Recenzija prijevoda kandidata Martina Mayhewa za članstvo u DHKP:
„Prijevod je sačinjen uspoređivanjem nekolicine izvornih verzija pripovjedaka. Postoji raniji prijevod izbora Kamovljevih priča…, a još je nekolicina priča objavljenih po književnim časopisima, ali je do sada Kamovljev opus bio relativno slabo dostupan čitateljima iz engleskog govornog područja, pa je ovaj novi prijevod dobrodošao. Kamovljeve se priče odlikuju duhovitošću, senzualnošću i jetkošću i Mayhewov prijevod vrlo uspješno dočarava i humor i ironiju i emotivna stanja autora. Iz njegovih popratnih tekstova vidi se da se prevoditelj sustavno bavio istraživanjem izvornih tekstova i autorova rječnika. Mayhew pokazuje istančan osjećaj za odabir prikladnih riječi i izraza i zorno prenosi čitatelju svoj entuzijazam za Kamova… Recenzent preporučuje prijam kandidata Martina Mayhewa u članstvo Društva hrvatskih književnih prevodilaca.”
On 13th November 2020 the new City Museum of Rijeka opened in the newly renovated palace of the former sugar refinery. I have been involved in the translation of all the texts featured inside as well as the accompanying promotional material for the new museum since March 2020. This has been a massive task and I am extremely proud to be involved.
Here is a small selection of photographs of the interior, the new displays and exhibits that you can experience. The photographs do not do justice to the atmosphere inside. If you want to know more about the history of the city of Rijeka then I thoroughly recommend a visit to the museum.
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 Job Mojsije – Moses Pjesma suncu – Song to the Sun Intermezzo Dan mrtvih – Day of the Dead Ledeni blud – Icy Debauchery Finale
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.
It is also available to buy from the publishers Modernist in Varaždin.
The Croatian-Turkish Society of Rijeka was founded on 30th November 1995 with the aim of promoting friendship between the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Turkey via a programme of cultural, scientific, sports, economic, religious and social activities – and in March 2021, there was an exhibition on Rijeka’s Korzo that detailed and celebrated this close 25-year friendship. I was honoured to be involved as the English translator for the Hrvatsko-Tursko društvo, Rijeka.
Issue 1005 of the Yugoslav informative weekly VUS – Vjesnik u srijedu (Herald on Wednesday) published in Zagreb on 4th August 1971 contained an interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono by the Croatian journalist Konstantin Milles (Miles). This interview has seemingly never been published in English. So, I decided to translate the text as it was printed in VUS. Obviously my translation will not be an exact transcript of the original conversation but I think it provides an interesting insight into Lennon’s thoughts on communism, Yugoslavia, art, politics and of course The Beatles.
Konstantin Milles interviews John Lennon and his no less famous wife Yoko Ono. Lennon now claims that the “communist press” did not make much of a mistake when it previously wrote that the “Beatles were a weapon of capitalism and imperialism” and that he attacked his former colleague Paul McCartney for being a right-winger (read “conservative”) , that George Harrison immersed himself in religious mysticism, and he says that Ringo Starr never knew or understood anything. “I woke up”, Lennon says about himself.
“It be must here!” the driver said to me, turning around in his seat. “This wall looks doubtful!” Shortly before that we had rushed out of the centre of Ascot, about an hour’s drive from London, and now we were driving down a narrow road that meandered through an unusually dense and beautiful forest, with only glimpses of old mansions built like former castles and small country houses. Only the richest residents of London live in this blessed corner of England.
The wall was three metres high, made of stone, at least two kilometres long. When we got to the end of it, I spotted a group of American hippies, standing at the gate and staring “lost” inside. At that moment, I realised two things: that we had indeed reached Lennon (which in the given circumstances had only a practical significance) and that the persistent rumours about the decline of the Beatles’ popularity were not in the least bit true – even though they no longer existed as the Beatles but as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Later, during the conversation, Lennon gave me a very convincing verification of the financial-statistical type, which surprised me a little… because pop music was always something I had never been “in to” to such an extent that it could satisfy any of its ardent admirers.
About three months ago I had sent Lennon a telegram asking to meet up again. I had been to London a few times in the meantime, but we still hadn’t met. I knew why: he had been travelling unusually a lot again lately, and that, unlike in the past, it was due mostly to “private business.” He had been in New York twice to track down Yoko’s son (sic – daughter) with the help of the local private and official police and fabulously expensive lawyers, and to take the boy (sic – girl) back from his (sic – her) father, Yoko’s first husband through the courts, (Yoko later told me that her “dad” was also involved, and when I asked her if it was true that her “dad” was a rather rich Japanese banker, she burst out laughing and said: “Well you see, John can’t complain that he’s poor, but his money is peanuts compared to what my family has in Tokyo. I know it’s not tasteful to talk about it, but, you see, when I was little, I was told at home that there were only three families in all of Japan, apart from the imperial family: the Mitsui, Mitsubishi and my family.” I said: “Then that means that together with the Mitsuis and Mitsubishis, it was, in fact, your family that prepared Japan to enter the Second World War!” Yoko Ono calmly replied: “Yes, that’s right! These have always been the three most powerful families in Japan… something like the Japanese Krupps or Rockefellers… the owners of real empires of banks, companies, industries. It is natural that my family is connected to them anyway, besides business. Let’s say my brother doesn’t work with his father, he works for Mitsubishi.” I couldn’t resist asking her how she got along with “dad” and “mum,” considering what she had “done” and what she was “doing.” She said: “In the beginning, they simply fainted, figuratively speaking. Then they, at least I think so, found a solution that suited them best: they concluded that we were nevertheless a family who could accept everything!”)
The very same glasses
I had a great, almost three-hour-long interview with Lennon in the spring of 1969 in Amsterdam. However, there then came the famous Beatles’ breakup (something he had hinted to me indirectly back in that first interview) and a series of Lennon interviews, mostly with the American hippy press and the most biting trends of the “new left.” I suddenly found Lennon interesting again. All the more so since in several interviews, he had mentioned his great desire to see what was happening in Yugoslavia. We drove through the gate past that group of American hippies. Suddenly a huge white, snow-white or lime-white house appeared in front of us — painted just like the walls of Apple’s building in London’s Saville Row. (I remembered that Lennon had always been fascinated by white.) I walked up to the door and rang the bell. Two minutes passed, but no one appeared. I peeked through the little window by the door. In the room I looked into all that could be seen was a forest of film cameras, spotlights, power cables, ladders – all in a terrible mess. I pressed the bell again, but I didn’t hear its ring. I began to bang on the door, louder and louder. Still no reply. We walked around the house. Through one window on the ground floor, I spotted Lennon and Yoko Ono. They were sitting at a wooden table in a huge kitchen with some unknown people. Music was playing. I knocked on the window, feeling like Santa Claus. Lennon noticed me, put his hands together jokingly as if praying me to do something, and gestured to me to go to the last, fourth side of the house and enter through the door that came out to the garden. There I was greeted by Diana (Vero?), Lennon’s secretary and runner, an attractive and still quite young girl with the look of a typical London “schizo.” A little later we were sitting at that big wooden table in the kitchen (Lennon explained to me that the house was “a real madhouse” because the whole lower part was being converted into a film studio, whereby three rooms would be arranged as the Yoko Ono Personal Museum. At that moment, I remembered that I had completely forgotten the fact that Yoko was a sculptor, but not only that. But, more about that later).
John Lennon is now 30 years old. Nothing much had changed since our last meeting. This claim categorically warrants an explanation. In Amsterdam he had long hair and a beard. Today’s Lennon only has relatively long hair, he is completely shaved, because his beard has disappeared, and quite thoroughly: today not only does he, let’s say, shave with an electric appliance but shaves to such an extent, probably with two or three shaves, that his face is as smooth as a newborn’s bottom. He maintains his sideburns, “typically English” and ginger. The glasses have stayed the same: the “anarchist’s design” from the last century with a thin, totally round metal frame. Through their lenses, the penetrating gaze of two blue eyes greets the interlocutor. The look is most usually suspicious: suspiciousness has probably, and he has had a reason for it, become Lennon’s “second nature.” Jeans and a plain shirt with an unbuttoned collar, close-fitting to a rather well-built, but nevertheless weak body, which, together with the physiognomy, still acts like a dynamo. Just like that, seemingly weak, but full of some inner dynamics, Lennon is actually the image and figure of a young man who is liked by today’s girls (if you can judge by what kind of young men the most beautiful girls go out with in London, Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen… in fact, any Western European city – “Tarzans” seem to be simply out of fashion, and the glasses are more of a plus than a minus. Regardless of the fact that in England one of the great “sexual symbols” is Tom Jones, who still, let’s say, looks different, doesn’t he?) Lennon has his own opinion about this, which, admittedly, he expressed indirectly and inadvertently, almost inadvertently in one completely unrelated conversation. When we finished the interview and returned to the mansion from the park that surrounds it (it has the dimensions of Maksimir Park and like Maksimir it has its own large natural lake with reeds), we chatted for a while in the kitchen. Yoko told me how she met the famous Japanese writer who shook the world a few months ago with a failed coup attempt and then his successful hara-kiri. “One evening he was sitting right next to me, but he didn’t say a single word to me, which was just plain rude! He was otherwise a physically very handsome man!” At that moment, Lennon’s voice was heard: “Yeah, he was handsome. He was one of those crazy body-builders. He was in short – a homosexual! A notorious homosexual! I read somewhere that all the forces in the SS troops were like that! The most disgusting reactionaries and fascists were often like that!” Lennon said this calmly, as though the most banal of facts were being stated, but still, I could not escape the impression that not even hara-kiri could have saved the Japanese writer from Lennon’s aversion. An aversion that was not caused by the writer being homosexual, but simply because with his rude behaviour he had neglected the woman Lennon who loved to such an extent that the term “head over heels” is still valid today. It would be difficult for anyone who has not seen Yoko Ono in person to understand that she is actually a very handsome, physically attractive, beautiful young woman, full of that charming kindness that adorns all Japanese women, whether beautiful or ugly. The only misfortune is that – and I told her, and Lennon confirmed it with unusual zeal – that she is simply not photogenic. In every photo, she looks at least ten years older, the glow of her eyes is lost, the colour of her skin is distorted, the refined anatomy of her face is distorted… and millions of readers around the world wonder “what Lennon saw in her.”
Lennon wants to go to Yugoslavia
Whilst Barrie Wentzell arranged his cameras and I slowly set up the tape recorder, we sat and chatted.
“What’s new in Yugoslavia?” Lennon asked me.
“You have no idea how interested we are!” said Yoko.
At first I felt the temptation to simply reply: “Well come, and you’ll see!” Hic Rodhus, hic salta! But at first the main thought that run through my head was that their question was an expression of conventional decency, of attention towards a guest, who is from a small country, to which I am always allergic. Or that their various statements lately about wanting to visit Yugoslavia were in fact just mere affectation. However, I realised that they were both looking at me with serious, calm looks, with the look of someone who has asked an honest and serious question and who wants a serious answer has.
“What’s new, you ask?” Last time, in Amsterdam, I told you about the introduction of self-government in Yugoslavia. This is always new because it’s something in which something new is constantly happening. What is “old”, in a way, is that we want to show that something that no one has achieved so far can be achieved: communism plus personal freedom plus a high standard of living. But, we are not doing it in order to show the world that it is possible. We are doing for ourselves first of all. We’re not asking anyone to learn from us.”
“I have listened and read a lot about what is going on in your country. Yoko and I would be overjoyed if we could visit your country and see everything! So that we can talk to your people, to your students, workers and intellectuals, to tell them about our ideas, to show them our films…”
However later, in a completely different context, I realised that to Lennon some things about Yugoslavia were still not clear, although he sincerely loved Yugoslavia and its efforts (he told me that “strong vibrations” were coming to him from Yugoslavia, which has nothing to do with telepathy, as one might think, but is simply a term used by hippies when talking about someone or something who or what is doing some, most often mental activity that provokes their sympathy. In the broadest sense, “catching someone’s vibrations” means the same thing as “working on the same wavelength” in our jargon) however, some things connected to Yugoslavia are not clear. If everything about Yugoslavia was clear to him, he would certainly not have asked me the absurd question of whether the sale of his record Power to the People was permitted at home!
KM: So, the tape recorder is plugged in, checked and tested. We can start the interview. Please answer me one simple stupid question: “How are you?”
JL: I’m fine. And you?
KM: I’m fine too. However, please explain to me in a little more detail why you are fine.
JL: I understood the essence of your question exactly and I was just kidding. How am I you ask? In the full bliss of creative work! Me and Yoko are working like crazy. I get the impression we don’t have a minute to spare. Well, I just finished a new album (Imagine), which will be released in the autumn, we are finishing a TV film about that album… actually a film about ourselves, about us, Yoko has published a book that we will give you as a gift (Grapefruit) because we care about it a great deal, and two days ago she completed a theatrical piece (Film No. 12 – Up Your Legs Forever?) that will be premièred on Broadway in September. If you come, we’ll get you a ticket, I’m composing, we’re sorting out the house, Yoko’s making statues, which I’m sure you can see…
KM: If we can make an arrangement and you come to Zagreb, perhaps Yoko could organise an exhibition of her works there?
(Afterwards, I toured Yoko’s studio and “museum” in several rooms of the mansion. It is quite certain that an exhibition in Zagreb would be a sensation. And that even visitors who have little to do with art would come too. Due to certain circumstances.)
YO: Absolutely. Only some of your people might not like some of the exhibits! There might be some misunderstandings…
KM: I don’t believe that would discourage you. After all, you’ve already got used to it, here in London. But, you see, my consciously formulated question had one other subtext, so to speak. How emotional you are after everything that happened after our last meeting, particularly in recent times.
JL: We are in full creative bliss. And that, I think, means we’re emotionally excellent, too. Apart from that, I’m as fit as a fiddle.
KM: In many reports about you, in several interviews that you have given, the thought, like a leitmotif permeates, often highlighted in the title, that “the dream is over”, that “the dream has come to an end”, that you have “woken up”… all along those lines. Does that bother you? It’s almost as if the journalists agreed to point it out!
JL: But, that’s right! What happened before – was a dream! It was a youthful, pubescent dream. But, I’m not young any more: I’m thirty, man!
KM: You seem to be happy to talk about that dream!
JL: People think it that was a magical Hollywood dream. A story of four young men who succeeded fantastically. Yes: we had millions of dollars, millions of girls, at every step, after every performance, fame… but it was still a nightmare. Only we didn’t see it then…
KM: As you talk about it, you speak with bitterness. Everywhere, in every place. And you talk about it with some almost masochistic pleasure…
JL: I want to tell people the truth: that the Beatles’ dream was a mere illusion.
KM: Why do you think that?
JL: I realised that the ruling class was exploiting us, abusing us for its own purposes. You see, back then, at that time, we found it funny when the communist press wrote that we were “the tools of capitalism and imperialism.” I see they weren’t so wrong. We didn’t think we were creating revolution…
“We met conceited people”
KM: … and in fact, those who rule, those who hold the money and power, used you for their own purposes…
JL: It’s not so simple. The Establishment (the ruling class…. ) gave us a high medal, took almost all our money, gave us a medal instead of, let’s say, lowering our taxes… the people who we met on our tours were all just bureaucratic and plutocratic “money men”, police chiefs, diplomats, conceited… not real people. It was all so unreal! In the first ten rows at our concerts, there always sat the “money men”, “the fat cats”, their wives and daughters and they rattled with jewellery. In America, we were invited to a reception at the British Embassy and there we were treated like we were trained circus animals, penguins, even the ladies in gowns and their bastards cut off the hair of poor Ringo so that they could boast about it. Do you think that could happen to us in some working-class family in Liverpool, huh? But, nevertheless, it amused us, it was great for us. Now I’ve finally grown up. Now I will no longer allow anyone to exploit me for their own purposes, to fool me…
KM: You realised something more important. You, with your “Beatlemania”, as it was called then, in a way played the role of an “Establishment” tool because you channelled the amassed energy of the young people, the energy of dissatisfaction and protest, into safe and calm waters: long hair, guitar pounding, revolutionary clothing in place of revolutionary activity… And now you see, as you yourself said, that everything has stayed the same, that the same guys have the money and power, whilst others do not…
JL: In essence you’re right, but it’s not so simple. Maybe the “Establishment” thought so, however, we still played the role of a Trojan horse in some sense of the word. We did – and not only us but others too, nevertheless play a role that must be acknowledged – we helped young people to start thinking differently, to “liberate” themselves from the burden and compulsion of tradition, to start thinking more elastically, to start to see some things… Of course, we did wander ourselves… and that’s where I’m talking about myself first of all. Surely you remember: I was taking drugs, I tried to embrace some oriental religion… don’t you see how unhappy, confused, crushed I was by what had happened to me… and how desperately I tried to free myself, and that means to return to reality. At times it seemed to me that I was riding on an express train that was rushing towards a collision, and I couldn’t jump out of it. So, I repeat: we taught young people to start thinking differently.
Conflict at the end of the road
KM: You said that as a young man you were “class conscious”, and then you simply forgot about it…
JL: And who wouldn’t forget that, man?! Well, I was young, practically still snotty, when all of that fell on us. I completely lost my compass, all touch with reality.
KM: And do you think you have it again today?
JL: I think I do have it. I don’t dream any more. I’m no longer in a dream state. I’ve woken up and I think that’s enough… for a start.
KM: Did Yoko open your eyes, can we say that? I’ll try to remember. You The Beatles were actually Establishment pets, “decent kids”, darlings… whereas the Rolling Stones were persecuted!
JL: If you think that Mick Jagger is interested in politics and if they ever interested him – you’re wrong. He was just “performing”… and it was so brutal and vulgar that the Establishment was appalled. You see, let’s take the question of our medals. Okay, they gave them to us, but that’s why they were ignorant. A few months before that, the book Love Me Do was published, a brilliant book, which went unnoticed at first and only became known later. In that book the author published his conversations with me, in which I said clearly how much I hated the Establishment, the Queen, the palace, aristocrats, the “big money men.” If they had read the book, they would never have given me the medal. This way they just gave me a chance to give it back to them at the most convenient time for me.
