Janko Polić Kamov – The Curse – Psovka


My second book of the work of Janko Polić Kamov is the translation of his collection of nine poems which he published in 1907 – ‘Psovka‘ (‘The Curse‘).
The poems featured are:
Preludij – The Prelude
Pjesma nad Pjesmama – Song of Songs
Mojsije – Moses
Pjesma suncu – Song to the Sun
Dan mrtvih – Day of the Dead
Ledeni blud – Icy Debauchery


Also included are two articles: ‘Poe‘ – Kamov’s impression of Edgar Allan Poe and ‘Beneath the Aeroplane‘ his contemporaneous view of the beginnings of human aviation in Europe. Another addition is a collection of aphorisms published after his death in the Italian Futurist journal ‘Lacebra‘ in 1913.

I reconstructed the cover of the original 1907 edition.

It is available as a paperback, 50 pages, and ebook edition via Amazon.com here and Amazon.de, Amazon.it, Amazon.co.uk and also via many ebook channels such as Apple Books etc.

ebook ISBN: 978-1-912924-96-7
Printed edition ISBN-10: 1095863789 ISBN-13: 978-1095863787

You can listen to an online interview with me for Radio Rojc about translating Kamov and publishing in English here

Thank you to everyone who helped me with finishing this translation 🙂

Translating Kamov

Online interview from 2014

This is an interview conducted by Dario Sušanj for velikabritanija.net and published 09.09.2014. 

Janko Polić Kamov, a Croatian writer and a poet, died at a very young age, but left behind a major work of Croatian modernist literature: the novel ‘Isušena kaljuža’ (‘The Dried Up Mire’). Literary critics often agree that his work was way ahead of the worldwide movements which were to follow in the years after his death, like surrealism and modernism, with writers such as Joyce, Kafka and Camus later leading the way, and they often label Kamov’s work as ‘revolutionary’. However, Kamov’s novel and much of his work has never been translated into English and an Englishman living in Croatia, Martin Mayhew, is now working on translating Kamov’s important novel. As Martin is doing this, he is also compiling a unique glossary of archaic and almost forgotten Croatian words and phrases which he hopes will be useful to any future translators who may embark on a difficult task of translating a work of Croatian modernist literature into English.

“They set off on a walk. Across the square passed a funeral, a long cortège of men, women and some kind of craftsmen’s guild. The music slowly followed the sad and boring step, under the gloomy sky, on the unbearable Sunday, which had closed the shops, cleaned the marketplace, brought people out for a walk or made them yawn at the windows of their houses. It was after noon. There were people at the side, who were looking blankly at the procession. The colourful robes, both genders, young and old, all with the same looks, which were neither of sadness nor curiosity, but of a kind of long, protracted and half-dead look, that notices nothing, but sees everything. The tolling of bells rang out like somebody’s voices breaking up then returning, sinking and re-merging like a castaway at sea. Arsen stared at the coffin. Behind it there cried one young woman, throwing her head wildly into a handkerchief and twitching her shoulders as though wanting to shake off some burden.”

– An excerpt from the yet unpublished translation of “The Dried Up Mire” by Janko Polić Kamov, as translated by Martin Mayhew

Martin Mayhew has been living in Rijeka, Croatia, for about ten years; he first visited the country in 2000 as a journalist, on a tour organised by the Croatian Tourist Board, but in 2003 he moved from his hometown of Brighton to the city of Rijeka, one of the main ports in the Northern Adriatic and a city known for having a lively cultural and also alternative scene, not much unlike his own Brighton. As his association with Rijeka grew stronger and stronger, it is no wonder, of course, that Martin, as a lover of good literature, also quickly found out about the works of Rijeka-born writer and poet Janko Polić Kamov who had been briefly active in the early years of the 20th century. Martin decided to embark on a challenging and difficult task – we could even call it a linguistic adventure – to translate Kamov’s most important work, “The Dried Up Mire”, into English. This has never been done before, probably owing mostly to the complexity of the task and the fact that Kamov’s work is still not well known and recognised outside the region – even though he is often compared to other modernists such as Joyce or Kafka.

Martin recently published a few excerpts from his yet unpublished translation on his blog, hoping, of course, to be able to find a publisher who would be interested into bringing this key work of Croatian modernist literature one step closer to the English-speaking audience across the world. This is why I caught up with Martin, asking him a few questions about the challenges he faced whilst working on this translation.

Martin, this is a rather predictable question to begin with, but why Kamov? Except for the obvious Rijeka connection, how and why have you decided to translate his works?

When I first came to Croatia in 2000 I was given a copy of ‘Southerly Thoughts and Other Short Stories’ a collection of stories by Croatian writers. Amongst the collection were two by Janko Polić Kamov which grabbed my attention as being something extraordinary, gritty, uncompromising. A couple of years later when I began working as a translator in Rijeka I was approached to make an offer to translate his novel ‘Isušena Kaljuža’ into English. Unfortunately that deal did not come to fruition and so I decided to continue personally with the translation of Kamov’s work, primarily of his short stories which along the way would allow me to continue with the English version of his novel, the first chapter of which I had already completed and shelved. For me the more I translate his work, the more I relate to it, which is also something I think other readers experience and just recently I have discovered that there are also other people working on the translations of his works into two other languages.

Why do you feel that ‘The Dried Up Mire’ (‘Isušena kaljuža’) is or could be relevant to the English-speaking audiences today?

So many people here in Rijeka tell me that ‘Kaljuža’, and Kamov’s work in general, is very important for the history of Croatian literature, because it is said that his work was way ahead of the worldwide movements which were to follow after his death. Surrealism, modernism, avant-garde, existentialism and revolutionary are some of the labels which have been attached to his work. In his work he refers to the political events which were happening in Croatia (at his time under Austro-Hungarian rule), he was against the system and briefly spent time in prison for his political beliefs. In this sense he could be seen as a champion for independence or more clearly a champion against repression, hypocrisy, elitism etc. in general. His work deals mostly with the human condition, internal conflicts, heaven and hell, madness, the dark sides of life, society, sex, alcohol, violence, death and religion. He was an early pavement writer. So, in this way his relevance to the English-speaking audience is important in that his work, when translated well into English, will shed light on the history and literature of this part of the world, in a specific period of time but even more so on a style which pre-dates the movements which were approaching on the literary horizon.

“Isušena kaljuža” (“The Dried Up Mire”) by Janko Polić Kamov: today’s, modern edition to the left, and the original 1957 edition to the right. The original edition was first published almost 50 years after Kamov’s death.

Would you compare Kamov’s work to any of his contemporaries in the English-speaking world or, generally, in Europe? Kamov’s life was cut very short by illness, and while ‘Kaljuža’ is his most important work, who knows whether he might have even had a chance to be compared to the likes of Joyce and others, had he just lived longer?

Firstly I must say that I am not literary expert. My study of literature ended with secondary school Shakespeare in England, but saying that I do like to read, and Kamov’s work, for me, is exceptional and it certainly deserves to be translated well and published. In that way literary scholars can come to their conclusions about it. Yes, Croatian literary circles have compared Kamov to Joyce, Kafka and Camus and have concluded that ‘Isušena kaljuža’ is in the top ten of Croatian writing, if not number one. He himself was influenced by the writers of his time and makes references to them in his work. It would seem that his work was ignored or maybe even suppressed during his lifetime due to its content and possibly because of other, more influential writers. He wrote the novel from 1906-1909 but it didn’t see the light of day until 1957, almost fifty years after his death. If he had lived who knows what may have become of him.

I have followed your posts on Facebook as you worked on this translation and it seems you stumbled upon many Croatian words which have proven difficult, or at least challenging, to translate into English or even properly explain using modern Croatian. How difficult was it really to translate a modernist novel containing so many archaic words? 

Janko Polić Kamov was born in Rijeka, modern day Croatia but then part of the Austria-Hungary, on 17 November 1886, and died at a very young age, being just 23, on 8 August 1910 in Barcelona, Spain.

Kamov’s work includes a vocabulary a lot of which doesn’t seem to fit into what is today known as modern Croatian. Slavic versions of words from French, German, Italian are mixed in with what are now Serbian and Bosnian today which makes their translation into English a real investigation. This together with the fact that he uses two verb tenses – imperfect and aorist – which are virtually unused these days, and the flashbacks and surrealism in the stories which seem unconnected and random, plus the unusual syntactical structure of his sentences, means that translating his work, for me, has almost become a process of interpretation. Every now and then I will post a word on Facebook which I am struggling with and invite my friends to offer a solution, sometimes causing heated, but mostly good humoured, discussions.

You are also compiling a glossary of terms as you continue working on this translation. Do you feel this could be useful and relevant to other translators who might eventually decide to translate other works of literature from this period?

Yes, as I am translating his work I am compiling a glossary of almost every word he uses in all of his works – it contains at least three English equivalents of each word. In this way I don’t need to remember every single word when it appears again as I translate. In compiling this I have also compiled a dictionary of late 19th and early 20th centuries Serbo-Croatian to English from free online resources as well as a large selection of Croatian dialectal words. In this way I’m trying to use the English vocabulary from the same period as he wrote. In the end the final glossary of possibly 50,000 words should be a unique collection, which could be useful for the translation of similar period works.

Give us a top three words which you think even the native Croatian readers today would have trouble understanding and let’s see whether our readers have a problem with them! What are your English translations for these?

Well as Croatian is not my native tongue is it not so easy for me to say. Much of the time it is the context in which he uses the words and expressions which take time to translate. Here are three such examples in no particular order: none are a woman’s breasts (origin is still unclear), budlaj – werewolf (unknown origin),  bilikum – a special cup (German origin). Modern Croats would certainly have trouble understanding these without a proper explanation.

Another point to be taken into consideration is that over the decades various editions of his works have had some slight amendments made by publishers and editors – they have changed some spellings or even omitted words for whatever reasons, so I am trying to use the originally published versions for my translation.

Kamov’s statue on the bridge crossing the river Rječina in his home town of Rijeka, Croatia, is the work of the Croatian sculptor Zvonimir Kamenar.

Would you like to see any other Croatian authors translated into English? Any that you plan to do yourself, should you be successful in finding a publisher for Kamov’s work?

There is enough of Kamov’s work to be translated and published as a complete anthology. This would be a great personal achievement. Of course if the cultural, literary or even academic entities in Croatia could provide funding for such a venture in order to push Croatian literature out further into the English speaking world, it would be a great step forward in the appreciation of all the literature from this part of the world. I am sure that there are many Croatian authors, past and present, who deserve to be translated. In fact today in Rijeka itself there are numerous young writers, many of whom are admirers of Kamov’s work.

Are you in contact with any publishers, in Croatia or in the UK, who might be interested in publishing your translation when it’s finished?

Yes, I have been communicating sporadically with a couple of publishers in Croatia and the UK who have shown interest, but due to the economic climate in Croatia being as it is, and the fact that publishers outside the country have yet to fully appreciate Kamov’s work, it is proving difficult to make an impression.

Thank you so much for your time and this interview, Martin. Should our readers wish to find out more about you, I suggest they have a look at your blog and, of course, if they feel that they can help you in finding a publisher and finishing your work, they are certainly free to get in touch!


This interview was conducted by Dario Sušanj for velikabritanija.net and published 09.09.2014.

Since this interview I have published my first book of my translations of Kamov’s works – a collection of 12 short stories – ‘Farces & Novellas‘ (May 2018) which is available at Amazon (paperback) and all other online ebook stores.

Janko Polić Kamov – Farces & Novellas


My first book of my translations of Janko Polić Kamov’s work is now available on Amazon and all major ebook channels… Apple, Nook, Kobo, Kindle….

The Beard – Brada
In The Country – Selo
Woman – Žena
The Disaster – Katastrofa
The Suit – Odijelo
The Earthquake – Potres
The Bedbug – Stjenica
‘A Confession’ – ‘Ispovijest’


‘Ecce homo!’
Grief – Žalost
Freedom – Sloboda

ebook: ISBN: 978-1-912643-16-5
Printed edition ISBN: 978-1717088611

++Thank you to all those who helped and supported me in completing this important work 🙂 ++

Press clipping from Novi List 02.06.2018

Novi list – članak

Interview for Radio Rojc about Kamov, the book and publishing, in English here


Hrvatska mlada lirika

hrvatska-mlada-lirika-1914A superb new addition to my collection. An original copy from June 1914 of Hrvatska mlada lirika which features work by Ivo Andrić, Vladmir Čerina, Vilko Gabarić, Fran Galović, Karlo Hausler, Zvonko Milković, Stjepan Parmačević, Janko Polić Kamov, Nikola Polić, Augustin Ujević, Milan Vrbanić and Ljubo Wiesner.

Hrvatski književni zbornik 1940 – Kamov

hrvatski-knjizevni-zbornik-1940The 1940 edition of Hrvatski književni zbornik published by HKN contained this essay about Janko Polić Kamov by Milan Selaković.


»Grob, rekoh, to je naše društvo… I ja se probudih u tome grobu. … Živ medu mrtvacima kojima je dobro… I onda izgrizao vene, razderao meso, uništio se sâm, pošto sam bacio zadnji i prvi pijev – labuđi pijev – božansku, satansku, veličanstvenu psovku.«

To je eto Kamov. Sablasan grohot »velikog psovača« i pjesnika »nemirnih, lelujavih čežnja«! No ne zaboravimo iznad svega, da je buntovnik najbuntovniji među revolucionarima, kome ni anarhizam nije dovoljan ekstrem u razornoj dosljednosti, šta više i premalo sposoban da sruši sve do temelja: nevaljalost društva i opačine ljudske ćudi. U tome je postupku, prema teorijama konzekventnosti i ustrajnosti, i značaj talenta Kamovljevog. Nesretni dečko Kamov, dvadesetgodišnjak i jedva nešto više, vršnjak maše mladosti, završio je nečujno u bolnici Santa Cruz u Barceloni, daleko od domovine, 1910. godine, kao prognanik i bosjak. Njegova jednostavna mladost, žedna romantike i doživljaja, biti će nam tim lakše shvatljiva, jer je takova mladost nekako i naša. Ništa ne smeta vremensko rastojanje između nas i Kamova, i »bit ondašnjeg vremena« za razliku od ovog »današnjeg«. Živeći u dobu muzikalne poezije hrvatskih modernista, danas od tih još živih: Ljube Wiesnera, Nikole Polića, Tina Ujevića, Vladimira Nazora i Ive Andrića, mi smo u stanju da tek izdalje osluškujemo puls tonova i snage čisto lirske i pjesničke, dakle poeziju samo u odjecima, no ličnu pulsaciju Kamovljeve sudbine osjećamo vlastito i neposredno, kao što je u svoje vrijeme osjećao sâm autor i tek bolji dio literarne publike. Mladost, luda no i požrtvovna, nemirna i bolna, ispunjena velikim željama, iluzijama i pokušajima nedohvatnih akcija! Bolna mladost Kamovljeva i bolna mladost naša. Koliko analognih životnih komponenata! Zbog toga nam je i lako pisati o njemu.


Smrt ga preotela životu, a njemu je jedva 23 godine[i]: djetinjstvo i zagrebačka, skitalačka mladost, glava puna literarnih zamjesa i revolucionarnih ideja, a nijedna godina, nijedan dan zrelog muža. Pa ipak, gle!, kako mu je samo zrelo to momaštvo i produbljeno upravo filozofskim shvaćanjem i dubokim iskustvom: od groznog života, u groznoj retrospektivi duhovnih doživljavanja materijalne stvarnosti, koliko samo sagrađenog duha, uma i čudnog dara, koji se, i prema Lombrosovim zakonima međusobnog prožimanja duhovnih krajnosti (genije ili luđak?) i prema Kamovljevom primjeru, spaja s luđakom-lutalicom u jedinstvu tih malobrojnih spisa. Kamov, kao Klabund, žudi promjenâ. Ogromnu i vječitu promjenu stvari i događaja, da u neprekidnom obnavljanju stvarnosti nađe tajanstvo nepoznatih stvari. »Nikad u gradu jednom ne ostaj dulje od pola godine« – pjeva Klabund. Na toj liniji uznemirenosti kreće se i Kamov. Klabundovski propovijeda promjenu života. Bježi od doma. Luta. U isprekidanom nizu grozničavih rečenica, koje su često puta forma nove ekspresionističke književnosti, on daje napore svoje mladosti i svoga talenta. Dvadesetitri godine života! Zar je time uopće i načet jedan zdravi ljudski vijek, jedna nemalo stoljetna faktičnost života? Odgovor, vrlo eklatantan i skoro precizan, iako još neizmodeliran do potpune glatkoće površine i forme, leži u sadržaju i smislu posljednjih godina Kamovljevih; one mu opravdavaju dostojanstvo mladog talenta, a riječi, koje prate njegov značaj (začudnu brzinu u primanju utisaka i proživljavanju stvarnosti), karakteriziraju najbolje ozbiljnost stanja: »Sve za tren! Za jedan užasni, divlji, živinski i – obični tren, što je u nečijem životu – stoljeće…« Iz malih opservacija rastu velike realnosti; život i tvar, ideje i životne konstelacije dodiruju se i odlučuju stvarnošću u presudnim momentima; kulmeni tada padaju kao popljuvani idoli u kal i blato, iz nirvane penje se ljudska misao do uzvišenosti. Uvijek tako: veliki gestovi svršavaju se u ludilu ili ludilo rodi čovjeka. Glè samo što nam reče Kamov: za jedan užasni, divlji, živinski i – obični tren; tren, što u nečijem životu znači stoljeće. Primjer Kamovljeva života i svršetka svjedoči taj pojam ljudskog ništavila i prolaznosti.

Čitajući danas Krležine knjige, »bez predaha«, nerijetko se osjeća vlastito udaljavanje od književnosti i ujedno nerazrješivu povezanost uz dotično djelo. To odbijanje i to vezanje uz neko knji­ževno djelo, taj paradoks disponacije psihe, to je ono strašno, nemilosrdno lomljenje duše mladih ljudi, kad se u potpunosti čitalac predaje onom zamahu i snazi velikog autora, koje sugestivno preobličuju majstori u formiranju ljudske psihe i karaktera, i koje se kod nas može osjetiti tako snažno i otrovno, izim kod Krleže, valjda samo još kod Kranjčevića i Kamova. Nemalo svi ostali potiču i privlače literaturi naklonost publike: Matoš, zabavan zbog duhovitih doskočica i poučan zbog evropske naobrazbe i znanja, ohrabruje; Wiesner i Nikola Polić, kontemplativni i blagi, zadivljuju i čine čitaoca na mah zaljubljenim u poeziju i književnost, ali ga i uspavljuju u oblomovski mir i samozadovoljstvo lične ugodnosti. To posljednje, što je najgore, to je konformizam. Kranjčević je među prvima antikonformist; on, naprotiv ovima, mrvi, budi iz letargičnog sna nesvijesti, ruši pred sobom naše bijedne samoautoritete i samopouzdanja, naše sentimentalne predisponacije lirske naravi, kontemplativne no ne i samovitalne, odgojene nježnim franjevačkim duhom nabožnosti i miomirisnim cvijećem školske i arnoldovske poezije. Ne Preradovićeve, istina, ne nacionalnu u ilirskom nazdravičarskom smislu, već poeziju suvremenih autora i još nekih. Napokon, što je već najnaprednije i najrevolucionarnije na toj liniji: u ime francuskog simbolizma i rasadništva parnasijanizma i dekadencije, u ime Baudelairea, Verlainea, Musseta i Rilkea; od modernističke poezije Hrvatske Moderne: Matoša, Wiesnera, Nikole Polica do Tina Ujevića danas i hrvatskih mladih: Cesarića i Tadijanovića na primjer – mi smo svikli na bunu ponajviše tek u lirski formalnom pogledu (verslibristika Tadijanovićeva) i brecamo se neugodno pri dodiru s vehementnom životnom lirikom Kranjčevićevog istinskog revolucionarstva, Kamovljeve razuzdanosti i Krležine nihilističke analize čovjeka i društva.

Čovjek i društvo – ta je koncepcija pratila sveg Kamova kroz kratkotrajnost njegovog životnog puta. Pokušao je problem riješiti psihologijski. Učinilo mu se to nedovoljnim – ne u konačnom smislu (jer u konačnom je smislu sve, uostalom, bespredmetno), već manjkavo i jednostrano zbog momentane neaktuelnosti te taktike. Kamov, dakle, misli na taktiku; taj, koji će malo iza toga izgubiti svaki takt i oprez, i predati se sav afektu i ljutini svog iskrenog karaktera. Ne zadovoljivši se prostim »psihologiziranjem«, on prijeđe u revolucionarstvo, u socijalnu i kulturnu opoziciju, da tako skrha šiju svemu, što bi se usudilo da usprotivi njegovoj samosvijesti, njemu samome: inkarnaciji poštenog mozga i prečiste savjesti. Takav je on bio individualitet. No kao i svaka borba, nepromišljena ali iskrena, ne lukava nego otvorena, morala se i ova svršiti negativno za autora, kao što je to, uostalom, stvar posve obična: u rezignaciji i u nihilizmu, u sve svjesnijoj težnji kidanja i samouništenja. Uzalud se Kamov otimao svojom anarhičnom naravi prilivu tih nebuloznih osjećaja slabosti. Njega muči progonstvo života. On bi htio biti slobodan, a sapinje ga se u ropstvo najgluplje svakidašnje konvencije. Gonjen životom, on nije toliko pogođen siromaštinom svog materijalnog stanja, koliko mizernim intelektualnim stanjem svoje građanske okoline, moralno zauvijek posrnule. On sâm sebe goni po trnju i po bespućima, nemiran i nestaložen kao Przybyszewski, u stalnoj krizi zdrave ljudske svijesti u bolesnoj i zaraženoj atmosferi društva. Mnogi smatrahu Kamova, kao što smatrahu još i Klabunda, zbog stalnog duševnog nemira i promjenljivosti skoro nestalnim, sve zbog silnog unutrašnjeg dinamizma; a baš je Kamov težio za mirom i gledao u hladnim, promišljenim sjevernjacima Ibsenovog kova vrjednijeg čovjeka, dok južnjaka, vatrenog i nemirnog, opisao je upravo s nekom nasladom od mržnje i psihološke brutalnosti na način pirandellizma: »on ne zna misli, što gazi prošlost; on ne ma intelekta, što pijucka na tradicije; on ne zna čovjeka. što ruši obitelj«. U grčevima vlastite stvarnosti, nervozan, tuberkulozan, otrovan, on ispušta krik sličan urliku i jauku, ali nikad ne i cviljenju i poniznosti. On je dobar i blag, kao onaj urednik nekih novina iz Hamsunove priče, ali njegove »riječi iza sebe gdje god bi pale, ostavljale bi krvave masnice«. Dosta je tih običnih, svako­dnevnih mozgova, kao da nam govori, mediokriteta i filistera, tih umnih piljarica; a svaki je građanin po jedna zdrava piljarica, i po intelektu i po karakteru. Dosta je tih običnih mozgova filisterskih, koji zbog te svoje vulgarne običnosti – gluposti i crvijivosti – postaju neugodno neobični: osobito zli i pokvareni, naročito plitki i maloumni. Mučen predosjećanjem kratkotrajnosti svog bivstvovanja, Kamov sâm nastoji da načinom svog živovanja skrati tok života, vjerujući da taj jedan momenat, »što gleda milijun drsko, porugljivo i prezirno«, ne vrijedi spram vječnosti sve one duševne patnje, koja ga obvladala. Njega ne progone uspomene, jer ih nije mogao da ima, zato što dvadesetgodišnjak više misli na budućnost nego na prošlost, a Kamov, vidjevši promašenost te prošlosti, uviđa i bezizlaznost položaja i s time i besmislenost budućeg. On se s baudelaireovskim odvraćanjem gadi svoje bolesne sredine i onog historij­skog nimbusa malograđanskog kulturnog uspeća, dokle je dotjerao dvadeseti vijek sa svojim građanstvom i društvom uopće, ljudima i idejama, umjetničkim tvorevinama i »ulicama, gdje stotine stopala ne ostavljaju na trotoaru ni jednoga traga« (Kamov). Tada još preostaje jedino neizbježivost smrti: Smrt će nas spasiti, nema više nikoga, tko bi nam prostro, umornim putnicima, mek ležaj i spasio nas muka. Hrist je promašen. Njegova etika jest etika donkihotštine i uzaludnosti: lijepa u osnovi, kao i svaka ideja u porođajnim mukama, nemoguća i izigrana u izvedbi. Istinski pjeva Kranjčević:

Na Golgoti je umr’o i sviet za to znade,
Al’ od te žrtve davne još ploda ne imade.

Teorija, koja će ostati vječita, ali i vječiti primjer, kako praksa stvarnosti znâ zanijekati koncepciju na prvom koraku u život; to je kao grimasa, koja ne može biti nikad tako zorno namještena, da bi adekvatno – forma i sadržaj – izrazila duh. Ona ostaje uvijek samo teatralna afektacija.


Spojivši u svom spontanom umjetničkom djelotvorstvu tri vrijedna ideološka momenta književnog smjera – momenat psihološki, momenat revolucionarstva i skeptičke rezignacije – Kamov daje impresivno sliku svoje hamletovske mladosti i hamletovskog svršetka: krvavi napor i duševnu bitku s podmuklim neprijateljem iracionalnih dimenzija, koji zbog svoje neopipljive i nesavladive obimnosti postaje već misterij, i konačno, ne samo kapitulaciju, nego i smrt. Kamov nije kapitulirao u svom neslaganju sa životom, to se ne bi moglo reći, ali je svakako pao već u početnoj ofanzivi svoje borbenosti – i to pao kruto, fizički i neočekivano. Njegovo izdvajanje iz životne stvarnosti vlastite sredine isprva nije moguće, čini se da je srastao uz tu svakidašnju realnost; iz nje on gradi svijet svoje poezije i svog mentalnog života, pomalo tek zanesen čarom ladanjskih rekvizita: priroda i osjećaji, a iznad svega neka panteistička, naturalna ljubav za život strasti i krvotoka. No pomalo on predstavlja sve više udaljavanje iz trivijalne i mlake svakidašnjosti, pliva u romantičarskim zanosima poput Kranjčevića: za borbu barikada, za impulzivniji život širih horizonata, makar i život bluda, krvi i mučenja, samo neka je život u punom intenzitetu kretanja doživljajnog kolopleta. On mrzi zatvoreni krug određene šenoinske šeme, on je, prema riječima VI. Čerine, »u vječnom ratu proti starom«, protiv sumnjivih i malovrijednih šenoinskih tradicija, koje usporavaju korak napretka, a podržavaju klerikalizam i reakcionarstvo. Od silne zakrvavljenosti doživljaja svijet Kamovljevih priča postaje neobično grozomoran i zaprepaštava svojim patološkim ekscesima; to je svijet njegovih duševnih senzacija: suptilnih, a istodobno grubih strasti, koje uzalud traži na raskrsnicama lutalaštva od Zagreba do Rima, Bologne i Barcelone; svijet doživljaja, kao magična mješavina različitih stvarnosti, onakovih kako se najčešće očituju u ljudskoj izobličenosti ludog života noćnih lokala (dakle naturalistički), i svijet literarnog proćućenja, proosjećanja životnog nihilizma svoje psihološke i filozofske konstrukcije intelekta i psihe. On gleda stvari senzualistički doživljajno, instinktom čovjeka-životinje, prema jasnoj i nedvojbenoj devizi toga stava: »nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu« (ničeg nema u razumu, što prije ne bijaše u čulima). Njegova vlastita nesreća i tragična kob prošla je sva njegova čula i razum, i to je međusobno približavanje onih dvaju svjetova, čiji dodir znači bezuvjetno kata­strofu: nihilizam, rezignaciju na hamletovski način, i pod tim lu­đačkim modusom samouništenja – smrt. Možda je to »iđenje ususret smrti« nesvjesnije nego mi to mislimo, i instinktivno, no faktično je da to umorni mladić Kamov čeka kao »konačno rješenje« i kao izlaz iz zapletenosti svih onih životnih, ovozemaljskih i prekogrobnih problema, koji mu raspinjahu dušu, mutijahu mir stvaralaštva i stavljahu misli u nered. On sa smrću računa ne baš oduševljeno, jer tako nitko ne želi sebe likvidirati ni u najočajnijem momentu, ali predosjeća nužnost vrtloga, koji će ga povući iz ove glupe i dosadne površinske ustajalosti na šutljivo grobno dno. U dubinu, u dubinu, kliče mu mlada duša, svi nervi i sav um. On ječi bolno u duševnim ranama onemoćale mladosti, a to iz njega urliče i plače čovjek, koga su svukli i gologa ga išibali, popljuvali, ismijali. Izbijen, Kamov ipak ne klonjava do gogoljske pokornosti i puzanja, on je, sve tako ponižen i srušen, ipak još gord i superioran u donkihotski ustrajnom pristajanju uz svoju ideju i nepomirljivost s publikom, s gomilom, sa silom. On se ruga svojim ugnjetačima, koji su ujedno ugnjetači sviju slabih i porobljenih. On postaje buntovan do neizdržljivosti. On na svim linijama sprovodi konzekventno svoje revolucionarstvo i neslaganje s glupom većinom hrvatske javnosti i »kulturne oligarhije«, davajući, ako ne socijalni revolt, ono bar nesklad morala (izmišljenog i iskonstruiranog u građanskim zakonima) na jedan podvaljivački sablažnjivi način beskrupuloznog mladića (»Nema zakona vrhu mene i umrli su zakoni za mene … nema mi mjesta među ljudima i kažnjiva je riječ moja…«), željan pijane strasti bluda i alkohola, u neobuzdanom iživljavanju strasnog zanosa za ženu-bludnicu i za ljubav, nekad patetičnu, no nerijetko i prostituisanu sa centralnom tačkom u punom zadovoljenju »živinskih instinkata«: »Pođi pred oltar… a onda… u hladne plahte kreveca…, alkohol bijasmo bitka, alkohol bijasmo puti« (»Kitty«). Ta ljubav, vratolomna strast i čulni nagon prkosnog isticanja geni­talija, to je često puta toliko silna gromada seksualnog afekta, da mrvi moral i predrasude malograđana i kao »moral insanity« tjera da sablazni i perverznog veličanja seksualnih odnosa. Kod Kamova je to iživljavanje jedne mladosti, na uštrb moralnih shvaćanja konzervativnih artističkih usidjelica, neusiljeno, jer je nužno i uslovljeno onim bolnim krležijanskim osjećanjem ništavila i vlastite prolaznosti, i u očajnom trzanju kao smrtni trnci ono prožima i autora i čitaoca, kao nesumnjivi znaci neprobudive i vječne hladnoće. Samrtnički hropac Kamovljev nije sâm od sebe, no nije ni od straha, najmanje je pak silovan, – on je zato, jer sam Kamov tako hoće, jer je svjestan svoje nemoći i uzaludnosti svakog suzdržavanja, i jer je svjestan dotadanje dostatnosti, a u buduće – suvišnosti.


