Nazor, translated by Antun Nižeteo and Marvin Tatum, were represented later in Volume 25-26 (1984-1985).
The above mentioned poets, leading figure of the early Modernist phase until World War I, were considered the most influential masters, teachers, and progenitors of modern Croatian poetry.
All of them were represented in Journal translations, covering several decades of twentieth-century poetry writing. Between wars, avant-garde poetry continued to be expressed in the verse of poets such as Tin Ujević.
Both his poetry and autobiographical prose were featured in the Journal. His collection of poetry Kolajna ( The Necklase, 1926) was referred to in Ellen Bursać essay in Volume 44 (2003) Augustin Ujevic’s sense of place.
Poem XX from Kolajna (The Necklace)
Tonight my forehead burns
Tonight my eyelids bead;
And my thoughts are lit by sleep,
I will die tonight, of beauty.
The soul is passionate in the deep,
It is a torch in the bottom of night;
May we cry, may we cry in silence,
may we die, may we die alone.
In this excellent translation Ellene Bursać reflects further on the creative tensions in Ujevic’s poetry which draws energy from the poet’s place of isolation, contrasted by the pull of the communal. Though Ujević does not specify his surroundings in poem XX, there are reference to sleep, at night, deep in a nocturnal musing is the “we” of “plačimo” – may we cry, and “umrimo” – may we die, referring to us, the audience Ujević suggests as we reading the poem. In all together 12 translated poems from Kolajna, Bursać situates Ujevic’s poetry in the inner universe from where he speaks. The poems define his community of one, his tiny room from which he looks across the horizons and the cosmos and reaches with outstretched hands, with his words from the depths, to us, his readers. One can equally enjoy the original and translated version of Kolajna Poem 20 -Necklace.
To move along, Volume 20 of the Journal, published (1979-1980) includes translations from contemporary Croatian poets, such as Vesna Parun, Dragutin Cesarić, Nikola Šop, Tadijanovic, Delorko, Dizdar, Pavlović, Pupačić, and Vlado Gotovac. I can single out Vesna Parun and Zlatko Tomčić who were represented with a quite a number of translated poems in the Journal.
The following poem by Mak Dizdar is selected from Volume 20 of the Journal
Note on The Country (Volume 20, 1979) Zapis o zemlji Translaton Nižeteo and Tatum.
A very persistent inquirer once asked:
Who and what is she if you will pardon me
From where does she come
And in what direction does she go
And the person questioned promptly
There is if you will pardon me a land Bosnia
And she is the fasting one the barefoot one
And the cold and the famished one
If you will pardon me
She is obstinate
In her dream
Bosnia in this case is a country; it is an entity; it is described as poor, bare, cold, hungry, and then as an afterthought, it is presented with a hint of a threat, as obstinate and defiant, even while still asleep! The instances on Bosnian defiance in the poem (Bosna prkosna), a psychological strength that will ultimately defend Bosnia and possibly keep her free, is well balanced with the note of lament because of Bosnia’s obvious poverty and misery. This combination of tears mixed with defiant singing is often encountered in Dizdar’s poetry and indeed, in the Croatian poetry of entire Bosnia and Hercegovina, concludes Ivo Soljan, in his essay Lament, Struggle, Hope and Joy: Croatian poetry in Bosnia and Hercegovina.
The next journal (Volume 21) features a younger generation of poets.
Published in 1980, it contained selection of Contemporary Croatian Poetry, translations by Antun Nižeteo and Marvin Tatum. It included poems by Ivan Slamnig, Milicevic, Krmpotic, Šoljan, Dragojevic, Maric, Horvatic, Stamać, Sabol.
Volume 22 (1981) contained translations by Antun Nižeteo and Marvin Tatum. It included poems by: Bubalo, Golob, Slaviček, Špoljar, Ivančan, Balog, Gudelj, Škurla, Pavlović, Čudina, Mrkonjić, Petrak.
The translation here included the post war émigré Croatian poetry, a sound and prolific branch, which was as the editors mentioned, “rudely torn from the native tree.”
From Croatian Émigré Poetry, translations by Carolyn Owlett Hunter, Antun Nizeteo and Marvin Tatum, Volume 23 (1982). Contains poems by Šaric, Weisner, Nikolić, Nizeteo, Vida, Lucijan Kordic, Petar Kordić, Nada Kesterčanek-Vujica, Prpić, Horić, Grubišić.
Lucijan Kordic’s poetry first appeared in the Journal in Volume 3-4 (1962-1963). Altogether twelve poems were translated by C Zudenigo. Early émigré poetry in translation featured in Volume 7-8 (1966-1967) was written by Sida Košutić. Here we have an example of émigré poetry in translation. Bjegunac was translated by Owlett Hunter and A. Nizeteo in the Journal of Croatian Studies, 23 (1982).
The Fugitive (Lucijan Kordić)
Snake like the border of mother earth
And a fence of thorns. And the world is a cold shack,
In which darkness and constriction eat away the soul.
I am called: martyr and homeless;
The fields are my den and the cloud my watery blanket.
