Janko Polić Kamov – Lacerba, 1913

In the 15th June 1913 issue of the Italian literary journal ‘Lacerba’ there appeared a page of maxims entitled ‘Accenni’ attributed to one ‘Gian Paolo’.

‘Lacerba’ was published in Florence from 1913-1915, edited by Giovanni Papini and was associated with the emerging Futurist movement. This particular issue amongst others also featured pieces by leading figures such as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Ardengo Soffici, Max Jacob and even an illustration by Pablo Picasso.

Kamov’s text appeared alongside the works of Pablo Picasso, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Ardengo Soffici.

Vladimir Čerina, an exponent of Kamov, was also a contributer. It was most likely under his auspices that these fragments of Kamov’s maxims were included under the pseudonym of ‘Gian Paolo’, in ‘Lacerba’ in 1913 three years after his death. Čerina had alluded to their publication in his study of Kamov published earlier in the same year, although they were not properly authenticated until the mid-1980s by Tonko Maroević and Dragutin Tadijanović.


Gian Paolo – Accenni

translated by Martin Mayhew from the Croatian translations of Tonko Maroević

A good way to forgive someone who is angry at us because of some non-existent insult is to really insult them.

If a man just wants to grow old and remain permanently healthy there is no more useful exercise nor better exposure to the fresh air than begging.

The greatest number of fatherly and nitpicker’s advice resembles the sign on certain entrances: “Closed”, and which cannot be read when the door is open and the doorframe is up against the wall.

Within human contradictions there already exists man’s belief that there are none.

I was infuriated by of the noises that people were making below my window and I only fell asleep again when I found out that they were horses.

On one foot life wears a cothurnus, whilst on the other a clown’s slipper.

The one who is carrying the lamp will stumble sooner than the one who is following him.

The wheel of fortune transports the upright but breaks the bones of the recumbent.

I cannot imagine anything more insane than our life, our Earth, our people and our comprehension of this insanity.

The ancient, incurable cancer of philosophy: contrary to the misconception of ordinary people who believe that they understand something just because they see it, it, however, assumes that it sees something just by thinking about it.

At the moment of death there is no more extravagance because death is the ultimate extravagance.

Dying one doesn’t recognise the present only the future and the past.

In their most sublime notions philosophers always describe a single circular line; I however happily note their arrangements as architects mark the lavatories on the ground plan of some building, it’s like a circle with a dash… Each one has a dash which serves as a handle.

I (perceived empirically) detest myself (perceived absolutely), the dreadful demagogue who resides inside me.

If decapitation did not deprive life, nobody would worry about it.

Man’s eternal hunger, the insatiableness of his heart, does not seek more abundant food but more varied, in other words, it wants a meal instead of just grazing.

To a dumb animal the world represents a unique impression, and in the absence of two it doesn’t even know to count to one.

Spiritual beings are similar to the physical who, according to the opinion of ancient Romans, had to touch the Earth in order to learn how to speak.

It is easier to sacrifice oneself for people than to love them.

Clothes are a weapon which beauties fight with; and, like soldiers, they discard them as soon as they are defeated.

Great spirits begin to despise themselves first of all.

Rather than his duty man does more than his duty.

The greatest blessing of philosophy is not that it makes us happy when we are in distress but when we are happy.

If Miss Robinson Crusoe found herself on a deserted island with no one else but her own reflection in the water, she would nevertheless make and wear the latest fashionable clothes every day.


Translation – all rights reserved © Martin Mayhew

Note: The 15th June 1913 issue of ‘Lacerba’ can be found for sale on the Internet and I have only come across the front page and not the page featuring Kamov’s ‘Accenni’. If a copy is available I would very much like to see it in order to compare and back translate the Italian versions with the Croatian, and therefore improve my English versions.

Janko Polić Kamov English extracts

janko polić kamov signatureJanko Polić Kamov portraitSome selected excerpts from my translations of the works of Janko Polić Kamov, the early 20th century, Croatian, pavement writer and poet.

