Croatian literature in Guadalajara International Book Fair06/11/2023
Although by the number of speakers, the Croatian language is relatively small, Croatia is a country with a very lively and interesting contemporary literary and publishing scene, and Croatian literature is present through translations in numerous European and non-European cultures. Literary and publishing activity is to a large extent conditioned by support from public funds, i.e. cultural policy instruments and measures with which the Ministry of Culture and Media is continuously encouraging the development of the book sector.
In Croatia, there are two professional writers’ associations, an association of writers for children and young people, a society of literary translators and the Croatian branch of PEN International. The Association of Publishers and Booksellers operates within the Croatian Chamber of Commerce. All of these professional associations are partners primarily with the Ministry of Culture and Media, which implements various measures related to book policy as an important part of national cultural policy, striving to support all stakeholders in the book chain – authors and translators, publishers of books and magazines, bookshops and libraries as well as organisers of literary events, fairs and festivals.
The literary scene is very lively and diverse. Throughout the year, a large number of literary events, forums, award ceremonies, meetings, round tables, book presentations and so on are held in all parts of the country. Some of these events have been held traditionally for several decades and are important to the local and national culture.
Literary festivals and residencies
The most important literary festivals with an important international component are Goran’s Spring, the Zagreb Book Festival, the European Short Story Festival, the World Literature Festival and the Book Fair(y) in Istria, whilst the most important sales fairs are the Pannonian Book Festival in Osijek, the Mediterranean Book Festival in Split and Interliber in Zagreb.
Several literary residencies in Zagreb (Croatian PEN Centre and Croatian Literary Translators’ Association), Split, Rijeka and Pazin and on the islands of Zlarin and Mljet provide Croatian and foreign authors with peaceful conditions for literary and artistic work, as well as the chance to get to know the local culture.
Recognition on the international literary scene
One of the acknowledgements of the quality of Croatian literature is its recognition on the international, primarily European, literary scene. The works of contemporary Croatian authors, primarily prose, as well as poetry, are being translated into other languages thanks to the connection with international poetry networks and so become more accessible to a wide readership.
In order to make information about contemporary Croatian literature available, the website https://www.croatian-literature.hr/ was established, where there is information about the translations of Croatian literature into foreign languages, author profiles, news about international successes, information about literary residencies and grants awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Media to foreign publishers for the publication of translations of works by Croatian authors.
With the aim of preserving the Croatian language as an important factor of national identity, numerous activities linked to the promotion of reading amongst all generations are being undertaken. The Government of the Republic of Croatia declared the year 2021 as the Year of Reading, and at that time through a series of activities, primarily in the media, as well as in the coordination of all the stakeholders of the literary scene, reading was highlighted even more vigorously as an important social activity.
In 2023, the Government of the Republic of Croatia adopted the Born to Read project, which, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and paediatricians, will raise awareness of the importance of reading to children from an early age as a public health necessity.
The contemporary Croatian literary scene
The contemporary Croatian literary scene is very dynamic and diverse. Works of prose are read the most, however, there is also great interest in children’s books, which in recent years, especially in the field of illustrated books and picture books, have experienced both a qualitative and quantitative upswing, thanks largely to specially designed measures by the Ministry of Culture and Media.
The works of the most awarded authors are extremely visible in bookshops and libraries, the release of each of their new books is an important cultural event followed in the media. The visits of authors at literary festivals, the presentation of new literary works in public spaces, and discussions with audiences of all generations are just some of the activities that are continuously carried out. In recent years, renowned authors have been inclined to experiment with different literary genres. So for example, poets are writing novels with which they achieve significant success, and several authors who have achieved success in literature intended for an adult audience are also starting to write books intended for children and young people. The readership is also interested in essayistic and journalistic works, especially historical-political works and travelogues. The Croatian comic scene is dynamic and becoming increasingly visible internationally, and illustrators, especially of the younger generations, have been recognised and awarded, for example at the Bologna Book Fair.
Numerous film, television and theatre adaptations of contemporary works by Croatian writers contribute to the interest of readers, i.e. the greater visibility of Croatian literature, and some authors have begun writing original works for the theatre, film and radio.
Croatian literature in Guadalajara
Croatian literature in Guadalajara is presented by three authors who are inspired by different themes, with which they try to connect Croatian modernity with local traditions and heritage, questioning the relationships and problems that are universal i.e. human. Robert Perišić and Olja Savičević Ivančević are linked to the heritage of the Mediterranean, whilst Kristian Novak is inspired by Međimurje, the continental, river landscape of northwestern Croatia. Although all of them start from natural landscapes and tradition, in their works they question contemporary urban life, the recent legacy of war, the state of social transition and disintegration that are refracted through individuals, usually sensitive and strongly emotional protagonists, who are too often powerless in a clash with the cruel reality.
Perišić and Novak are excellent prose writers, primarily novelists, whilst Olja Savičević Ivančević entered the literary world as a poet, and this discourse and sensibility can be felt in her later novels, stories, as well as in the stories, often in verse, intended for children and young people.
Links to Author's Profiles: