Hotel Balatura literary evening

As part of the 21st Vinodol Summer Evenings (21. Vinodolske ljetne večeri) I was a guest at the splendid Hotel Village Balatura in Tribalj on 26th July 2022. The owner Anne-Kathrin Godec arranged a small gathering for the hotel’s guests and interested visitors in which herself and I discussed my new book – the English translation of Vladimir Nazor’s classic story of Veli Jože.

pix by Hotel Balatura

As I was the first ever translator to be a guest at the Hotel’s regular events it was particularly interesting to take part. We talked about many aspects of the translation process and how translators work. And of course we also spoke at length about Veli Jože – what the story means, about the characters, how it is still an important piece of Croatian literature, its significance to Croatian identity and ultimately about freedom.

The audience also took part with some very interesting questions about translation, language and publishing. I was honoured to be a guest and I am very grateful to Anne-Kathrin, her husband Gordan and children for such a warm welcome and stay at the hotel.

If you do not know about Hotel Balatura then I thoroughly recommend visiting their website here. – and their Facebook page here. They offer a superb relaxing stay in a renovated old stone built farmstead, vegetarian food, an outdoor pool, rooms for seminars, yoga, and the rooms are stunning – I stayed in the Fijolica (Violet) room….. it has a four-poster bed, a huge open fireplace, a balcony with a hammock and the bathroom has a sunken mosaic-lined bath…..

I highly recommend visiting the Hotel Village Balatura, even if only for their delicious vegetarian menu 🙂 Thanks again Anne-Kathrin and family.

Kako je nastao Veli Jože?

An edited version of Veli Jože was published around 1930 in a collection of Vladimir Nazor’s short stories called Istarski Bolovi. In this edition Nazor wrote a foreword describing how he came to the idea of the Veli Jože character whilst on a visit to Istria.
Below is that foreword that he wrote in Crikvenica.

PREDGOVOR

Ja ne znam — barem na ovom polju rada — ništa valjano učinit iz puke dužnosti.

Kad mi se desilo da sam se — još prije no je nešto u meni samo dozrelo — morao odazvati nekom otvorenu ili nijemu pozivu, što sam god uradio nije mi pošlo sretno od ruke, čak ni onda kad sam se oko toga dosta izmučio.

Dogodilo mi se to i u Pazinu, godine 1904.

Netom vidjeh gdje naši ljudi u Istri nemaju svoje pisane povijesti, i ni o čemu ne umiju pričati, i gotovo ništa ne znadu o svim onim sredovječnim kulama i dvorimo od kojih se ruševine ponajviše vide u dolini između Lupoglava i izvora Raše, ja se dadoh na prilično naporno traženje i proučavanje barem svega onoga što su Talijani i neki Nijemci — makar i tendenciozno — iznijeli o minulim zgodama u istarskoj zemlji. Smatrao sam svojom dužnošću što više, ma i od koga. primiti da sve to odmah i dadem onima koji su od mene nešto očekivali, a u lakoj beletrističnoj formi, pa čak i riječima što su — u onom kraju i baš onim ljudima — mogle biti najpristupačnije.

Ali nisam uspio.

Ni balade »Krvava košulja« (Pula, Krmpotić, 1905), ni historijski roman »Krvavi dani« (Zagreb, Scholz, 1908), ni soneti »Istarski gradovi« (Veliki Ćiril-Metodski koledar za 1907, Zagreb, Klein, 1906) nisu mogli — uz svu silu historijskih podataka — da što i reku, jer sam u njima progovorio načinom koji nije bio moj i o stvarima što sam ih samo — čitao! Te balade i taj roman otpali su već davno — sasvim i za uvijek — iz sklopa mojih književnih radnja, a sam ne znam hoće li se za neke od tih soneta naći opet kakav kutić, kada budem iznova koješta pregledivao i premještao u zgradi svojih stihova.

Svoju »dužnost« prema Istri učinio sam malo kasnije, u Kopru, na drugi način.