KM: Derek Taylor (the Beatles’ former press chief) once told me that you were a communist by conviction. Don’t be offended, but I couldn’t believe my ears. And even after that, I couldn’t believe it.
JL:I don’t belong to any party, not even the communist one, but all my sympathies are on the side of communism. I believe in communism as a system to which the future of humanity belongs. Of course, I believe in that real communism… in the one that I believe that you Yugoslavs are trying to create right now.
KM: But, let’s talk a little about the breakup of the Beatles.
JL: We are talking.
KM: You see, when I heard that you’d broken up, I felt sympathy for you. Suddenly it was as if I realised you were an honest, fair guy. Don’t get me wrong, but to kill a goose that lays golden eggs… you know what I mean… So my question would be: Regardless of what was said and written, regardless of the rumours, there must have been something fundamental in that breakup, something more important than a simple personality conflict between you and Paul, a conflict over whether his brother-in-law would become Apple’s director or your man… that there was something fundamental and serious… something connected to art and something maybe connected to politics.
JL: Yeah, you guessed correctly. That’s right. Yeah, it was about politics and art. You see, Paul is simply right-wing (read “conservative”) and that’s it. I couldn’t take it any more, I couldn’t work with him any more. And as for the music, so art, let’s say…
KM: You came to a dead-end as a group, you came, put more precisely, to the end of the road.
JL: Yes. And that’s right. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that. We came to the end of the road. We couldn’t go any further if we wanted to go forward. But when we talk about politics, then it was a conflict between Paul and me, because he is right-wing (read “conservative”). The other two had nothing to do with that. George was completely immersed in religious mysticism, and as for Ringo… he never knew or understood anything anyway.
KM: Let’s return to the prosaic stuff. How are you doing today – financially? This is about the golden goose, of course!
JL: Believe it or not, I can tell you this: today we, by making records as individuals, when it all adds up… are actually making more than we ever earnt as the Beatles. Think of it: even Ringo’s records sell in their millions!
KM: I will say something about what others are talking about, but also what I also sensed in some unrelated conversations at Apple. The Beatles fell apart when Yoko appeared on the scene. Before that, you were talked about as one body with four heads, that is, four bodies and one head… Lennon’s.
JL: Yes, that is what was meant and in some way it was true.
KM: This other?
JL: Yes. You see, I don’t suffer from false modesty, but maybe from too much honesty… that’s what Yoko has just encouraged in me… which isn’t always healthy… but that’s how it was. Of course, it must have bothered Paul, it must have eaten away, God, it must bite. Whilst we were together, in order it went: me, then Paul, then George a little. Ringo never meant anything, but he’s such a great guy that he never got mad about it. He was always, so to speak, conscious of the limits of his abilities. However, if you think Yoko made us fight, you’re wrong: a woman cannot come between four adult men if they have some strong common interest. Besides, they also, as a matter of fact, had their wives, so that means nothing. We came to an artistic end as a band when we recorded our last double album. Later I broke up with Paul because he is right-wing (read “conservative”). There, so it was that simple!
Perhaps the most valuable thing was that we helped the young people to become mentally free so that they stop thinking in the patterns that tradition has wound them up in. – John Lennon
In July 1985 the interviewer Konstantin Milles was interviewed by Denis Kuljiš in Studio magazine:-
DK: Surely your most famous interview was with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
KM: I had two interviews with them. The first was when I found out through some fellow journalists in London that Lennon was travelling to Amsterdam with his wife. I was just about to buy a Burberry coat, but instead, I spent that money on a plane ticket and went to the Netherlands. I was asked for a visa at the airport there, but I didn’t have one. They took me to a supervisor who was a civilized native of Papua, very kind, who allowed me to stay. I found Lennon in a hotel, through his press manager, who allowed me to stay for ten minutes and talk about the act of lying in bed by which John Lennon and Yoko Ono were protesting for world peace… However, I stayed for three hours. I somehow managed to get a very good vibe from him, he was a very bright, and actually very handsome man. When I told him he was a pantheist, he didn’t hesitate at all to ask what that was. Yoko Ono was lying in her nightgown, and he was in his pyjamas, we were talking, whilst the head of the press kept winking at me to go out… Then Lennon threw him out of the room.
DK: When did you have the next interview?
KM: The Beatles had just split up, and Lennon had bought a house in Epson. In the beautiful ambiance, there was a white piano – Lennon played on it with one finger and sang to me. I intended to go and meet him in New York, for a third interview, but he was murdered in the meantime. He was pleased with our first conversation, he had said that it was one of the best he had given for a newspaper. I did send him a translation of the interview, it was about 40-50 pages long…
DK: Has everything been published?