I declare war on the light and the stars
And I try to hide the far-away suns with the palm of my hand:
Not to see the darkness and abyss
Furrowed on my face by wanderings and passion;
Not to hear the cry of my misery and that of others,
In which the viper sings and the black hawthorn blooms.
Without my native soil and the sun’s dawns
I became a howl and a knotted cross of oak,
Raised in the night of unrest and flight.
O when will my arms grow into wings,
That I become only spirit, reality and life;
A rescued fugitive on this bloodstained planet!
In conclusion, it would certainly present a challenge to examine in detail all translated poetry published in Journal of Croatian studies. The editors are to be commended for their effort in preparing, what one hopes, to be continuous effort of supplementing printed works of Croatian Literature in English through future Journal publications.
Volume 28-29 (1987-1988) featured this transitive (mixed characteristic) literary genre. The writers represented, from before the war Antun Gustav Matos, Fran Mazuranic, SS Kranjcevic, Miroslav Krleza to younger generation of prosiest such as Slavko Mihalic, Rikard Jeretic-Katalinic, and Olinko Delorko.
Also in the journal there are some essayes
Essays and short stories in the Journal
“Libraries: A Fragment of an Ethical Autobiography” is autobiographical writings by Tin Ujevic. The essay was translated by Antun Nižeteo and Marvin Tatum, Volume 14-15 (1973-1974). Ujevic’s presence in the journal is both as poet and translator. Ujevic’s translations of Walt Witman’s poetry from English to Croatian were published in the Volume 11-12 (1970-1971). There are altogether 5 poems he masterfully translated in Croatian.
Krleža is considered one of the finest European modernist authors. Most Krleža’s novels have been translated into English. Encyclopedic knowledge and polemical passion inform his meditations on various aesthetic, political, literary, social, personal, and philosophical. The Drava Valley Motifs, published in 1933, (translated by Vladislav Beronja 60 years after, was a book combining a naïve painter Hegedusic’ drawings with a poetic essay by Miroslav Krleža. Today is considered a master piece of Croatian literature. Krleza’s preface serves an expression of struggle for the socially engaged, yet autonomous art, for the artwork as a product of individual artistic impetus, and against its overall ideology. Krleža also discusses many other problems that he recognized as crucial in determining the character of Croatian cultural identity. Krleža finds in Hegedusic’s drawings “ljepote” (the grammatical plural of beauty), based on sensory perception and aesthetics, not on any rational or idealistic perception.
RENAISSANCE PROSE AUTHORS
To some extent, Croatian Renaissance literature was a continuation of Croatian Medieval literature, written in Glagolitic, Latin and Cyrillic scripts. Due to close relations to Venice and other Italian cities many artists and teachers came to Croatia and exchange ideas and literature. Although the outside influences are apparent in Croatian Renaissance literature, Croatian writers added unique features of their own. The translations in the Volume 45-46-47-48 (exemplify the full flowering of Renaissance literature in Croatian Dalmatian cites, and Croatian north. The anthology offers overview of Croatia literary history of Renaissance, explanatory footnotes, and brief biographical sketches for each author.
The guest editors (Bubrin, Grubisic) collected translations of the “golden age of Croatian Literature”. It is the most comprehensive rendition which consists of parallel texts; the archaic Croatian original texts side-by-side with the modern version of Croatian language, and finally the masterful translations they produced for this edition of Journal.
The anthology features excerpts from the works of Antun Dalmatin, Pop Martinac, Marko Marulić, Ivanus Pergošič, Antun Vramec, Faust Vrančić, and Petar Zoranic, all in Grubisic’s and Bubrin’s translation. (check in the script).
The volume also seeks to contextualize Croatian renaissance writers enabling a curious reader to seek out and understand other translations included in the Journal.
For example, Ivana Dragicevic and Vladimir Bubrin have expertly translated Marulic’s A Prayer against the Turks, revealing the writer’s deep preoccupation with his time and political situation. Further in Planine, by Petar Zoranic, which were considered to be first Croatian novel, was again translated by Vladimir Bubrin.
The body and importance of Northern Croatian writers to Renaissance prose has been significant, and the writers such as Pergosic and Vramec had been represented with their major prose, along with Antun Dalmatin and Stipan Konzul Istranin, who were often categorized as Protestant writers.
THE CROATIAN RENAISSEANCE POETRY
The majority of Croatian Renaissance works were written in poetic forms.
Translations are by a wide variety of authors. Spams in 100 to-150 (count) years of Croatia Renaissance.
Volumes 45-46 contain the texts of selection of Croatian Renaissance poetry, edited by Vladimir Bubrin and Vinko Grubišić. This edition includes the original Croatian text, extensive annotations, and updated bibliography. The volume also contains explanatory essays and commentary that further enlighten the text for the English-speaking word. The anthology opens with Šiško Mečetić and Ɖore Držić’s Petrarchan verses. It is followed by five poems by anonymous poets.
