The core event of the CHF Book Night programme was the A Full Bag of Books round table/performance – the two-hour event drew a great response from the participants and visitors.

This year’s Book Night culture event was successfully staged on the 22nd of April in just under 250 cities and towns, gathering some one hundred thousand literature buffs from across the country. At the Croatian Heritage Foundation this mass of readers was joined by a select group of pundits in the field of migrant literature and all other writings on Croatian emigrant topics (books, articles, blogs, audio books and others), in particular literature with a migrant background, translations, expert and scientific monographs concerning the diaspora, but also contemporary (photo)recordings in cyberspace among Croatians from distant meridians and parallels.

The programme at the Croatian Heritage Foundation took place in the evening from 6:00 to 10:00 o’clock, consisting of five linked sections: 1. An exhibition of contemporary books and periodicals from the diaspora communities and books concerning our diaspora covering 150 of the top titles from twenty countries in the Croatian, English and Spanish languages; 2. Computer presentations of the major publishing houses with portraits of Croatian monograph authors living abroad; 3. A promotion of Tragom Hrvata u svijetu (In Search of Croatians Abroad), a photographic monograph by the head of the CHF branch office in Split Branka Bezić Filipović with inspired presentations of the volume by CHF director Marin Knezović, Ivan Čizmić and Marin Sopta; 4. A round table/performance under the title of A Full Bag of Books and; 5. An interview with Ljubica Benović, the author of a film on Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić (Croatian national broadcast company HRT) – due to technical reasons we were unable to screen the film as announced and we take this opportunity to apologise to visitors and the author for the inconvenience. Happily the interview with screenwriter and writer Ljubica Benović about her new series on writers from Bosnia-Herzegovina (I. Andrić, A. B. Šimić, N. Šop, S. Vučičević) was illustrative and the link with other CHF programmes for Book Night was very useful. 

  

The core event of the CHF Book Night programme was the A Full Bag of Books round table/performance – the two-hour event drew a great response from the participants and visitors.

“A Full Bag of Books was a hit! It was interesting, informative and dynamic. A great idea that offered a lot of information about books in a short period of time without having the presenters ‘bogged down’, which is known to happen in the customary book promo formats,” noted university professor and researcher Milana Černelić from the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of the Humanities and Social Sciences. 

The imaginary travel bag yielded showpiece monographs concerning the Croatian emigrant and minority communities, textbooks and handbooks for university lectures, historiographic studies, literary anthologies and collections of poetry, CD ROMs of various purposes – from language technology for Croatian language instruction to audio book recordings, the most read novels, brilliant crime stories and fantastic collections of short stories. In short, almost three thousand pages were retold at the CHF reading marathon by witty readers like Marinko Vuković, young ethnology experts Ana Klopotan and Bojana Poljaković, Marina Perić Kaselj, Aleksandra Šćukanec, editor and writer Grozdana Cvitan, Esperanto speaker Marija Belošević, Spanish studies expert Željka Lovrenčić, English studies expert and literary theoretician Sanja Nikčević, Marin Sopta, writer Tuga Tarle, Večernji List daily newspaper columnist and CHF staffer Mirjana Piskulić, the head of the Split branch office of the CHF and publicist Branka Bezić Filipović, Ivan Čizmić and others.

Mr Vuković discussed the first methodologically brilliant homeland textbook on the Croatian diaspora in the 21st century: Professor Jadranka Grbić Jakopović’s book The Multiplication of Native and Homelands / The Croatian Diaspora: Chronology, Destinations and Identity is the first university textbook to treat the diaspora from the ethnological aspect. Jakopović works at the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of the Humanities and Social Sciences and was herself on hand to peruse the books presented at the CHF. Young ethnic studies experts Ana Klopotan and Bojana Poljaković offered an attractive presentation of miscellanies (covering a total of 1,269 pages) on the traditional heritage and ethno-cultural identity of Bunjevo Danubian Croatians, edited by renowned researcher Milana Černelić from the department of ethnology and cultural anthropology of the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of the Humanities and Social Sciences, and one by a group of Bunjevo Croat authors in a temporal and spatial context that emerged from the research of Zagreb professors and students in the cross-border Bačka triangle. Marina Perić Kaselj of the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies (the institute’s director Sonja Podgorelec was also among the migrant book enthusiasts on hand) discussed a miscellany of papers from a symposium on Tihomil Rađa, citing once again the cyberspace occupied by citizens of the global village of Croatian extraction. This was followed by a presentation by Aleksandra Šćukanec, an award-winning young author in the field of eco-linguistics of the early Croatian diaspora, also from the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of the Humanities and Social Sciences. She spoke of a new book slated for release soon on labour migrants from the Žumberak region between the homeland and the countries of Germany, Switzerland, the United States of America and Canada. Marija Belošević, who has produced an anthology of Croatian literature outside the homeland in the Esperanto language, spoke of new editions of the Croatian Esperanto Federation.

