Lovrenčić notes that Morales Milohnic, Skármeta, Mihovilovich Hernandez and Diaz Eterovic are among the select group of the greatest living Chilean writers and concludes regretfully that their work is very underappreciated in Croatia.
From Desert to Glaciers (Od pustinje do ledenjaka) is a book by Chilean-Croatian writer Željka Lovrenčić, the 44th in her rich oeuvre. The book was presented at the Croatian Heritage Foundation on 14th May. The promoters and distinguished guests were presented by event moderator Vesna Kukavica, head of the CHF publishing department.
Interpreter Darko Mažuranić provided simultaneous translation for the Chilean ambassador to Croatia, Germán Orlando Ibarra Morán, who greeted the gathered and noted that the book’s title brilliantly captured the fact that the lion’s share of Chile lies between the desert and glaciers. Also on hand to welcome everyone was CHF director Marin Knezović.
Stage artist Dubravko Sidor provided an excellent interpretation of excerpts from the book during the promotion.
Hispanist, translator and publicist Željka Lovrenčić DSc has of late made her name as an expert in the literature of Chilean writers of Croatian extraction. She has pooled her most recent insights and appraisals in the monograph From Desert to Glaciers, published by the Istrian chapter of the Croatian Writer’s Society.
Lovrenčić is also a member of the International Artist’s and Writers Association (IWA) and in 1988 was on a Mexican government scholarship at two universities, UNAM and the Colegio de México, where she studied Hispano-American literature. She lived in Chile from 1995 to 2000 where she taught Croatian in Punta Arenas, and served as second secretary (attaché for culture) at the Croatian embassy in Santiago. She works presently at the National & University Library in Zagreb as the head of the Croatica Abroad collection where she collects literature published by Croatians abroad.
Her book From Desert to Glaciers – The Literature of Chilean Croatians, was presented last year at the Interliber book fair in Zagreb and in the Chilean capital of Santiago. Chile is home to our most numerous South American community, prominent among which are successful writers, scientists, politicians and businesspeople that consider Croatia to be their second homeland.
Professor Sanja Vulić DSc, a respected Croatist at the Croatian Studies department of the University of Zagreb and the author’s mentor, offered an exhaustive presentation of the monograph. In the opening chapter Lovrenčić considers the phenomenon of Croatian emigration in general. The figures she cites are, of course, discouraging. 1 million 365 thousand Croatians left their homeland from the mid 19th to the end of the 20th century, which, for Croatia, was a devastating demographic blow, with emigration now once again intensifying. Many of these Croatians moved to Chile and ethnic Croatians now constitute about 1% of the country’s population. Among them are a number of current writers. If we look at the period of the past 150 years, the period covers some two hundred authors of Croatian extraction, many of who hail from the island of Brač. It was these massive figures, in fact, that encouraged the author to consider the causes of emigration in the second chapter of her book, while the third chapter focuses on the core topic – the Croatians of Chile. She singles out Antofagasta in the north, Punta Arenas in the south and the capital Santiago in central Chile as the three chief hubs of Croatian immigration. The hard work of the first generation of immigrants and the great sacrifices they made to educate their children saw their descendants take on leading roles in Chilean society. The first writers emerged in the 19th century. In the 20th century the list of writers includes figures such as Lucas Bonacic Doric and Antonio Rendic Ivanovic (born on the island of Brač in Croatia), Vicente Boric Crnosija, Josefa (Pepita) Turina, Francisco Berzovic, Roque Esteban Skarpa Straboni, Domingo Mihovilovic Rajcevic, Fernando Josseau Eterovic, Zlatko Brncic, Yerko Moretic Castillo, Sergio Vodanovic Pistelli, Amalia Rendic, Cedomil Goic Goic, Desenka Vukasovic de Draksler, Agata Gligo and Nicolo Gligo Viel, Boris Tocigl Sega, Dinko Pavlov Miranda, Eliana Yanez Eterovic, Astrid Fugellie Gezan, Mario Banic Illane, Patricia Stambuk Mayorga, Emilia Toro Leontic, Hernan Andradte Martinic, Antonio Carkovic Eterovic, Simon Eterovic, Mirna Huentelican Hraste, Catarina Iglesia Kalcina, Esteban Jaksic Rakela, Julio Pedrol Kusanovic, Jose Perich Slater, Maria Cristina Ursic, Angelo Mladinic Nelson, Oscar Andres Barrientos Bradasic, Luka Fertilio Nikolic, Nikola Fistonic Jerkovic, Andres Grafulic Yankovic, Zlatko Keglevic Ivancic, Milagros Mimica Soto, Jaime Bristilo Canon, Christian Formoso Bavic and Niki Kuscevic Ramirez.
Among the writers of the third generation of Croatian immigrants the author singles out Eugenio Mimica Barrasi (whose roots are in the village of Mimice to the south of Omiš), Huan Mihovilovich Hernandez, born in Punta Arenas in 1951 and grew up on the Croatian quarter there, and Ramon Diaz Eterovic, born in Punta Arenas in 1956, also with roots in Brač.
Lovrenčić also considers Chilean literature on the whole as the only possible context in which to assess the impact of writers of Croatian extraction. The extensive and comprehensive fourth chapter is dedicated to the three writers the authors feels are most significant: Nicolas Mihovilovic Rajcevic (1916-1986) of Punta Arenas, Antonio Skármeta Vranicic (1940) of Antofagasta and Andres Morales Milohnic (1962) of Santiago. Each of them is also a representative of one generation of Chilean writers of Croatian extraction. Lovrenčić notes that Morales Milohnic, Skármeta, Mihovilovich Hernandez and Diaz Eterovic are among the select group of the greatest living Chilean writers and concludes regretfully that their work is very underappreciated in Croatia. In her analysis the author tapped into a broad range of literature, most in Spanish, but some in Croatian, and pored over hundreds of tomes – many in minute detail, having translated them into Croatian, Vujić concluded.
Vesna Kukavica noted that the book treats recent literature among Chilean Croatians based on an analytical study of several generations of writers. The volume, she added, is much more than an overview of the literary and cultural activity of our fellow Croatians – including some internationally acclaimed writers – over the span of several generations. The 270-page volume also features exhaustive references and sources and a comprehensive bibliography.
Lovrenčić thanked her colleagues and professors at the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Croatian Studies department, the publisher and the book’s editor, the State Office for Croatians Abroad and the Croatian Heritage Foundation, which has been her “second home” since returning to the homeland and where she has worked on excellent projects such as “Worlds in Contact: Croatia-Chile 2001”. She expressed her great delight in Chile, a beautiful land in which a great number of her fellow Croatians have found a wonderful life.
Text by: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek; Photos: Snježana Radoš