Teško bi bilo odrediti, dokle će psihologijska sposobnost Kamovljevog talenta razviti karakter njegove proze. Svakako je tačno, da bi mu bujnost temperamenta i revolucionarnost misli posmetali kod uspona do psihološkog vrhunca isključive psihologije, a da se pri tom ne razlije slobodno od psihologijskih do socijalnih kota literarne prostranosti, i tako – ne možda da pokori – već ublaži isključivost psihološkog razmatranja. Slučaj, koji je možda jasnije obilježen u sudbini i svršetku misaonog blizanca Kamovljevog – Ulderika Donadinia, za koga su kritičari tvrdili da obećava psihologije na varijantu à la Dostojevski, i koji je pao kao žrtva isto takovih unutrašnjih protivurječnosti kao i Kamov: borbenost socijalne naravi i nihilizam ličnog uvjerenja. Sve to odvelo je nesretnog Donadinia, kao i Kamova, iz teorijske ozbiljnosti psihološke analize, naučene kod Lombrosa, Sighelea i Ferria, u impulzivnost kritičara socijalnog nereda. Kamov, već u tako ranoj mladosti vrstan psiholog, ipak nije, kao ni Donadini, rođen da se razvije do takovog psihološkog pisca, koji će svakom sižeu, temi i objektu pristupati hladno maupassantski i realistički neposredno poput Stendhala, Zole, Andrejeva i Čehova, kao kirurg kad pristupa unutrašnjem seciranju ljudskog leša. U Kamovu vlada prije nered, zbog nemira, nego učenjački mir i staloženost; u njemu je sve disharmonično, još bolje reći: u njemu je samo vapaj za apolinskom harmonijom ljepote, stvarno tako »kržljave, mršave i šepave«, zablaćene sviješću, koja propovijeda – savjest, dok ta savjest i svijest i ljepota leži pokopana u dnu dna i uzalud ječi, kao povik »upomoć«; viče hoffmansthalovski prodirno, u osjećanju diskrepancije stvari i pojava, što muče i gone neizbježivo u donadinievski očaj, ludilo i smrt. To je stiliziralo konačno – ne samo njegov intelekt i karakter, već i njegovu književnost, njegov književni karakter i intelektualizam. Otud je svijet Kamovljevih priča donekle srodan svijetu iz Dostojevskijevih romana (no svakako bliži fantastičnom maštalaštvu Poeovom), koji se bliži opisu životnog dna i ljudskog taloga, mladom Gorkom i Čehovu uopće: luđaci, manijaci, hulje, paralitici, neurastenici. Taj svijet kandidata stenjevačkih (Kamov je na nesreću sâm takav kandidat, ili ludnice ili groblja, pa što odabere), kandidati tamnice i smrti, u Kamovljevoj prozi zahvaćeni su u manjem obimu, ne samo po opširnosti opisa, već i po ograničenosti koncepcije – što je i razumljivo kad se uvaži kraći vijek Kamovljevog stvaralaštva. U Kamovljevoj svijesti tek se počeše javljati prvi patološki motivi ljudskog zločina i pokvarenosti, i poduprt nastojanjima i otkrićima Lombrosovim, on brže stavlja to na papir, nervozan od žurbe i napetosti nerava, ne još toliko »motivirano« psihologijom, kako je to nadnaravno uspijevalo velikom Rusu, ali zato bliže socijalnoj uslovljenosti kolektiva i društva. Bez mistike i bez mraka, u punijem svjetlu znanstvenog otkrića, to što je Dostojevski bezumno izbjegavao! Kamov te svoje »patološke tipove«, koji nisu uvijek patološki s medicinskog stanovišta, već iskreni i časni individualiteti, i zato običnom građaninu nerazumljivi i ludi – ne iznosi iz mržnje prema čovječanstvu, već iz mržnje prema zlu i dvoličnosti u ljudskom rodu, zbog onog odvratnog socijalnog kastiranja ljudi na ljude i neljude, na manje vrijedne i na one privilegirane, misleći uvijek svim svojim simpatijama na dobrobit malih i siromašnih ljudi, grozeći se bogatašima, snobovima i silnicima. Na Kamova bi se mogle primijeniti njegove vlastite riječi uz leš pjesnika Kranjce vica: »U njeg ima trpnje, ali ne askeze«, najmanje pak prevrtljive, farizejske i katoličke, one prividno moralne i svetačke, stvarno fanatičke sumanutosti iz straha za vlastitu budućnost, ne toliko ovozemaljsku, koliko nebesku, u redovnom toku svog građanskog života. On ne bježi od ljudi poput onog Maupassantovog pustinjaka, kojeg besprimjerna vlastita razbludnost i rodoskvrnuće goni na kajanje i askezu, već iz osjećaja neslaganja s ljudima i njihovim životnim zakonima, bez obzira na vlastiti udes.

Zbog toga i zbog svega danas se Kamovljevi spisi još uvijek ne čine tako bezopasni, kao što se mnogima čine djela Dostojevskog; nakon dvadeset i više godina ona su još uvijek goruće aktuelna da se s rizikom preštampavaju i objavljuju hrvatskoj javnosti. Svjedočanstvo njegovih savremenih nakladnika o nepovoljnom dobu za izdavanje Kamova nije samo karakterizacija našeg vremena, već i karakterizacija Kamova. On još uvijek ostaje u rukopisima i rijetkim zastarjelim izdanjima, pristupačnim samo odabranim bibliofilima. Zar je premalo od njega ostalo, i od toga previše nemirnog, da se sav objavi svijetu kao pisac u najpotpunijem smislu književnih zadataka? Kao dvadesetgodišnjak Kamov je ostavio više nego bi se moglo očekivati od njegove mladosti, zrelije i ozbiljnije nego je to običaj među svršenim ljudima dubokih staračkih godina, renomi­ranih književničkih imena i ne na – indexu.

[i] Janko Polić Kamov rođen je 1886. u Pećinama kraj Sušaka.


Janko Polić Kamov – sabrana djela

All four original volumes of Kamov’s work, with dust jackets. Published by the ‘Otokar Keršovani’ publishing company in Rijeka. Edited by Dragutin Tadijanović, artwork by Miljenko Stančić.
Vol. 1 – Pjesme, novele i lakrdije 1956
Vol. 2 – Isušena Kaljuža 1957
Vol. 3 – Drame 1957
Vol. 4 – Članci i feljtoni – pisma 1958
Kamov sabrana djela

Lirika Janka Polića-Kamova 1921

kamov-kritika-1921Kritika – književno umjetnička revija – January 1921 edition contains part one of this essay about Janko Polić Kamov’s poetry by his brother Nikola Polić.



„Ja sam plamen, ja sam mač“. (Heinrich Heine)

Još prije dvanaest i više godina — kao i danas — bili su stihovi Janka Polića – Kamova predmetom čudjenja i izrugivanja baš one štampe, najširoko-grudnije pa i prama najmladjima. Stihovi ovi, još uvijek neotkriveni, uranili su prije zore u crnom, ponornom i ponoćnom kliktaju vječno neumorne, vječno žedne i vječno nesretne duše. Sudbina svih iskrenih pjevača. Sivi, tmurni je albatros to poletio grozničavim platnom razderanog neba, ne pazeći na pravilni i ma­tematski lijet aeroplana. Za to su mnogi kazali: Evo ptice, koja leti loše!

Daleko prije Krleže, njegovih simfonija i njegovih nasljedovatelja živio je kod nas jedan — nazovimo ga tako, akoprem netačno — intelektualni, individualni, pa makar i aristokratski boljševik, Spartakus par exellence, raz­likujući se od današnjih time, što u ono vrijeme ne bijaše ultrarevolucionarnost u književnosti moda, šablona i reklama.

Tada se radjala — odvojena od nacionalizma — hrvatska, upravo zagrebačka moderna, pod protektoratom Velikog Meštra Augusta Drugog, koja je dala nepismenoj našoj javnosti nekoliko odličnih i gotovih književnih profila. Ta čisto lirska Plejada, zanešena i besprikorna, umjerena i tiha, nenasrtljiva i nereklamna, pjevala je starijim ritmom, ali uvijek novim emocijama i novim senzacijama, uvijek tradicionalno vezana uz ustaljene forme, da nastavi svojim vidicima i putovima — sama, zamišljena, daleka od savremenog neukusa, bez kompromisa ali i bez zaraze. Matoš, koji je — danas to mi svi pošteno priznajemo — znatno influisao na ovu plavu i mladu radost naših dana pasjih, nije djelovao nikako na unutarnji razvitak lirike Janka Polića-Kamova, akoprem je njihov put, kao i sudbina, bio gotovo kongruentan. Konkurencija, blagorodna gospodja Jalova bila je izmedju njih bespredmetna i nemoćna. Obojica proganjana od službene, doktorske i profesorske kritike, sastali se, vodjeni podzemnim putovima čitave Evrope u Zagrebu, kod „Frankopana” dabome, a zajedničko im je bilo samo grlo i mizerija našeg tričavog i tračavog ambienta.

Grupa oko Matoša pjevala je samo lijepo i o lijepome, osvojena rezignacijom i tišinama. U lirici Janka Polića – Kamova ne osjeća se ni najtanji trag svega toga. Moglo bi se općenito reći, da on ružno pjeva o ružnome. Anacionalan i prognanik, bez doma i bez pratnje, rabiatan i krvav do srži, on nije kanda pripadnik plemena S. H. S. Grabancijaš, ali ne onaj kafana i promenada, proputovao je do svoje osamnaeste godine pola Balkana, većinom pješke, po Gorkijevom uzoru, da nakon šest godina naiđe na svoj kobni i glupavi finale tamo negdje u španskoj Barceloni, što li je?

Taj tragični skitnik bez maske nosio je po cijelom svijetu, u srcu kao i u mozgu svirepu, viseću, veliku i crnu viziju, a njegovo ostentativno komadanje duše i nerava nije bio nikad sport, literatura i danguba.

Grupa oko Matoša, otmena i izrađena, nalazila je često svoju inspiraciju u neplaćenoj bijeloj kafi i to nije vic, zaboga! I Polić – Kamov imao je svoju Muzu, manje diskretnu, ali zato vrlo, vrlo ordinarnu i brutalnu, sastojeću se od četiri prapočela svih dekadenata: duhan, alkohol, žena i histerija. Njegov su moto ova četiri stiha:

„Ja ljubim bol i patnju i gorčinu
u živoj rani!
A zaborav ću ljepšu nać’ u vinu
Neg u nirvani!“
(Strast bitka)

Alkohol je postao njegovom vitalnom potrebom, stvarajući od njega izraziti tip fiziološkog alkoličara. Svaka njegova pijača svršavaše ludim, konvulzivnim plačem, koji je ridanje, i svaka prolumpovana noć bila je jedan grč, jedna etapa, jedan fokus u ludom njegovom i bezglavom životu. Avaj, nije to rujno, rujansko, đulabijsko vino naših opjevanih Gorica! Nije to satirski, pudarski smijeh sa Vidrićevog Prekrižja i sa Haulikovog baroknog Maksimira. Nije to vino radosti, o kome pjeva Vilko Gabarić u svojem nasmijanom Vinogradu. Rakija, teška, olovna, vampirska rakija kitila je ognjenom aureolom ponorni pad njegovih ponoćnih strofa. To je lirika mȍre, što mori modra, muzička i mirna morâ. To su vizijski grčevi, okovani histeričkim plačem kao krvavi, razulareni bičevi:

„Nakvašeno, crno platno kožom
joj se zmijski svija
i kroz njega trzaj mesa u
ružičnom dahu sija.
To je žena trudnih sisâ
što sa neba sapu traži…
a morski je cjelov pljuska i grebeni nokat draži“.