KM: Only one part.
DK: Did you ever think of publishing a book of your interviews?
KM: Nobody made me an offer, and I didn’t want to. I’m quite lazy.
(Konstantin Milles died in 1989, he had no heirs because his son and daughter died before he did, both committing suicide. Konstantin’s widow died in 2017. Was his 1969 Amsterdam interview with John and Yoko published in VUS magazine – where are those interviews and tape recordings?)
On a lighter note, in 1969 John and Yoko posted 2 acorns to Yugoslavia’s President Tito (1 of 50 world leaders at the time) to be planted as part of their quest for world peace.
Janko Polić Kamov – Poe An extract – translated by Martin Mayhew
Turgenjev brings tears to our eyes; Maupassant tickles our lips; Poe makes our hair stand on end: the first grabs us by the heartstrings, the second by the spirit, the third by the nerves.
Tears, a smile and a chill – those are their comments, and not erudition. Because erudition is just the comment of comments and one hair of a sensitive intellectual is more competent in the understanding of Poe, than all the dissertations of bald professors.
To me Poe appears like an ominous bird, which has flown over the mute field of our inner self; and when it plunged somewhere into space, it left a shadow of its great, black wings behind itself. Or even like the memory of a cat’s eyes in the dark; of a dog’s tucked under tail on a deserted road; of a snake’s tongue on a scorched cliff; of the ridge of a dolphin on an oily surface and of the shadows of the deceased that pull us by the legs in a dream.
And this is why Poe is mysterious – because of the fear irrational like all beauty and mysticism, living buried in the hands of our psyche, where in the glory of the Absurd they were also born.
Poe’s life was quite miserable so even a Croatian literate could envy him………
This is an extract from the full essay that Kamov wrote in Punat on the island of Krk, 7th April 1910. The full text is available in the book ‘The Curse’ – the collection of Kamov’s poems which he published in 1907 as ‘Psovka’, translated into English. ‘The Curse’ is available as a paperback from Modernist nakladništvo here. It is also available on Amazon and all other ebook channels.
BENEATH THE AEROPLANE (impressions – an extract) Translated by Martin Mayhew
Italy is flying: in Turin, Milan, Verona, Naples, Bologna and – on page three of the newspapers. Horse, automobile and cycling races (all of these are a daily occurrence, and the cycling one has been annoying the whole peninsula for a week, or two) are interesting, but they aren’t thrilling. The ground is dust, when it isn’t muddy, even if it is asphalted. Humanity, symbolised as a reptile, is now looking for a symbol in the bird, and the 20th century is beginning to spread its energies into the air, as the 19th had spread them on the ground and beneath it.
On seeing the first aeroplane, Blériot’s elegant, light and I would say slender monoplane, which passed over the top of my head with the racket of an automobile and the ease of a white bird with spread wings – I had the impression of simplicity, harmony and naïveté. And an impression of piousness. I did not flinch not even for an instant: it would fall on my head; as I believed, when it rushed past, white, on the green grass, to take off. Faith is great, because it is young, as in those who were watching the Assumption, as the old painters particularly the mighty Titian show us. Even the scene is the same.
That man, dressed from head to foot like a diver who dives into space, gives the impression of a captain, of the greatest absolutist and a solitary autocrat on board and at sea. When he climbs into his aeroplane, the whole audience fixate their eyes on him, wondering: ‘Would we do it? Wouldn’t we? Is it the right time? Isn’t it?’ When this one man flies, everyone around flies. His ‘passion for space’, his craving now for height, for the caper, for speed, for the battle with the wind – the throng also senses it, in the eyes that are rising. And this throng of aristocrats to plebeians, of old men to little boys – is just a single child in front of the same wonder with the same emotion. And if the aeroplane cannot take off, the throng suffers just like the aviator; to us it seems: ‘we’re not able to fly – the machine has broken down and we are denied a joy’. And when the machine is damaged, everyone cries inside…………..
This is an extract from the full essay that Kamov wrote in Bologna, 31st May 1910. The full text is available in the book ‘The Curse’ – the collection of Kamov’s poems which he published in 1907 as ‘Psovka’, translated into English. ‘The Curse’ is available as a paperback from Modernist nakladništvo here. It is also available on Amazon and all other ebook channels.
Ema Božičević was born in Ogulin on 18th February 1879 and she died in Zagreb on 1st December 1942.
Her maiden name was Krajnović, in 1903 she married a mathematics professor named Juraj Božičević, who also came from the surroundings of Ogulin. They lived in Dubrovnik, Split and Zagreb.
The Collected Works of Ema Božičević was published by the Chair of the Chakavian Assembly of Modrus in 2018.
