August Šenoa’s Zlatarovo zlato (“The Goldsmith’s Treasure”) has finally seen a Spanish language edition as El Tesoro del Orfebre, translated by Adriana Ivana Smajić and Joza Vrljičak and featured in a virtual book promo event.
Zlatarovo zlato (“The Goldsmith’s Treasure”) is one of the most read stories penned by celebrated nineteenth century novelist August Šenoa. It has now been recast in the Spanish language as El Tesoro del Orfebre by translators Adriana Ivana Smajić and Joza Vrljičak and published in Buenos Aires. Over 150 years ago, in 1871 to be precise, the novel was initially a serial publication that appeared in instalments in the Vienac journal, and was first published as a single book in Zagreb in 1872 with the subtitle Roman iz prošlosti zagrebačke (“A Novel from Zagreb’s Past”). August Šenoa (1838–1881) played a critical role in the development of Croatian novel writing and the significance of this translation in the Hispanic world is notable. Literary theoreticians consider Šenoa the progenitor of the modern Croatian novel, a genre he is deemed to have canonised through his historically-inspired novels, in particular his debut work, “The Goldsmith’s Treasure”. The plot of the novel develops over twenty-six chapters and is set in Zagreb and the surrounding lands in the period from 1574 to 1592, “during the kingship of Max the Second and the reign of ban and bishop Đuro Drašković”.
The plot of this novel runs in two parallel courses: the historical story and the love story. The first depicts the conflict centring on proprietorship and rights between the people of Zagreb and feudal landholder Stjepko Gregorijanec and the political intrigue of the feudal society of the time. The second line of the plot centres on the challenges posed by the love between aristocrat Pavao Gregorijanec and urban resident Dora Krupićeva, threatened by the class gap that divides society. The central role in the novel is in fact the town of Zagreb, to which Šenoa affords a most loving literary treatment. His love of Zagreb, and critical bent towards its residents, are an essential part of the fabric of Croatian literary history. Literary critics note Šenoa’s sovereign status in the literary scene of his time and refer to it as the Šenoan period.
The model of the historical novel in modern European literature was created by Scottish poet and novelist Walter Scott (1771–1832), with Šenoa adapting his model of the historical novel to the specificities of Croatian society and its authentic traditions. The primary attributes of this casting of the model, literary theory suggests, is the faithful reconstruction of historical events that grew out of a study of the historiographical sources and authentic archival materials covering the history of the Croatian people. For Šenoa, many of the scholars point out, history no longer assumes the function of the backdrop to the events, it is a protagonist in the novel’s structure and a critical element of the narrative arc.
Argentinean Croatians and translators Adriana Ivana Smajić and Joza Vrljičak note that “The Goldsmith’s Treasure”, as a work of aesthetic value, is included in the literature taught in school to young readers not only in Croatia, but also to the descendants of Croatians that emigrated out of Croatia and that live and grow up in other and multicultural milieus around the world. There are now an estimated four hundred thousand people in Argentina, where Spanish is the official language, that can claim Croatian ancestry in the fourth and fifth generation. Among these people and among Argentineans with an interest for the best of European literature “The Goldsmith’s Treasure” is likely to find a great number of readers. And while most, of course, do not understand Croatian, there are a number making an effort to learn the ancestral tongue, the translators point out. Argentineans with Croatian roots wish to learn the Croatian language and to learn as much as they can about the history and culture of Croatia. Reading Croatian literary works in the Croatian language is very demanding for those just beginning to learn it, and there is little that has been translated into the Spanish language. A Spanish edition of this Šenoa novel is thus a very laudable undertaking. It is also a significant contribution towards other people of Croatian extraction in the other Spanish speaking countries of Latin America such as Chile, Uruguay and Peru. All the indications are that they too are eager to learn more of the culture of the land of their ancestors.
Translator Adriana Ivana Smajić was born in Argentina to a family of Croatian roots. She is a lawyer with robust experience as a translator. Writer and polyglot Joza Vrljičak has for decades served as the chief editor of Studia Croatica, a journal that has been published in Buenos Aires for the past sixty years. Their choice of Šenoa’s Zlatarevo zlato was by no means an arbitrary one: their intention is to bring to young readers in the Spanish speaking world the magic and beauty of one of Europe’s historical capitals, Zagreb, and the sixteenth century passion of Dora and Pavao it was the setting for.
Besides its many Croatian language editions, Šenoa’s novel has been translated into German, Czech, Polish, French, Russian, Slovakian and English (2015). And now, finally, we have the first Spanish language edition, thanks to financial support provided from the national budget through the State Office for Croats Abroad and received by translators Adriana Smajić and Joza Vrljičak in late 2018. This money provided partial funding for this impressive project. A year and a half of dedicated and tireless translation saw the project completed and the Spanish language edition published. The worldwide Covid-19 related panic saw the promotion of the tome move to the virtual sphere and can be seen via the YouTube Internet site at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6foKYOzFYlE.
“Taking part in the book promo was young journalist student Ivana Martín Smajic, granddaughter of a Croatian; the cover design is by designer and photographer María Victoria Leites, the great-granddaughter of a Croatian, and the translation was reviewed and revised by well-known Argentinean art curator and writer María Victoria Vrljičak,” notes Ms Ivana Smajić, adding that “The book was released in the early summer and has already been procured by many readers of Croatian background across Argentina who read Šenoa’s historical novel with delight, happy for the opportunity to for the first time read a Croatian work of literature.”
By: Vesna Kukavica