Taj nas nenaravni, ali zdravi perverzitet malo zbunjuje, kad saznamo, da je to pisano u doba, kad se inače pjevaju soneti prvim naborima zaljubljenih hlača.

Samo jedna alkoholom povaljena strast kadra je rađati stihove guste i masne u embriu bolnog, bijesnog, bolesnog i bespomoćnog neutaženog užitka:

„Kroza zastor mast se cijedi ko sa smokve mast sladčine
pod raskošjem bujnog neba, po kome se priča lijeva, zalutala iz pjesama
ljiljana i cedrovine“.

Pijani, crveni, krvavi i crni su to stihovi, kao boje na nekoj ustalasanoj, nemirnoj, neurednoj, burnoj i grozničavoj paleti:

„Duša dršće; to je priča zašaptala sa nebesa
u bojama, što se mijese u Gomori, na istoči,
kad se miješa karmin krvi, crno kosâ, bijelo mesa.
Duša dršće ko da akord jedna tanka struna toči
navinuta, ištipana, strašću prsti izbijena:
Bješe riječ, što se proli, klikćuć’ u šir: žena, žena!

I ta pjesma (sonet) nazvana Poezija služi kao sentenca čitave te lirike, noseći u sebi sve jake karakteristike onog Polića – Kamova, koji još nije pošao na Zapad i na Jug, da svoj bujni, burni i bojovni duh smiri ironijskim rezignacijama i izigravanjem vlastitog srca. To je bila lirika bluda: čisto primarna i nejasno jasna, sa krikovima i trikovima duše što srlja, riga i pijucka.

Pjevači hrvatske mlade lirike (1908—1914) nisu nikad izravno pjevali ženi mesa, o fiziološkoj životinji i beštijici, shvatajući je tek kao kostur ili kao hostiju na oltaru svojih blijedih i bijelih vizija — i to ih je sačuvalo na pristojnoj visini, ne dajući im povoda, da se banališu i provulgare. Malo imade pjesama iz ove grupe, gdje bi fizis bio osjećaj, rima i ritam.

Drukčije je Polić-Kamov opjevao ženu, o kojoj najviše pjevaše, jer je ona meso njegovih rima i bȉlo njegovog ritma. Njegova žena ne udara nikad u pianino i ne voli da siše krv hrizantema; ne prelijeva se ona u zelenom otrovu što pada na noćno, usnulo i prigušeno svijetlo. Njegova je žena svačija i ničija, prostitutka iz najcrnjih dna života, što draži, svija, kida meso ispija mozak. To je persiflaža Turgenjevljevih Liza i Gjema, Dostojevskijevih Aglaja i Sonja; ona se približava Carmeni, crnom kriku seviljske svile i omamnom dimu Belladonna cigarete.

„Amo te ženo jeftinog mesa i skupog plača,
s haljinom trulom što vjetar snese ljudskog sred drača;
umor je zadro pospane crte na tvome oku,
a muški prsti modrice tupe po tvome boku’,
na tvome mesu svi smo mi pošli koracim’ grubim
i naše stope pričat će svijetu kako se ljubi.
(Blud duše)

„Dođi o trinaestljetna s valovljem nabrekle kože
ko koža napete svrži,
o živo takni me meso i s puti podatnom tvojom
i ovo savjesti sprži“.

U istom posvećenom hramu, u toj tišini tišina, sluša on krvavo golicanje bluda, grijeha i mesa:

„Orgulje bruji hramom,
a ženska grla raskvašena s poja
po njemu srču samom.
O nema stvora toga,
što ženskih struna ne bi lizno zvuka
u hramu istog Boga!“
(U hramu)

U ovim se pjesmama ništa ne retušira. Ovo je sve snimljeno na licu mjesta, u punokrvom nekom transu. Suvišak potencije, koji izbija poput čira.

Ali on nije uvijek napeto griješan. U časovima dobre volje on će zapjevati i Radičevićevim žargonom:

„O tuda prođite noškom: čarapa obijest joj zakri i none u crno zavi;
Planut će eter, kad proljet izdane požudno sapu i suknje o tijelo savi.
Šuškat će daleka priča: košuljom ovita tankom kroz goru prošla je dijeva
i tud je prosulo nebo i suze i podsmjeh i ljubav
i po njoj rosulju lijeva!”
(Nova proljet)

Samo onaj pjesnik, koji od iskona nosi povrh svih životinjskih ekscesa, u orgiji plamena, visoko gore, uvijek gore i gore jedan bludni, sveti i griješni vjeruju, kadar je da završi knjigu pjesama potresnim i ciničkim grčem poput Polića – Kamova, te svoju Golgotu krvi, požara, mesa, duše i nerava zaključuje đavoljim krstom Ridanjem jedne bludnice. Začepite uha, vi blijedi i eterni! Zakrilite oči vaše, mili i slađani! Okrenite se u grobu, vi, te u miru počivate! Pjesnik, pošto je slomio korbač na šiji glatkog i jeguljastog Snoba, pošto je pljunuo, formalno pljunuo na sve lijepe i nebeske vidokruge, te nakon što je prouzročio skandal, javnu sablazan, pada k nogama jedne jadne, ordinarne, glupe i zaražene bludnice. Ne iz prkosa, već zbog neke unutarnje, nesavladive i vizionarne ljubavi. On laže, kad se upoređuje sa Raskoljnikovom, ne iz proračunanosti, već iz samilosti prama sebi: on ljubi bludnicu, ženu na križ pribijenu, on ljubi sve ono vanzakonsko. Braća, čudna, čudna braća. Taj konačni rušeći povik nije kombinovan. Doživljeno je to, krvavo doživljeno. Crni taj liričar nije pjevao ženi obligatnim i mirisnim pervezitetom D’Annunzia iz brijačkih i modnih salona; njegovo ženstvo nije parfimisani žargon neumrlog Marcel Prevosta; nije ni pikantni sos za komije i sobarice Guy de Maupassanta. Taj gusti, masni i čemerni slador zalutao je tamo negdje sa biblijskih obala Salamunove pijane pjesme nad pjesmama. Vreli, uzavreli potok pobunjene krvi, što teče i nikad ne prestaje. Ta je dekandentska lirika — prepotentna i taj paradoks spada među aksiome, kad se citira ta neburžoaska i nesalonska lirika.

Histerija bauči i strahuje tu prekidanim i neuređenim ridanjem i izbitim, rastrganim smijehom, te siječe i reže njegove tanane, fine, ženske i razbludne usnice. Jedno nemirno sunce vise pred tim crnim Bosjakom, te poput Stanka Vraza ne poznavaše kompromisa između pjesme i života. Život je pjesma, pjesma je život. Dok i današnji književnici posjeduju spašenu životnu egzistenciju, Janko Polić – Kamov nije bio niti korektor. U pjesmi je živio, pjevajući kroz cijeli život nonšalansom La Fontaineovog cvrčka. Pitanje hrane, novca, odijela, stana i kuće bilo je tako daleko od njega, pa pošto je izdurao i najjadnije dane, plašila ga je samo pomisao na mir, dom i sitost.

Tom pjesniku, dalekom od svih koterija i škole, osporavahu pravo pjevanja, upućivajući ga na novinarstvo, na fejton, na bablju republiku. Po shvatanju kritičara, bilo je to njegovo „pravo polje rada”. Koliko kuriozne gluposti i stupidnog prenemaganja bogom nadahnute i na čast doktora promovirane kritike. Još i danas nekoji kritičari drže i Matoša lošim pjesnikom, držeći se valjda one „kritičar je gospodin koji se pokadšto miješa u ono, u što se ne razumije”. (S. Mallarmè.)

Polić-Kamov dao je svoje najpersonalnije, najkamovskije radove upravo u lirici, ne imajući preteča, počevši od sebe samoga. Ta elipsa bila je bez fokusa i jakost izraza njegovog stiha nije ni manja ni slabija ni providnija od najjačih verzova S. S. Kranjčevića, nadmašivši i autora Mramorne Venere svojim rapsodijama na prebitoj harfi (S gladi, Sunce, Dan gospodnji i t. d.)

U stvaranju silno nejednak, kao oluja što nosi na svome krilu tišinu i grom, on će nakon sadističkog buncanja zabugariti bukoličkom finesom razmaženog i suptilnog pjevača:

„Pod sunčanom krošnjom od zlatnijeg granja
Ko prašak im zlaćani list —
Poneso se smiješak što cjelove pruža,
a cjelov i draškav i čist.
I zadrhta atmos što pobud raznosi
i poljupce baca ko lud
i reko bi: negdje s plamtećega boštva
talasa se nečija grud.
(Nova Proljet)

Nije li to — čudno — kristalna slika vedrine i krajobraza:

„Cisto je nebo ko djetinja sanja
ko crno s ptičijih oči;
a sunce s dražesti mirisnu blagost
kroz oblak modrine toči“.
(Nova Proljet)

Ali tih svijetlih momenata ima malo kod njega.

Velika je griješka, upravo znak katastrofalnog i fatalnog neshvatanja, što gotovo svi nazrijevahu u njegovim stihovima ideju, tendensu i uvodni članak za anarhistična glasila. Pjesma ne pozna ideje, pa bila ta ideja i najbizarnija. Pjesma je samo izraz — kap sunca ili kap otrova. U pjesmi je Bog ili Ahasver. Metafizika ili rusvaj. Pjesma može biti plava, modra, crna, crvena, siva, ljubičasta, ali nikad komunistički — crvena, anarhistički — crna, nacionalno — trikolorna, naivno — plava i t. d. Takve pjesme uopće nema, a onaj, koji traži utilitarski ili revolucionarni monstrum u poeziji, neka traži i halbcilinder na olimpijskoj i prozirnoj glavi Monne Lise. Pjesma je tu radi pjesme, a žalosne su ambicije onih, čije stihovi imadu zadaću, da ruši sisteme. To su stvari Tolstoja, Lenjina, Radića, Bogumila i prvih kršćana.