Essay writer Grozdana Cvitan of publishing house AGM, as an encouraging editor of prose with a migrant background, especially of authors of the second or third generation from the United States of America to Australia, discussed their current narratives between nostalgia and everyday living. Spanish and Croatian studies expert Željka Lovrenčić garnered our interest in translations for the Spanish speaking world with a selection on this occasion of contemporary Croatian poetry in the Croatian Writers’ Society magazine Most (The Bridge) where she has translated the works of our top poets into the Spanish language. Lovrenčić then spoke of top Chilean writers whose work she has translated into the Croatian language, including Andres Morales Milohnić, Juan Mihovilović, Ramon Diaz Eterovic and Oscar B. Bradasic. Professor Sanja Nikčević spoke of the Anglophone world and the Croatian Renaissance. She presented an anthology of Croatian Renaissance literature in a new English translation by Croatian Canadians Vinko Grubišić and Vladimir Bubrin. Vesna Kukavica, the head of the Croatian Heritage Foundation’s publishing department discussed a trilogy by friar Vladimir Vlado Ereš, a missionary active in Switzerland, while Marin Sopta discussed a historiographical study dedicated to the Croatian community in Canada. Writer Tuga Tarle read her lyrical reflections on nostalgia and Ivan Čizmić discussed Researchers of New Horizons – The Work of Croatian Missionaries and Professors from the 16th to 20th Century, a brilliant monograph by Mijo Korade of the University of Zagreb’s Croatian Studies department. We learned that in his five-part book of biographical, historiographic, ethnographic and cultural history studies Mr Korade details the destinies, achievements, scientific and literary oeuvres and impacts of known and unknown Croatian intellectuals living abroad during their almost half millennium of participation in major international events in the period from the sixteenth to twentieth century.

On hand for all five of the literary events at the CHF in the course of Book Night was the long standing president of the AMCA Toronto association of emigrant Croatian university students Nikola Demarin, joined by his wife. He congratulated the organisers on the showpiece programme of emigrant books in the 21st century, especially those concerning the American and Canadian Croatian communities. He advised the organisers to concentrate more in the future on certain segments of the diaspora literary scene with the objective of offering a more effective presentation, advice we will take on board in the coming year.

The senior figure of our dissident periodicals and the editor of the famed London-based Nova Hrvatska (New Croatia) publicist Jakša Kušan, lauded the exhibition of new titles and new magazines in several languages (Studia Croatica – Buenos Aires, Croatian Studies Review – Sydney, Journal of Croatian Studies – New York, Gaudeamus – Toronto, Živa zajednica – Frankfurt am Main, Hrvatska riječ, Nova riječ, Godišnjak za znanstvene studije – Subotica, Hrvatske novine – Vienna, Hrvatski glasnik – Budapest and others), the regularity of which he championed as a returnee to the homeland while at the head of the Croatian Heritage Foundation’s Board of Directors from 2001 to 2004.

Migration sociologist Vlado Puljiz, a member of the CHF Board of Directors, noted the significance of this review of emigrant literature and books concerning the Croatian emigrant communities in the effective creation of official Croatian government policy towards its emigrant communities, especially at a time when every fifth Croatian national with a diploma is migrating out of the country and when every 35th citizen of the world is an international migrant.
Croatian intellectual from Austria Petar Tyran, the editor of the Gradišće (Burgenland) Croat Hrvatske novine (Croatian News, Vienna) pointed to the importance of the homeland Book Night (in parallel with the CHF programme) promotion at the library of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb of the Bible in the Gradišće Croat dialect, translated and published in 2014 by the priest Štefan Geošić. This is the first complete translation of the Bible (the holy scriptures of the old and new testament) in the dialect of the Gradišće Croats, covering five volumes and a total of 3,800 pages. With regard to the CHF programme Mr Tyran noted that it was encouraging to see the exhibited books by Croatian minority writers from twelve European countries, emphasising that, in terms of editorial layout and illustration, the books by authors working with the Gradišće Croat Institute of Sciences in Trajštof (Trausdorf), the Hungarian Croatian Institute of Sciences in Pécs and the Vojvodina Croat Institute of Sciences in Subotica, stand out.

 

Book Night, staged for the fifth time now at all Croatian culture venues with the objective of encouraging book reading culture, discussion about literature and all aspects of books in contemporary culture drew a record number of participants (490, of which 271 culture institutions in Zagreb) and book enthusiasts (about 100,000 visitors).

In conclusion, Book Night 2016 was marked by the anniversaries of two major dates in global literature – the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, and the one-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić’s Tales of Long Ago (Priča iz davnine).

Book Night was organised by the publishers’ and booksellers association of the Croatian Chamber of Economy, the National and University Library in Zagreb, the Libraries of the City of Zagreb, the Association for the Protection of Publishers’ Rights (ZANA), the Knjižni Blok Book Initiative and the Moderna vremena Info Internet portal for books and culture.

I was personally impressed by a question posed by AGM editor Grozdana Cvitan, a participant of the A Full Bag of Books round table/performance: why is the work of Antonio Skármeta not included in the mandatory reading in Croatian schools and why are the people involved in diaspora affairs not asking this question of the Croatian education and science minister when the homeland school reading programme is being hammered out? The versatile artist Esteban Antonio Skármeta Vranicic, whose ancestors came from the island of Brač, is now one of the most read and translated writers in the Spanish speaking world, which has been confirmed multiple times by the lucrative Planeta award for Latin American literature (the Premio Iberoamericano de Narrativa Planeta – Casa América). Although his work has been translated into over thirty languages, this Chilean writer of Croatian extraction is noted for his strong emotional ties with the land of his ancestors and is particularly happy when he sees his work translated into Croatian.

Text by: Vesna Kukavica; Photos by: Voice of Croatia