*

Kopar, negda sjedište providura, koji je upravljao mletačkim dijelom Istre, talijanski je gradić s krilatim lavićima na zidovima starih zdanja, s rijetkim praunucima negda brojnih i imućnih venecijanskih plemića, od kojih se o jednome i sad priča da nije — u svoje starije dane — prekoračio nikada praga očeve mu palate, da ne stane nogom na tle koje nije više pripadalo Serenisimi. U tome gradu ima čak i seljaka, doseljenih već davno iz krajeva bivše Mletačke republike, dok ćeš u njemu teško naići na mještanina naše krvi i jezika. Ali se zelje i mlijeko kupuju, u jutarnje satove, na trgu, a jaja, sir i »domaći« hljeb i na pragu kuća, od naše čeljadi iz sela svuda naokolo. Tiho ulaze ranim jutrom ta naša čeljad u gradić da, gotovo šutljivo, obave svoj posao, pa da ih odmah i nestane. Kreću se po Kopru kao u tuđoj kući i sjećaju više na podanike koji nose gospodaru danak u hrani no na seljane-prodavce što drugdje znadu biti katkada i preveć slobodna vladanja u saobraćaju s kupcima, pa bili ovi posljednji i neka gospoda. Takvu sam krotost i pokunjenost našeg seljanina pred građaninom gledao i u srcu Istre, ali sam baš u Kopru najbolje vidio da jest nešto ružno — od novog doba još ne napadnuto, od našeg narodnog pokreta jedva uzdrmano — u odnošaju između hrvatskoga istarskog sela i talijanskog ili potalijančenog istarskoga grada ili varošice.

Osjetih da se nenadano nalazim otvorenijih očiju pred onim što sam do tada uzalud tražio u historičkim knjigama i u svojim dotadašnjim lutanjima po Istri. Čemu sam u onome romanu i u onim baladama pričao o nekim romantičnim zgodama u starim zamcima i dvorima, kad se, baš u ono doba, u seoskim kućicama i pojatama, počimala stvarati duša Onoga, koji nije još sam progovorio i o kojemu još niko nije znao što reći?

Čemu — posred mnogih drugih — došljak Ivan Sinković, i luteranac Stjepan Konzul, i barun razbojnik iz Keršana, i vitez Psoglavac iz Vranja ispod Učke, u mome romanu iz prošlih dana, kad je onda bio već narastao Onaj koji je nastanio i krš i polja i klance i žalove istarske, i sve ih iskrčio i izorao, po­sijao i nasadio, i napučio ih stokom, pa hrani i sada gradove — što, stari, ovdje propadaju, tamo opet, novi, niču — donašajući im još uvijek svoj trud i svoju muku, stojeći i na trgu ili pred vratima kao podanik koji prti danak za gospodara.

Uvidjeh napokon da mi je o Njemu pisati.

Ali je On svugdje pomalo, a nigdje posvema. Ima na hiljade lica i na hiljade imena. Razdrobljen je u bezbroj kapljica kao rosa na livadi. I rekao bih da svaka njegova — i najmanja — čest ima svoju dušu. Osjećaš ga, ali ga ne možeš, ni otkuda, svega ugledati kao ni rijeku, more i planinu. I kao što nisi kadar vidjeti ga — čitava — u prostoru, ne možeš ga — cijela — zahvatiti na jedan put ni u vremenu.

Do znah dakle o kome bi morala pričati moja knjiga o Istri. Naslutih napokon pravog svoga »junaka«; ali kako da slijem sve mu pruge i bore u crte jednog lica, sve mu tuge i obijesti u osjećaje jedne duše, pa da ga ugledam pred sobom potpuna, kao od jednog samog komada? Na koju grudu da namjestim sva njegova ognjišta, i u koji trenutak da sažmem sve dane njegova života?

Nasta za me novo, možda još teže, traženje.

Mislio sam da ću se i ovog puta uzalud izmučiti, kad nađoh što mi trebalo, a na čudan način, i na mjestu gdje se tome nisam nadao.