*     *

Ispitana Hartija i tragični psaltir Psovka natrpani su abisnom bujnošću jedne crne, otrovane, beskućne i besnene lirike, koja nikad, vaj nikad ne zna za samotne i tihe senzacije uspavanih, muzičkih soba, kad pianino šuti i žuti se miris muti u miru zlaćanih mušica, u odsjevu slika i u bolovima strasnog jorgovana. Taj Ahasver sekundirao je moguće i besvijesno Cvijeću zla, samo što mu manjka linija, mjera i zlatni rez Bauderaireove strašne i tanane, muzičke ruke, koja će istim zamahom pogladiti zelenu kosu i savinuti gvozdenu šipku. Mi nemamo ni danas simpatičnih nasljedovatelja te poezije, koja je sakrivena u nas. Marjanović ga je jedini bez viclanja primio u ono vrijeme, prigovarajući mu ipak rimama, izrazu, stilu, dikciji („Suvremenik“ 1907.) ne znajući, da ovo nije knjiga za sladokusce, te da u tim stihovima nema spomenarske, secesionističke, donhuanske i zlatousne vibracije Xeres de la Maraja, monumentalne i dosadne širine Vl. Nazora i usiđeličkih suza Mihovila Nikolića i D.D. Domjanića.

Polić-Kamov nije kumovao mirnoj, modroj lirici, koja smatra svaki stih jednom cjelinom, jednom gotovom vizijom, jednim savršenim i svršenim unutarnjim titrajem, ukratko: jednom kombinaciom. Mirna je lirika našla svoj klimaks u pejzažima, harmoniziranim i jedinstvenim Wiesnerovim sonetima. To je život u košnici, deputacija k seoskim tornjevima, muzika sjenâ zastora i zvončići neba. Drukčija je arhitektura stihova Polića – Kamova. Njegova čitava knjiga, pa da je napisao i deset knjiga, sve bi to šumilo pritajenim orkanom, vrludavim strujama, razbješnjelim valovima jedne jedine pjesme, jednog jedinog stiha. Jedan njegov sonet nosi teret jedne jedine riječi i cijela je ta lirika ispravno okrštena štipajem. Da se jasnije izrazim: nije uzor-pjesnik, ne ulazi ni u koju antologiju, nije akademik i deklamator. Ovo nisu stihovi za recitaciono veče. Do smiješnosti katkad subjektivan, personalan do ekstrema uvijek, smatra knjigu vulgarnom i formalnom ispovijedaonicom, gdje je on, autor, i ispovijednik i griješnik, a čitaoci sveta inkvizicija. Ta je ispovijed zaglušni krik, od kojega će puknuti bubnjić u otmjenom uhu g. Popovića ili će pozliti ciklamskom Domjaniću.

Progonio ga je ovijek onaj krvavi, neboderni krik Marijev iz Tragedije mozgova: Probudite se živ u grobu! – kojim je zanosno i uhodrapateljno završio i Psovku. Ta grozna, strašna i crvljiva vizija, ta Poe-ova romantična i groteskna senzacija provlači se cijelom ovom lirikom, koja se nikad i nikad ne odmara u sjeni vrbinih pramenova i koja nikad ne ugleda kućnog praga obećane hemlje. Bez doma. Bez domovine. Bez ičesa. Bez korijena. Bez sidra. Ukleti Holandez. Jedna neugašena, žedna i bijedna želja, čežnja za eksploziom, za praskom, za gromom, za požarom, za provalom vulkana. Sve to bez futurističkih snobizama. To su pupoljci na majskoj, procvjetaloj svrži otrovanog, prokletog bilja, a prsnuvši, cijedi se iz njih paklena, crna i crvena smola. Odatle i indignacia ondašnje publike, te sitna, sita i žabarska psikaše nad ovim prvijencem čistog, nelicitarskog srca gospodina Bosjaka, koji ostade uvijek Gosparom. Ista nabikulenska i dembelska čeljad prošla je cinički, triumfatorski povrh umornog i viteškog srca Lazara Heine-a, te u smrtnom hropcu žali, što čovječanstvo nema jedne glave, pa da mu pljune u lice crnu, mrtvačku pjenu.

Prem nije poznavao Heine-a, nabasat ćemo često u Ištipanoj hartiji na čisto hajneovske šlagere, koji imadu katkad onu ženskiju od ženâ ciničku zlobu, ujed i frivolnost. Primjerice pjesma pod mističnim naslovom P. S. ima intonaciju, kao i ugođaj autora Buch der Lieder. I u Novoj proljeti kao i u „Mrtvoj Diani” viri ovaj umorni, žalosni i ružni žalac:

„Sjećaš li se? Nova proljet ponijela me k našoj klupi,
po kojoj su sjele sjene:
oličiše novom bojom i nasuše gustim pijeskom
sve što bješe uspomene.
A meni se nešto misli nasmijava crnim mozgom
ko kad jesen lišće mota
i pomišljam, bogzna tko će, da se tvoga hvata pasa
da te ‘nako opet smota!
O, ne drhti! Nije prezir! Negda bijah — znaš me dobro —
preko tebe težak i ja!
A sad možda kumpanija, da, i cijela regimenta
nije teška kad te svija!“
(Nova Proljet)

Svinjarija! Kaj ne? Praštajte, gospodo suci, moraliste, bašibozuci i eunusi! I Magdalena je griješna, a Polić-Kamov oprao je taj cinizam životom i jednom od svojih najumornijih, najljepših nostalgičnih pjesama Kitty. Ovi su nedelikatni, soldački stihovi skrojeni prokletstvom i nije nikad ružan onaj, koji diše previše iskreno. Taj cinik nije, nije cinik, jer je prošao kalvariju srca i pakao duše.

Ta drhtava, razderana i carmenska muzika ponoćne pohote ne zna za blage i tople nijanse pastela i akvarela, jer se ruši u nekom divljem i crnom prahu beskonačne disharmonije, koja je vrlo daleka od drakonskih zakona gospodina Bacha, Johana Sebastiana. Što bi bilo od njega, da ga poznavaše Skerlić, koji je onako po prstima lupio Pandurovića i jadnoga Disa, inače dvije blage i mirne dušice.

Kad danas, nakon deset i više godina listamo tu krajnju ljevičarsku i mladenačku liriku, posrtavamo svakim stihom u ovoj današnjoj blaženoj i učmaloj, selendarskoj monotoniji. Ovi krvavi trzaji, i one crne strofe tralaliču u pijanom i nakvašenom ritmu jedne ognjene konjice, poput đavolje fuge sa bezbroj temata u vječnoj, nezadovoljenoj stretti. Jedno more žeđi. Jedan bezdan prošnja. Flauta i fanfara. Prokletstvo i šumski mir. Tonika i povećana kvarta. Evo, kako zvoni tišina u ovom labirintu:

„A glava bukti i polijetava k’ zidu,
da tresnem njome! . . .
Svet, svet je prasak, a blagosloven Gospod
u miru svome!“
(U mrtvoj noći).

On ne zna za mistiku i u noći ne vidi modru boju violončela, oboe i šumskog roga. Ne sjeća se zelenih, dubokih tišina, a mliječni, vitorogi mjesec izaziva kod njega persiflažu simbolskih i samotnih Vrbanićevih jablanova:

„U toj tmini sovuljastoj ko da lažni privid gaca
i sa sjena bezdušnijeh religije usne krive —
i u gluhu atmosferu umišljene dogme baca,
jablanovi strše u vis ko mesnate duše žive“.
(U nagonu).

Jedna negacija cijele naše lirike. Tamo od Vidrića, Dučića, Rakića, pa preko Wiesnera, Ujevića do Krleže, Šimića, Vinavera i Crnjanskog.

Kad se pojavio, bilo je u troimenom narodu duhovitih danguba, koji udariše u beskonačne burgije, neshvativši, šta više, ne pročitavši tu osebujnu i nikad neepigonsku liriku. Svaka se, pa i najboija stvarca dade izvrći ruglu, a tadanje Zeuse fejtona zbunila je i preplašila ta kuštrava. neelegantna i neštucana prilika, koja je svakom zgodom istupila smjelo, bez rukavica i bez hrizanteme u zapučku.

Bujnost, organsku cjelinu svog pjesničkog izraza kvario je često hotice i znalice nesklapnim stilističkim šiljcima. Vikao je, urlao, zaglušno, nenaštimano pjevao, bančio i strahovao u nekom herostratizmu, koji nikad i nikad nije bio poza ili gesta. Jezik, stil, tradicija, dikcija, Kosovo, Petrova gora, Croacija i t. d. bijahu mu stafažom za nemoćnike, a glupost što urla od Triglava do Vardara, slušao je u Torinu, u Barceloni, u Zagrebu i u Rimu: jer svijet je jedan. Prsnuše okviri Hrvatske, puknut će i remenje Jugoslavije, jer svijet je i opet jedan. Duša, koja živi, ne mari naći Nirvanu u drevnoj Heladi ili na tavanu kakve kamene kućice u Puntu, na otoku Krku.

Ne priznavaše a priori čistoću, plemenštinu i sigurnost stiha. Sveta Jednostavnost je njemu kao i Janu Husu znak gluposti i zlobe. Porušivši arhitekturu stiha, gubi akademsku vedrinu čiče Emersona i poeziju zdravlja, nacije i pobjede. Za Vidovdanski hram ne mari. Klasična, zvučna linija postala je bog te pita što. Ta je plamena lirika daleko od svih dobroćudnih, poltronskih forma; pa ipak je Polić-Kamov uzajmio od Dante-a tercinu, a od ostalih sonet i oktavu, valjda za to, jer ga je privlačila diabolika Dantea, Rinascimenta, papâ i kršćanskih perverziteta.

Poput Ahasvera ne zna za mir i dobrotu i ljepotu i taj čovjek morade umrijeti mlad — kao kaplja — jer je ritam svojih nerva našao u burnom udaranju bȉla, te najnormalnije udaraše stoičetrdeset puta u minuti.

(Svršetak u drugom broju).

Nikola Polić

Antun Barac – ‘Fiume’ in English



(passing impressions, July 1919)
by Antun Barac – translated for the first time by Martin Mayhew

Three beautiful, sunny, autumnal days. I don’t know what happened. In a single morning all the ties snapped, that were holding the voice in the throat, that loosened the links, that were chaining the feet, the heavy and rigid mask fell, that was hiding the face. A quiet whisper, which spoke curses and revealed a howl, scattered itself like a wild, holy cry of joy, whilst a hand, a pathetic hand, taught to give a servile and official greeting, extended for the first time in a bold gesture of belief and confidence in itself.

We went onto the streets, in processions, assemblies, groups and we sang and cheered. And everything was so sunny, bright and light. And everything was clear and cheerful and happy in the beautiful, clear autumnal day.

