Amazing discoveries of the German – Croatian philologist

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In the presence of numerous high-ranking guests and leading Croatian connoisseurs of Marulić’s literary works, the lecture was given by the renowned philologist Zvonko Pandžić who has lived at a German address for many decades presenting at the same time his bibliophile edition—the triple “Judith“— figuratively speaking, with a facsimile of Marulić’s original writing of that first literary work in the Croatian language. In Zagreb, on October 27, in the Croatian Heritage Foundation, as part of the “Croatian Book Month” a state manifestation dedicated to the reading, a solemn lecture was held on the topic “Judith – Croatian poem of poems” with the simultaneous promotion of Pandžić’s critical edition of the Croatian national epic by Marko Marulić: History of the Holy Widow Judith in Croatian Verse (CRO: Istorija svete udovice Judit u versih harvacki složena) (Dubrovnik: Little Brothers Library 2021). According to the philologist Zvonko Pandžić, Marulić’s “Judith” is a national epic in the rank of the best world literature of its time. According to the assessment of the philologist Pandžić, Marulić’s “Judith” stood on the key line of defense of the linguistic and cultural identity of Croats, which was and remains the assumption of Croatian statehood. Let us remind you that the recent biggest anniversary of Croatian literature—half a millennium since the first printing of Marulić’s “Judith”—was marked by as many as four editions of that first Croatian national epic in Croatia. Among them, the triple edition of “Judith” edited by Zvonko Pandžić from Germany in the publishing house of the Little Brothers Library in Dubrovnik stands out for its wealth of content, but also for its fresh insight into the “Father of Croatian Literature”.

This Croatian philologist from Würzburg was previously known to the domestic public for the exceptional discoveries of Marulić’s manuscripts, which he presented in his scholarly works and the book “Unknown Prose by Marko Marulić” (2009). Promoting his own book “Judith”, the editor Pandžić vividly presented to the audience his research that led to the triple book structure of this bibliophile edition. The first in the editor’s book is the printed version of the critical edition of Marulić’s “Judith” in the original epic graphics with the associated scholarly apparatus. The second “Judith” studio edition was printed for a wider readership. It is printed in modern Croatian script, and less comprehensible places were additionally explained by the organizer. The third among the covers of Pandžić’s editorial endeavor “Judith” is a copy of the only completely preserved original print from 1521, which is kept in the Little Brothers’ Library in Dubrovnik. The copy is visually and graphically pleasing from pages 305 to 390. In addition to the figurative story of the “three Judiths”, a foreword by the editor of Pandžić’s exceptional linguistic erudition is printed, which contains a brilliant scholarly synthesis of his knowledge about the first Croatian national epic.

Marulić wrote “Judith”, said the lecturer and editor Pandžić, as a mature author, taking as the basis of the epic the biblical story of a pious widow who, with trust in God, manages to free her people in the hour of great peril from the arrogant conqueror Holofernes. On the other hand, Marulić tried to harmonize this story with the laws and the best examples of the poetic art of the classical literature of his time, that is, to create an artistic author’s epic. After all, Marulić is not only a Christian poet, nor was he called the “Father of Croatian literature” for no reason. Marulić is actually a genius of the beginnings of the Croatian modern age by the choice of the Croatian vernacular in poetry, by the first Croatian epics, dramas, hymns and theological debates… Marul with his works raised Croatian literature to an enviable height from the very beginning, which was not achieved by any other Slavic literature between the Adriatic and Japanese seas for a long time, the lecturer emphasized. Marulić’s artistic language is much easier to understand knowing the numerous literary sources from which he drew on. These are classical Latin writers (Ovid, Horace, Martial, Virgil, Boethius) and early modern Italian poets, above all Dante and Petrarch. Lecturer Zvonko Pandžić concluded that “Judith” is the Croatian national epic in the rank of the best world literature of its time, and Marko Marulić is the genius of Croatian modern artistic, and not only literary, beginnings.

People in Croatian Heritage Foundatione hope that Pandžić’s publishing venture in the “Croatian Book Month” dedicated to the European Year of Youth will reach all classes of Croatian education abroad, so that generations of students with Croatian roots who grow up in multilingual environments around the world will better understand the first Croatian national epic “Judith”.

The bibliophile edition of “Judith,” edited by Pandžić, focused on the first literary work in the Croatian language from multiple viewpoints with a stimulating scholarly apparatus and in visually pleasing graphic form is a gem of Croatian book production of the 21st century, whose place is in every Croatian home and in every Croatian library in the homeland and diaspora.

Expert in classical and living languages, Zvonko Pandžić (Drinovci, 1956) is a Croatian and German philosopher and philologist, senior study advisor from Würzburg, Germany. As a linguist, he created a huge oeuvre, which puts him at the very top of the busiest promoters of the Croatian language today in the European framework. More about the organizer and lecturer at this link. The lecture was followed with interest, along with renowned Croatian linguists from most Croatian universities, by the leading living Croatian philologist Academic Stjepan Damjanović, congratulating the lecturer on the delivery of the lecture and the publishing venture of this divot edition of Marul’s “Judith”.

In addition to the delegation of the President of the Croatian Parliament and representative Zdravka Bušić, M.Sc., head of the Service for Legal Status, Culture and Education of the Croatian Emigration, Ana Marija Frković from the Central State Office for Croats Abroad, and the following dignitaries from the Croatian academic community attended the formal lecture: prof. Vanda Babić Galić, Ph.D., in her capacity as an envoy of the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, who is also the president of the Governing Council of the Zagreb Institute for Croatian Language and Linguistics; prof. Vesna Bedeković, Ph.D., President of the Committee for Education, Science and Culture of the Croatian Parliament; representative of the Mayor of the City of Zagreb, writer Milana Vuković Runjić, senior expert adviser for donations from the City Office for Culture; Director of the Croatian State Archives Dinko Čutura; vice dean for international cooperation of Croatian Studies, prof. Sanja Vulić, Ph.D.; Ivana Kurtović Budja, Ph.D., head of the Department of Dialectology, as well as Vuk-Tadija Barbarić, Ph.D., from the Department for the History of the Croatian Language and Historical Lexicography of the Institute for the Croatian Language and Linguistics and numerous other distinguished experts from Croatian heritage institutions, including the National and University Libraries. Among the representatives of the academic community were several renowned professors of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Rijeka, Zadar and Zagreb, such as prof. Vlado Pandžić, Ph.D. The lecture was followed with special interest by the historian and writer M.Sc. sc. Đuro Vidmarović, member of the Administrative Council of the Croatian Heritage Foundation and the Society of Croatian Writers, and Dragica Nikolić, vice-president of the Association of Homeland War Widows from Zagreb. After the lecture, a lively discussion developed in the various expert groups of the audience, and Professor Zvonko Pandžić, expertly and with pleasure, delved into the semiotic depths of each question, receiving great praise from established Croatian philologists who followed this program of the Croatian Heritage Foundation as part of the “Croatia Book Month”.

Text: Vesna Kukavica

Photos: Marijana Žeželj

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