Finally, the pages of the anthology open to Marko Marulic – Marulus, acclaimed as the “father of Croatian literature”. Marulić was keenly interested in poetry in Latin language. While his writing in Latin connected him to the best Humanist tradition in Europe, he also ventured in vernacular lying the foundation of national literature. It is worth mentioning that Marulic was one of the most versatile Croatian translators of his time, translated the first canto of Dante Alighieri’s La divina comedia from Italian into Latin, further Thomas de Kempis’ De imitatione Chrsiti from Latin to Croatian, and Ljetopis popa Dukljanina (The Annals of the Priest of Duklja) from Croatian to Latin.
However, Marulic’s first translation ever published in the Journal of Croatian Studies in Volume 37, 1986, was Ante Kadić’s translation of Judita, Canto 5, Verses 165-240.
Further in the anthology, there is a translated poetry written by Mavro Vetranović, Petar Hektorović, Hanibal Lucić, Antun Sasin, Nikola Domitrović, Mikša Pelegrinović, Dinko Ranjina, Dominko Zlatarić, Barne Karnarutić, Juraj Baraković and two famous folk songs so called bugarstice.
Turning to the anthology translations, Bubrin and Grubisic succeeded to achieve a close renditions of the original Croatian text and at the same time, to preserve the poetic flare without sounding awkward or “foreign”. The poems are pleasant and readable, with some archaic flare still preserved even in translations. It is a welcomed addition to an all-too short bibliography of Renaissance prose in English translation.
THE CROATIAN RENAISSANCE PLAYS
There was a relatively brief, about a hundred years period during which a rich theatre tradition emerged and flourished in Renaissance Croatia. It became an integral part of so called “Golden-Age” of Croatian arts and literature. With Marin Držić in Dubrovnik and Martin Benetović in Hvar, Croatian Renaissance theatre reached its peak. All through medieval age, religious dramas were performed in some Dalmatian cities as well as in Zagreb.
Journal’s Volume 47, (2006) has guest editors Bubrin and Grubisic. The anthology features excerpts from the works of Martin Benetović, Džore Držić, Marin Držić, Hanibal Lucić, Marko Marulić, Nikola Nalješković, and Mavro Vetranovic.
It offers overview of Croatia literary history of Renaissance plays, explanatory footnotes, and brief biographical sketches for each author.
Thanks to the efforts of the following poets and scholars, translated Croatian poetry, drama, and prose has been available continuously to English speaking audience over the 60 years of journal publications. I have attempted to list the selection in the Journal.
Ante Kadić –
Ellen Elias- Bursać- published translations in the United States for Drakulic’s novel and David Albahari, for which she received the 1998 AATSEEL award for best translation from Slavic language.
Vladimir Bubrin – He is active as a translator of Croatian poetry and literature into English. Prof. Bubrin has set a precedent for scholarship, and serves as an example in editing the selected works of Croatian Renaissance. He Translated Susanna (2007) To the Virgin Mary, Anka, a Satire, There Is No Fairy in the World and Fairy, Who Hast the Power (Lucic, H). Antun Sasin (In Praise of Dubrovnik Poets), number of poems written in Petrarch’s manner that all renaissance contemporaries used to write their poetry.
Vinko Grubisic – He appears in the Journals as both, translator and poet. His two poems “My invisible cross, and “Winds” were published in Volume 23, (1984) in translation by Owlett Hunter and Nizeteo. In his effort to introduce English-speaking audiences to a wide spectrum of Croatian literature, Grubisic has complied bibliography of Croatian literature in English translation (2007) which was co-authored with Katja Grubisic.
Carolyn Owlett Hunter
Vladislav Beronja – another dedicated literary translator. Graduate at the Department of Slavic Language and Literature, at University of Michigan. He has presented papers at panels organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and American Comparative Literature translation.
Sasha Culic Nisul – Vesna Parun Poetry
Katja Grubisic – poetry sonets, anonimus, The Pilgrim (excerpt) Mavro Vetranovic and few of his poem, Fishing and Fishermen’s Dialogue (Hektorovic)
Graham McMaster – the Latin and Italian works of Marulic have been translated to English from the Croatian translations, and not directly from the originals. Judith
Antun Nizeteo, author, poet, and translator, born in Croatia. He is one of the founders of the Croatian Academy of America.
Marvin Tatum is Humanities librarian of the Cornel University Libraries. With his colleague Antun Nizeteo he translated a number of prose and poetical texts from Croatian to English.
One can notice that some translators, although non-native speakers of English, have succeeded in translating the poetry in clear, readable prose.
The history of Croatian old literature has not been finished yet, especially because of constant discoveries of the manuscripts that have been travelling over Europe from one private library to another or had been covered with dust for centuries. The list of English translations of Croatian writers is also hard to conclude. There are a small number of independent and university presses which occasionally publish literature originating from a less-known (minority) cultures, such is Croatian. Therefore, Journal’s belle- letters have had a great importance in securing at least a marginal presence of Croatian literature in the English speaking world.
The arrival of recent émigré poets in the US and Canada who are jet unpublished in English language might be catalyst that will increase and improve the transmission of Croatian poetry to the English language audience of North America.