It includes the novel Alemka and two collections of stories for young people: Čarobni svijet (Magical World) and U carstvu ispunjenih želja (In the Empire of Fulfilled Wishes).
Ema Božičević – The Witch
Deep in the forest, there was a little, old house. It was all black from age and overgrown with moss and fungus. Nettles and thorns had grown around the house all the way to the roof. Yet from the chimney black and broken a thick, sombre smoke always drifted. At the door, there sat a black cat with green eyes and it caught the snakes that were slithering around the house. Around it at night wolves howled and owls hooted.
This house belonged to a witch.
This witch was an old, ugly and evil crone. During the day, she brewed spells and mixed a fat that was called “not for wood nor for stone.” This meant whoever anointed themselves with this fat would be able to fly and neither wood nor stone would bother them. However, this fat was only for witches. They would gather in that house, anoint themselves with that fat, climb onto brooms and through the chimney ride off to the top of the hill where they would have their meetings.
In the surrounding area, the people knew about the old witch and her house in the forest. And anyone who had to pass through the forest preferred to go the long round, just so as not to go near the witch’s house. Because it brought bad luck to anyone who came across it. And yet there were people who, during the night, had to pass by that way, and they would see the witches in the black smoke as they rode on brooms one after another. They would see them spread like a flock of large black birds on the top of the hill from where they would scatter misfortune over the people. Because on that hill they conferred and decided whom they would make unhappy, whom they would send illness to and whose cattle they would smother. And when they had dished out enough evil to the people, a dance would ensue. There was dancing and shouting, it was a nightmare to hear. And if anyone alive heard that racket then they would shudder from fear.
One evening a group of young men met in a nearby village and they began to tell all kinds of stories, and eventually one of them started a conversation about the old witch.
“I’ve heard”, he said, “that around the new moon there is some big meeting to which all the witches of the world must go to. And then, so they say, there are masses of them and only on that day do they accept new witches into their clan.”
“Oh, if I could just see that!” the youngest man shouted.
This chap, called Zlorad, was brave but also a big joker. We would make jokes, wherever he could. He was always happy when he made somebody angry.
“So”, he said, “I’ll try and get in amongst the witches.”
“Just try”, his friends began to laugh and joke, “you too will go and join the witches.”
And even though they mocked and joked, he nevertheless decided to go amongst the witches. And whatever he set his mind on, he had to do, even if it cost him his life.
Some time passed from then until the night came and with it came the new moon. Zlorad spoke no more about the witches, and his friends too forgot that conversation.
When night fell, Zlorad put on his mother’s old, torn dress, wrapped his head in hemp and a clean, black scarf. He smeared his face with coal and mud, put on big, worn-out shoes, picked up a stick and set off into the forest.
As he got close to the witch’s house, he began to walk hesitantly and cough. He approached the door and was just about to knock when the black cat with the bright, green eyes hissed at him and wanted to jump at his face.
Zlorad waved his stick at hit the cat, but the stick flew through the air and did not touch it.
Then the old witch appeared at the door and shouted: “Who is it?”
Zlorad changed his voice and hissed like an old woman: “I am an old mistress, old woman. I have come to you to join your clan.”
“Oh, come in dear friend!” said the witch.
“If you are right for us, we will accept you, if not, then you must die so that you do not tell the world about what you have seen.”
Zlorad climbed the rickety, old stairs into the house.
A fire was burning in the centre of the house, but this fire was not like others, it was green. Around the fire, there were only pots. Bats were hanging on the wall and in the rafters, and in the corners were the nests of owls and crows.
Many witches had already gathered in the house and they were all ugly and looked more like black birds than people.
The Witch – illustrated by Ljubomir Babić
Zlorad’s heart began to beat heavily from fear. Oh, how glad he would be if he could escape! However, so many eyes were staring at him that he felt like he was being stabbed with knives.
And then the witch told him to sit down. He sat uncomfortably on a little bench and began coughing like an old woman. Everything was calm and there was apprehension in the air. The witch asks Zlorad: “Have you ever in your life, old woman or friend, done anything good?”
“No, never”, replied Zlorad coughing.
“That’s good,” said the witch. “And have you ever done anything bad to anyone?”
“Yes, I have!” replied Zlorad, “Wherever I could, wherever I was, in the village, there were disputes, fighting and wickedness.”
“Oh, that’s very good!” the old witch exclaimed. “We need people like you. You will be our pride and joy. That’s right! I won’t ask you anything more, I already see that there is a place for you amongst us.”