In the barracks there were soldiers, and they were cheering. In the hospitals there were wounded, and they were singing. The soldiers came out onto the streets and were firing their guns. After four blurry years it was the first time that the firing meant joy, after four sombre summers it was the first time that a bullet didn’t mean death, but life. And it was as though that shot, which was now rising into the air, was a symbol, as it rises and as it falls.

On the chests flowers and tricolours. In the windows flowers and tricolours. On the streetlamps, on the telephone poles, on the makeshift stands flowers and tricolours.

In a red, white, blue, green colour, in the grey colours of joy, ecstasy, hope and belief, on each flag, that flutters, of elation, love, sympathy and adoration, which the flag as a symbol means. In the red glow of love and brotherhood towards everything and everyone, in the whiteness of the cleanliness and sublimeness of ecstasy, hope in the new world, that was being created.

We went out onto the streets and sang. We welcomed the foreign troops and sang. We threw flowers and sang. We welcomed ships from foreign countries and sang. “Call out, just call out… Viva la France! Allons enfants de la Patrie!…” And the children of the homeland arrived, and laughed, and danced, and cheered.

Here people just walk around and cheer and sing” – they say, wrote home one French sailor. “Viva la Yugoslavie!” His compatriots cheered – and in their scepticism and in their laughter for the sake of laughing and joy for the sake of joy we felt the first stab of disappointment and misunderstanding.

In an isolated corner an old hunched over woman was sobbing. “Woman, why are you crying?” – asked a voice – I don’t know whose, and I don’t know where from. “In every joy there is a note of pain, in every laugh a seed of sorrow”, as though replying to somebody’s voice – who knows whose, who knows where from?

Three beautiful, clear, sunny, autumnal days. Three days of song and clamour and ecstasy. And then – armoured cars, machine guns and horses on the cobblestones and pikes, stretching up high, rigidly, arrogantly. In the port heavy ships with cannons aimed at the city, on the street assault troops with helmets, rifles, knapsacks and ammunition belts.

Three beautiful, clear, sunny, days passed. And nothing to show for them. Only a difficult, long winter with clouds. Just a cold summer with raindrops, that with the ‘bura’ and rain even the tears froze. Just a gloomy spring without light or sun.

Maybe a time will come, when all the ecstasy and elation will seem ridiculous to us. Maybe a period will come, when every sense will be reduced to a mathematical or chemical formula. I only know, that even then, when I was in the height of national fervour, I felt no desire for revenge or hatred or malice – the days of the greatest joy were days of forgiveness for everything, to all who had oppressed us, days of national liberty, a time when love for everyone was the most lively, the most conscious. And in those days of intoxicated delight and love, that had boiled over, the clenched fists, clashes and attacks were the end of everything.

I don’t know what happened. In just one day with a wild roar they began to tear down the tricolours of red and white and blue, and in the windows, on the streetlamps, the houses, the buildings, the churches suddenly others appeared – red and white and green, with a star and a coat of arms. Everywhere the coat of arms and everywhere the star, and everywhere fanatic hatred in the faces and fury and poison in the looks. “Italia o morte! Fuori il straniero!” Whilst the straniero thoughtfully stops and thinks: “Who in fact is the stranger?

In these sombre days of waiting and incertitude, desperation and zeal, it is so difficult to be alive and carry all the heavy burden of the present; however it is hardest to be human. So many times I have felt the pain and burden of life, but the worst thing was when I felt the aching shame, I didn’t feel fear for myself, but for those who persecuted us, the shame of man, that chaotic, disproportionate mixture of beast and god. The beast, wild, brutal, vicious, kicking and rearing up, and the god, sublime, the ashen sceptic levelling with it, taming or incensing it. And in the battle of animal with god like the battle of a bull with a toreador – the white, red, blue, green colours, that they have signifying a symbol, they stimulate it, intoxicate it, they extol it, bring it to an ecstasy of madness and rage. Fiume, the yellowish-grey, deceitful animal, from the eyes of which peer the envy and intoxication of excessive enthusiasm, throws itself, snapping, howling and moaning into exhaustion, until it falls bewildered, unconscious to the ground.

Therein the roar is so quiet! Therein the crowd is so uneasy and lonely. In this racket our steps reverberate so eerily. Oh, the whole of this city, whose number of inhabitants doubled in a few months, as it turned into a huge, grey, isolated monastery, where the shadows succumb to the wolf, hollow songs reverberate and the voices of muffled prayers drone. And thus it is miraculously quiet and in the murmur, so terribly calm in the constant throng.

Why call this city Rieka, when it is – Fiume. Reka, Rika, Rieka – that sounds so sweet, placid and childlike like the nostalgic “ca” and “ča” of the people of Drenova, Plase, Trsat, reminiscent of the sunny gleam of the stone walls and enclosures scattered with rocks and brambles, amongst which, in spring, blossom such beautiful and fragrant violas, a modest and shy flower. It is a city with a filthy physiognomy and with an inner self bland and murky, like the murky Fiumare canal, the dead water that cries for it. The Fiuman is a separate race, not belonging to any one nation. It is a mixture of everything that has come to this merchant city to trade – of everything, of many things. The Fiuman is both an Italian and a Yugoslav – an Italian, born of Yugoslavs and brought up as a Yugoslav, who cheers at the top of his voice: “O Italia o morte!, the Yugoslav is a quiet and timid beast, hiding because of his interests of his national origin with a neutral, inexpressible, merchant’s sneer. Whilst the Riečanin, Recan, Ričanin – they are the masses – they are the nameless mass, who don’t ask, quantité négligeable, they are the inhabitants of the workers’ houses, basements and attics, the servants and labourers, small artisans and assistants, the masses, who have only one head, and who would, maybe, with just a single blow fall. And that is the characteristic, external image of the city – Fiume, Fiuman. And in this fatal exchange is the source of all the illusions, all the efforts and all the miserable disappointments.

Years and years of timid and quivering yearnings for the city of Kvarner and in that name I will stop with everything, that was the dearest and utmost in life – but then the bloody realisation, that it was all just a yearning for childhood, for the sea, for the days that had gone forever. Yet there is no city, there is no childhood and there is no sea. There is only Fiume and Gomila and Fiumara – a murky, stagnant mire, like a feeble residue of exacerbated human passions, without the strength that it vanishes, without the strength that it stirs up, rises, moves.

Corso. An evening stroll. In the looks a glow and depth, in the gestures a yearning and yielding to love. Yet the whole city seems to shiver from one single deep gaze, which rises from the bottom of the soul and seeps into the bottom of the soul, and the whole city seems to twinkle from love, that is only the soul, only the soul. Whilst down, in the depths, inside – ah, there is no soul and there is nothing, the base and desolation and emptiness. And the whole of this city and all these people who rousingly speak and shout and wave – the whole of this city has no soul, and everything, that moves it, is the basic animal life. And its voice is not the sublimeness of ecstasy nor the size of reproach – everything is just a roar, clamour and mania. And the moment will come and everything will boil over and everything will disappear, what froths up and what rises up – on the empty bottom will remain just Fiume, a city without a soul and without physiognomy and a notion without features.

Over five bloody years ten times in the memory of the sparseness and irritation of the nerves the city howled and ten times they changed the inscriptions and ten times in a fanatical irritation the masses passed over their old idols. Today on the ruins of everything, a fiery rage triumphs in the proud satisfaction, that with the greatest lie it refuted thousands of its little lies and that in the deafening cry it suppressed everything, that protests, that rebels. Because that cry is not a lie, because this fire of enthusiasm isn’t hypocrisy. It is Fiume and everything is Fiume. And to whomsoever this Città di San Vito belongs; whosoever flag will flutter next to the double-headed eagle with the yellow-blue symbol – will win, I’m afraid of Fiume, and with a shout of honest enthusiasm the malicious cry of a lazy and cunning animal will intervene. And that is my fear and it will be a drop of bitterness in that moment, which we will surely never live to see.

What can enthral a man in this city, in which culture and supremacy are denoted by the black marks on the walls and the holes in broken inscribed tiles? In our weakness for it there is a weakness towards one’s own past, which is contained in these pavements, street corners and quays, a weakness towards the whistle of departing steamships and the whiteness of unfurled sails, that awoke our childlike imagination and tied it to this place, that doesn’t love us. In our trepidation towards its destiny there is only the fear for those miserable, unknown, oppressed thousands, who just silently accept the blows and ridicule and the stamp of inferiority. We understand that the sinful must repent the sins and perform penance those, who have deserved it. However what did the little pale children commit that they must suppress their voices in their throats, the only one with which they are able to express the feeling of happiness in the joy and drive of wickedness in the game?

Our feeling of attachment with this city isn’t a feeling of love, but a feeling of pain, and fear, and hopelessness in the sense of a wounded animal and disgust and revulsion. Because it is just Fiume – and Fiume is not an organism, not a concept, not a soul, but something colourless and tepid and tensile, that with its odour tears at the nostrils and throat, and intoxicates and commits evil. And here nothing enthrals and here nothing is attractive. The love of this city – ah, it is an illusion, it isn’t love, but an escape from it, an escape to the blueness of the sea, the sigh of Trsat, the greenery of Opatija and Volosko and the serene vistas towards Kostrena, Omišalj, Cres and Ika. Everything that nature has warm and soothing and soft, is gathered around this city, to shield it, to protect it, to conceal it. And the reason why its poison didn’t act. In the moment when the heavy shackles fall from the chests and from the legs and from the hands and from the tongues, from all sides pale children will rush and shower it with flowers of love, forgiveness and it will forget all the insults, all the blows and all the threats.

From Školjić to Kantrida – one and the same street and one and the same image: houses without expression, without style, stores, shop windows, markets. In the place where there is only trade, all the houses are built on clear commercial principles: with the least expenses – the highest rents. Houses without physiognomy, without souls. In the city, where everything is measured purely in monetary measures, the friars had also taken advantage of the few metres of free space around the church and built umpteen little rooms for shops. Trade is not permitted in the temple, however it is better in front of and around the temple. The city of fifty thousand inhabitants did not give up one single man, whose name would be recorded in the history of culture and art, and wishing to somehow christen their streets, the fathers of the city were having to reach back for names from the mother countries: of Hungary and Italy. In a city of fifty thousand souls there is not one monument, and the only highpoints on the streets are advertising posts and lavatories – as unintentional symbols of it, as if it is the only purpose in this place. I love and appreciate trade as a means, but as soon as it becomes the meaning of life, it becomes both the negation and profanation of all higher values. And that which people would have to make them happy, to lead them ever upwards, throws them ever lower. And Fiume is deep, so deep.

