Week Before The Festival: Goran's Spring in Croatia

Make It a Lighthouse

/ by Marko Pogačar

Croatia today? I don't know – sounds wrong from the very start. Just as if some recent episode of Monty Python or, more up to date, South Park, decided to make a joke involving Trump being depicted in a broadcast by Russia today so they – stumbling upon Slovenia, Slovakia and Swaziland – randomly picked up a small, completely irrelevant god-forsaken country as a setting for their mockery. Oh, wait, Slovenia, no, skip Slovenia – some better informed producer must have yelled – there must be some of the first lady’s family still living there! Croatia, let it please be Croatia. 

So the question is not so much what is Croatia today and what do we have to say about it, but why would contemporary Croatia be a topic at all? For who is Croatia of any weight, of any relevance? Left alone the people living there – they’re, anyhow, not gonna be reading this. The Yugoslav wars have been over (you know it, but us, we’re not really quite sure) for more than 20 years. Kukoć and Rađa are shaking the NBA nets no more. Ivanišević is not ruling the Wimbledon. OK, the sea is still green, the sun still yellow and round. Yes, I understand. You don’t have Dubrovnik there. And, come on, it was The Game of the Thrones set! It seems that’s about it, the sad, cold fact: Croatia today fits within the two slogans set by its own tourist office – Small country for a great vacation; The Mediterranean as it once was.  

That very Croatia – pauperized, exhausted small country at the periphery of the European capital, with its sun-tanning banana economy (look at the map – the naughty might say that it has even geographically adopted the shape), seems to be on a down-bound train. The scenario is terrifying, as well as well-known: with its right wing, conservative (but economically fully neoliberal) government, super powerful and influential Catholic Church, suppressing of the independent media, pro-life marches and the other transparent and not so transparent showcases of the conservative counter-revolution, Croatia is closely following Orban’s Hungary, Poland, Slovakia… And what are we – we, who think that all of that’s a no-go – what are we doing about it? Well, mostly nothing. We mostly emigrate. Oh, yes: The left melancholy. 

Still, we have to be fair: There are important, strong, cheeky, beautiful, in-your-face things emerging from contemporary Croatia. Those fierce, precious pieces – some of which are being presented in texts by various authors in the course of this week – are fireworks emerging out of the night, to shed a new light upon it all; possibly, to set some real fires. Books by Olja Savičević Ivančević, Robert Perišić, Luka Bekavac, Srećko Horvat, Dorta Jagić, films by Hana Jušić and Igor Bezinović, theater by Oliver Frljić and Ivana Sajko, paintings and illustrations by Zlatan Vehabović and Dunja Janković, the entire flourishing scene of graphic novels, as well as many and much more – that’s the background of the resistance, its core. It’s not much, some may say, and they would be right. The real fights are mostly fought elsewhere, and the fights will be harsh, will be long, and will mostly be lost. But the sparks. This contribution is about nourishing, about making those sparks flourish. Together, let’s make it a lighthouse. Not a funeral pyre. 

Marko Pogačar

(1984) was born in Split. He published four poetry collections, three books of essays and a short story collection. He is an editor of Quorum, a literary magazine, and Zarez, a bi-weekly for cultural and social issues. His texts appeared in more than thirty languages.