 “I toured the universe and this is where I had to stay forever and I was not in the slightest bit tormented by the thought of when all of this would come to an end, will I find anyone or would I expect any change. So I remained like this for centuries… When I woke up, it was still not midnight.”
Catastrophe (Katastrofa)

“Her smiling eyes, darting wanton looks. She rested them on her lover’s profile like a bird landing on a branch, chirping and then flying away.”
Behold the Man! (Ecce Homo!)

“I became ever more cold and derisive. I would stand in the street and watch the crowds, how they bow, curtsey, dandily, and I was repulsed most by the neat, beautiful and elegant people.”
The Beard (Brada)

“Sweet, good, humble and warm like a small loaf of bread, she warmed my teeth and my heart and her breasts sizzled under my fingers like apples frying in wine…”
The Earthquake (Potres)

“But, oh my! Do I crave female company. It seems to me that it does not make one stupider, as is rightfully claimed, but that it clarifies and invigorates like cognac when you drink it from a small glass.”
The Suit (Odijelo)

“A million incandescent rays, sharp, incisive and thin, pushed themselves into my pores, and there the sky was covered with gold dust and the sea, soft and azure…”
The Village (Selo)

“Your apparition is thus stolen by the twilight and it seems to me that your shadow still trembles on the walls of my little room. And I love that shadow, I look at that shadow, I reach for that shadow.”
Woman (Žena)

“The sun is in the west. Its last flames melt through the drawn curtains. Glowing fragments of something invisible are falling on my head. Visions of molten metals, feelings and images dance in front of me. My eyes are hot, my throat is dry, my back on fire.”
Freedom (Sloboda)

“But one thing I know: I could not cry or kiss my sister now. Everything seems tight, disgusting and unbearable. A forced kiss on the icy face of a corpse – that’s what we all are and that’s what she is. That is our sorrow and that is our love!”
Sorrow (Žalost)

“Occasional wisps of smoke wavered in the air, like fragments of sentences uttered in delirium. The forest and the plain and the Sava and the hills had something feeble and faint about them, like a sick person who has just risen from their bed.”

“And so – spring tapped along on young, breezy, little legs wrapped in shiny stockings. And the forest sprouted leaves like the noses of young girls peeping through a tiny window.”
The Dried Out Mire’ – novel (roman – Isušena Kaljuža)
Never before translated into English

The original Croatian language texts can be found at: http://www.kamov.hr/
more Kamov:
Kamov’s novel, Dora Maar and Picasso, Croatian avant garde
Kamov’s poetry in English
more of Kamov’s poetry in English

**** Coming early 2017 – 12 short stories *****

kamoc shorts stories

You can read more about my work here: interview

More Kamov…

Get more Kamov in English quotes on Twitter

An original collection Kamov's of novellas and essays. Published in 1938 by Hrvatske Književne Naklade Neovisnih Književnika, Zagreb. Editor Ljubo Wiesner.

An original collection of Kamov’s novellas and essays. Published in 1938 by Hrvatske Književne Naklade Neovisnih Književnika, Zagreb. Editor Ljubo Wiesner. Interesting how the cover has the title in Cyrillic whilst the inside the actual text is in the Latin script.

Illustrations by Milenko Bosanac from 'Janko Polić Kamov by Vladimir Čerina' (1968, Zagreb) A collection of short stories, essays, columns, poems and dramas by Kamov and Čerina.

Illustrations by Milenko Bosanac from ‘Janko Polić Kamov – Vladimir Čerina’ (1968, Zagreb) A collection of short stories, essays, columns, poems and dramas by Kamov and Čerina.

Janko Polic Kamov signature JP Kamov Milenko Bosanac Milenko Bosanac 1 Milenko Bosanac 2 Milenko Bosanac 3 Milenko Bosanac 4 Milenko Bosanac 5Milenko Bosanac 6kamov_čerina back_coverkamov_čerina front_coverU 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.

More Kamov…

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