Amongst its great evidence for being Italian the supremacy of Italian culture is prominent in Rijeka, the culture of the Italian is greater than that of the Yugoslav. Whilst the first glance at this city shows that it has, in general, no culture, not only of its own, but no culture of any kind, and that, which in the moment could deceive the eyes, is just glued on, that is easily washed-off by the rain or over night, when the city’s new generation is over-patriotically disposed.

The fun fairs, public houses, buffet bars, cafés, cinemas. All dirty, all abandoned, all in disarray. The dirt of the port as though it passes into the city itself, into every corner, every alleyway. This relatively large city is not capable of supporting a permanent theatre, whilst the companies, which are hosted here for a month, twice a year, can only be supported by the subscriptions of Yugoslav misers. In the place, where all the sights are just negative assets, such are the values and the two most important characteristics: Rijeka’s Gomila and Rijeka’s street gangs. The heart, the centre of the city, consisting of ancient ruins, disgusting mansions with narrow and winding streets, where the sun never reaches and where streams of undignified liquids flow freely; dangerous, dark corners, smelly inns, and women, and beggars, and drunks. While Rijeka’s street gangs they are a mighty gutter army, an abandoned mob that attacks the schiavi, that fights selflessly and fervidly for the lofty goals of the city’s fathers and less selflessly, for the needs of life. And that is – Fiume.

In the days of liberty, in the days of the universal love of forgiveness, a grey monster howled, that calls itself Fiume, with a howl of hatred and revenge. In the days, when kisses and expressions of brotherhood should have rained down, it prepared itself for secretive bites, punches and stabs. And why wasn’t the punch stronger, that is just the deceitful cunningness and feeling of weakness alongside all the abundance of gesticulation.

Fiume November 1918Is this city ours? Ours are those thousands and thousands of silent beings, who resignedly just wait, eternally waiting, thousands unarmed and unlawful, who upon the punch and the bite correspond with a speechless look, who upon an energetic nod from their masters sign up dutifully and without opposition, not asking: “Where to?” – It doesn’t matter, what they’re called. In the ascertainment of their anguish there was the justification of a love for them, from their speechless mouths comes a call for resistance, for rebellion, for liberation. And that is why, as their national consciousness is not strong, as the term of Yugoslavism has not developed in them yet, their pain is even stronger: it is the consciousness, that despises them, that brands them without reason, without cause, that they oppress the concept of man in them. Yet theirs is the main feeling, the feeling of shame, that they belong to a common creed unlawful, powerless, weak – and with the sense of the joy of life is mixed some dreary feeling of their own inferiority, a state of neglect before the mighty.

Whatever happened, whatever the fate of this city, I will not complain and I will not pity those, to whom the street corners, the banks, the ships and the warehouses belong. Alongside all of their Yugoslav tricolours, were also the Fiumani, and in their pre-war silence and chivalrousness were hidden the subterfuge and calculating attitude of the merchant, who goes just for the money. I won’t grieve for them nor for the legion of those, who over three lovely autumnal days cheered, sang and carried banners. I will only grieve for the pale little people, as their half-spoken “ča” chokes in the instinctive fear before the sharp glance of contempt and superiority…

Long, difficult months of waiting. Events, attacks, parades. Soldiers, soldiers, soldiers. Italians, French, Americans, English, Indo-Chinese. Ships, automobiles, aeroplanes. Carabinieri, bersaglieri, granatieri. Infantry, sailors, lancers, gunners. Crowded and mixed and multi-coloured. Smugglers, detainees, fugitives. And the inns and basements reverberate and glass shatters and girls scream, and blood, wine and champagne flow. Fiume goes crazy and howls and rages.

Yet that’s what it wanted and so sullenly and so sombrely. Like the shadows we loiter only around the corners and we disappear in the corners. Whilst the sun stings and the truth stings. However, the shame against man stings the most of all, for man, as he oppresses his own brother. Of all these people of various colours and uniforms the most likeable are the Annamese (Vietnamese from the French peacekeeping forces), yellow, silent, mysterious, calm creatures with a sick nostalgia for the East and a blunt lack of understanding for all of this colourful, noisiness and craziness. Why are they here and for what use is the secret, eternal pain for the motherland? The same feeling in them, that they protect us, and in us, that they protect. A feeling of pain, shame, submissiveness, disgrace.

Mornings and afternoons and evenings pass. And nights fall, long nights without sleep, when below the windows the hooves of horses clatter as they pass by, heavy cannons boom, the steps of soldiers reverberate. And the city stays silent and the river stays silent, and the sea, in a troubled uncertainty. Just above the houses glimmer the large, light letters: Viva Fiume italiana! And the shining sign and the shining star, so that the brothers can see on the other bank. And they in despair and hopeless expectancy hide their heads amongst the pillows, so they see nothing, so they hear nothing, so they feel nothing. And everything is dead, rigid, uneasy. And everything is sleepless yet in a dream, without a break, without rest, without peace, without joy.

It just sleeps like a fatigued beast, dreaming maliciously and in that sleep of new bites and stabs, the grey formless masses, Fiume sleeps, a city without soul and without physiognomy.


Sva prava pridržana / All rights reserved.

antun baracAntun Barac (1894 Kamenjak near Crikvenica – Zagreb 1955) was an important literary historian and writer, who was an advocate for the publication of Janko Polić Kamov’s works. In 1917 he established the influential publishing institute ‘Jug’ in Zagreb with other writers. Amongst the books they planned to published was Kamov’s only novel Isušena Kaljuža written from 1906-1909, but this never happened.

Barac spent the unsettled period after the First World War from 1918-1924 in Sušak (the eastern part of today’s Rijeka) working as a professor at the secondary school. During this period he wrote this short, stark, even poetic essay Fiume, in which he describes the unpleasant events and experiences in the city of Rijeka at the time of the arrival of foreign peace-keeping troops whilst the city’s fate was being decided in post-war negotiations, and just upon the eve of the arrival of D’Annunzio and his soldiers. It is interesting to note that Barac was most likely reading the still as yet unpublished manuscript of Kamov’s Isušena Kaljuža during this period and that it may have influenced his writing of Fiume. This text was first published in the journal Njiva in 1919.

Barac was also the originator of the idea to publish a collection of the complete works of Janko Polić Kamov, which finally saw the light of day from 1956-1958, amongst which the novel Isušena Kaljuža was printed for the first time almost 50 years after Kamov wrote it.

Thanks to Igor Žic

Kamov – ‘Isušena kaljuža’ English extracts

Extracts from my work-in-progress translation of Janko Polić Kamov’s revolutionary, modernist novel ‘Isušena kaljuža‘ (working title ‘The Dried Up Mire‘).

These extracts are from the first part of the novel ‘Na dnu‘ (‘At the Bottom‘).

isusena-kaljuza-cover-insetThey set off on a walk. Across the square passed a funeral, a long cortège of men, women and some kind of craftsmen’s guild. The music slowly followed the sad and boring step, under the gloomy sky, on the unbearable Sunday, which had closed the shops, cleaned the marketplace, brought people out for a walk or made them yawn at the windows of their houses. It was after noon. There were people at the side, who were looking blankly at the procession. The colourful robes, both genders, young and old, all with the same looks, which were neither of sadness nor curiosity, but of a kind of long, protracted and half-dead look, that notices nothing, but sees everything. The tolling of bells rang out like somebody’s voices breaking up then returning, sinking and re-merging like a castaway at sea. Arsen stared at the coffin. Behind it there cried one young woman, throwing her head wildly into a handkerchief and twitching her shoulders as though wanting to shake off some burden. One gentleman was reconciling her, but she just shook her head all the more wildly and the sounds like a torn crack came crashing down onto the white coffin and the stinking corpse inside it. “She’s crying” and immediately Arsen wants a young woman to cry for him upon his death too, dressed in black, with red-hot cheeks, and that she throws her head into a handkerchief and touches her tears with her nose. He was moved. He was watching her listening to her sob, captivating, sweet and rich. “Yes, this kind of sobbing…Whilst I would be lying inside damp planks, on which the paint had not yet dried. In gold writing:Arsen Toplek – the people will read and whoever remembers that they knew this man will feel sorry for the dead youth and also for that dark, red-hot woman who cries for him…Even she is young…”

sprovod“No, brother workers! Our struggle will be as peaceful as our conscience. And whoever interferes with our conscience, let them quickly realise, that our conscience is the conscience of millions.” There then erupts shouting and clapping amidst the raised arms, which were flailing around in the smoky light. Arsen, agitated, not being able to handle the feelings of fear and elation that were unconsciously gushing out of him, seizes upon the impression of those arms. To him they seemed blackened and scraggy, bristling like the fingers of a huge beast that would lacerate the world and blow apart existence. The same man continued, raising his voice, as though the past of a destitute old drunkard was emanating from his mouth.
At that moment the police broke down the door with bare sabres and called upon them to “disperse in the name of the law.” Arsen didn’t hear what happened next. Several chairs were knocked over, some glasses were smashed and the restaurant began to empty. Inside a sabre still flashed around as did several bare heads that couldn’t reach the door immediately. Arsen felt a sharp blow to his back, and then the thrust of pale people trembling from anger and fear pushed him outside. Only then did Arsen see two guards striking a woman with their sabres on the other side of the street and shouting something unclear he moved closer. But they immediately left her, because at the other door the guards were still scuffling with the crowd, which was resisting with sticks and offensive shouting.

policesabresprincipTranslated from the original Croatian novel ‘Isušena kaljuža’ written by Janko Polić Kamov (as yet not translated or published in English) by Martin Mayhew

Sva prava pridržana / All rights reserved


U potrazi sam za sponzorstvom ili drugim oblikom financijske potpore kao i prikladnog izdavača (za tisak knjige ili e-book verzije) kako bih završio svoj prijevod svih djela Janka Polića Kamova. Na prijevodu sam njegovih djela s hrvatskog na engleski jezik radim od 2012. godine. Tijekom tog procesa stvaram jedinstveni rječnik fraza i arhaičnih riječi koje Kamov koristi u svojim djelima, kao odraz i osobnog autorskog stila ali i vremena u kojem je pisao. Taj bi se rječnik mogao koristiti od strane budućih prevoditelja zainteresiranih za ovo značajno razdoblje hrvatske književnosti.
Molim vas, kontaktirajte me ako ste zainteresirani.


I am looking for sponsorship or funding and a suitable publisher (printed or online) in order to complete my translations of all of Kamov’s work. I have been working on translating his works into English since 2012. During this process I am compiling a unique glossary which could be used by future translators interested in this important period of Croatian literature.
You can read more about my work here: interview
Please contact me if you are interested.

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isusena kaljuža

Unusual blue cover…