Now all the witches began to stretch out their hands to him, and these hands were ugly, thin with long nails, and all the blood drained out of him from that handshaking. Then the old witch took out a large pot full of that “not for wood nor for stone” fat from one corner and placed it in front of the witches. They quickly reached out for that fat and began rubbing it on themselves.
Then the witch told Zlorad: “Here, granny, take this fat and smear yourself with it because without it you won’t be able to fly off with us.”
And Zlorad began to smear himself with it like all the other witches.
Now the witch gives each one a small pot and a broom, on which they will ride. And she gives Zlorad a broom.
Then all the witches gather in a circle and begin to mutter something and finally begin to rise one after another and go through the chimney.
The old witch eventually took flight, grabbed Zlorad by the hand and said: “C’mon granny, let me take you for your first ride until you get used to it.”
And Zlorad flew off with the witch, and behind them were the owls and crows.
Oh, and what a scary flight it was! Zlorad thought he might die from fright. He clenched his eyes shut so as not to see the horror.
Who knows how long they flew like that when all of a sudden they stopped. Zlorad opened his eyes and was astonished: what a force of black witches had gathered!
“Now we are on the hill”, uttered the old witch, “where we have always met. Look carefully at what we are going to do because from today you too will be a witch.”
Zlorad nodded and sat on the grass, just as all the others did.
They sat around in a circle and in the middle, they lit a fire. The old witch sat next to the fire and arranged the pots around it. The owls and crows sat around her. The old witch began to speak: “Here are the pots! Sickness is inside! Who needs it?”
“Me!” shouted one of them and stepped forward. “I want the illness to go to one village. The people are good and hardworking, and that angers me, so let it make them disappear.”
“That’s good”, answered the old witch, “here it is!”
Then she takes another pot and says: “In this pot is strife. Who needs it?”
“Me!” answered one of them and stepped forward. “In my village, there are five houses and the relatives have never argued. That makes me mad! I want them to be poisoned for days with this argument.”
“That’s good”, said the old witch, “here it is!”
Then she takes a third pot and utters: “In this post is a plague for cattle.” Who needs it?”
“I do!”, shouted one of them and stepped forward. “In my village, there is one owner of beautiful cows, oxen and many other animals, and everything is going well for him. That makes me angry and I want them all to die.”
“That’s good”, says the old witch, “here it is!”
Pot after pot was given out by the old witch until she had handed out all of them, and in each one there was either evil or misfortune.
Then she takes the last pot and says: “This pot is the most valuable. In it is disaster. Who needs it?”
“Me!”, Zlorad, who from wonder and fear had just come to his senses, finally shouted out and he stepped forward. “Give it to me!” The whole of my village is good, hardworking and pious. That drives me mad, so let the whole village go to ruin.”
“That’s right!” the witch shouts with delight seeing that there is so much evil in the group. “Here you go, sprinkle it over the village and it will disappear!”
Then they all jumped to their feet, threw wood on the fire and gathered in a circle. The owls and crows began to hoot and croak, and a circle dance began. Oh! How they leapt and sang!
Now Zlorad joined in and he began to shout: “C’mon! Now, friends, I will lead the dance!”
And he spun the dance around and they began to leap so that the whole hill shook.
Then Zlorad widened the circle all the way to the next hill, then it hits, jumps over hills and valleys, over bushes and thickets. The dance was terrible and all the witches collapsed from exhaustion. Nevertheless, they rejoiced because they had such a crazy friend.
Suddenly a rooster was heard as it cock-a-doodle-doed from one village. The witches quickly grabbed their brooms and flew off in all directions. Zlorad flew off last with the old witch, and behind them were the owls and crows.
When they came to the witch’s house, she said: “Now go back home! Do the job that I have given you in eight days and then we will meet again.”
Zlorad thanked her and hissed like an old woman “Goodbye!” and left. In the village the next day, they asked Zlorad where he had been the night before, if he had gone to the meeting.
However, he kept quiet and said nothing.
When the eighth day came and all the young people gathered for a meeting, Zlorad came and said: “The witches will gather in the forest at midnight tonight. Who wants to come with me to watch this wonder?”
But they all kept quiet, everyone was frightened.
Eventually, one person said: “I’ll go!”
When the others heard this, they all decided to go.
They waited in the village until midnight, and then they headed off to the forest. They walked quietly, silently, so that they wouldn’t be heard.
When they had dragged themselves to the witch’s house, through a small dirty window they saw a lot of black hay.
Then Zlorad whispered: “They have already gathered, now it’s time for them to die.”
Then he opened the pot that he had carried with him in which the plague was and poured out what was inside it around the house: “Die, dark witches, die from what you intended for others!”
At that moment the earth shook and opened up, and the house, from which the green flame belched, fell into the earth. And this is how the witch disappeared from here.