*

O uskrsne praznike odvezah se ranim jutrom, po drugi put, u Motovun, star gradić opasan zidinom na vrhuncu osamljena brijega. Pred njim široka kotlina, za njim šuma kroz koju rijeka kao da jedva puze dolje prema moru. Tišina u lugu, na vodi i u obamrloj varošici gdje su i lica starosjedioca izblijedjela i puna dosade kao i pročelja njihovih drevnih kuća. Trom rad i mrtvilo u talijanskom gradiću, dok sve naokolo i naširoko naši seljaci izlaze iz svojih raštrkanih kućica da obrađuju zemlju, sijeku drva, pasu stoku. Gledajući s visoka, iz grada, ne čuješ žamora: rijeka Mirna samo šuti, šuma je umukla u zaklonu od vjetara, a orači i pastiri toliko su daleko u nizini, da ne čuješ ni zveketa poljskog alata ni glasa ljudi i životinja. Zaželjeh se onog mira i zelenila; pođoh ne misleći zapravo na ono što sam tražio.

Ali ispade drukčije.

Već u kolima uskotračne željeznice gužva ljudi iz obližnih mjesta i selaca.

Rekrutiranje u Motovunu!

Nađoh gradić pun čeljadi, najviše naših seljaka. Čuče u hladu pred crkvom na zidini i uz visoki joj toranj; sjede na pragovima kuća, pod svodom tijesnih ulica; čekaju da novačenje započne. Očevi, pa i mnoge majke, dopratili sinove. Mnogi umorni i prašni od hodanja, gotovo svi zabrinuti i mučaljivi. Motovunski trgovčići otvorili dućane, obilaze čeljad, nude koješta. Ali seljani imadu sve što im treba u svojim torbama, pa se građani ljute, bockaju ih porugljivim šalama, tjeraju ih odasvuda. A seljak sve podnosi, premještava se, šuti i gleda u sina koji će sad u gradsku vijećnicu, pred komisiju, da se svuče. — Mene hvata bijes, a sam ne znam na koga se više ljutim: na jezičave i žučljive trgovčiće ili na onu ustrpljivu ljudsku marvu. Nema nigdje nikoga s kime bih se mogao sastati pa da se, barem, malko izjadam. Ta, danas je dan kada čak i najoštriji žandari dozvoljavaju koješta mladićima što će doskora u carevu službu, a ovdje: gle!

Vrzao sam se po tijesnu gradiću, a već u podne krenuh niza cestu k željezničkoj stanici ispod brijega da ondje sjednem u gostionici i dočekam vlak kojim ću natrag u Kopar. Motovun je bio već nada mnom, kada čuh iza sebe korake. Starčić je hitao nizbrdo posrćući nešto od vina, a mnogo od muke kojoj je jedva odolijevao. Kad mu na talijanski pozdrav od-vratih hrvatskim jezikom, on mi se odmah pridruži i otvori mi srce. Jao! uzeše mu jedinca, a on — kumpar Zuan Grbljina — star, i njegova Barbara uvijek nateklih nogu. Eto, napio se da lakše donese ženi crnu vijest. Četiri godine sin u Puli, na ratnom brodu, a dvoje staraca u praznoj kući kraj neobrađene zemlje. Žalost! Propast!

— A imate li, kumpar Zuane, stoke?

— Imam kravu. Boškarinu. Samo nas ona može još spasiti. Čudo od blaga!… A znate li vi doktora Laginju?

— Znam ga.

— Ali onog pravog? Onog našeg.

— Da. Baš njega. Pa i nema drugih.

Starčić skoči. Lice mu se razvedri. I poče pričati kako je već dva ili tri puta dognao Boškarinu, usred ljeta, u Pazin, pred komisiju za nagrađivanje domaće stoke; a ona gospoda ni pogledati na njegovo blago. Valja da Laginja dozna i za tu nepravdu pa da pomogne. Boškarina! Do 12 litara na dan, a svake godine tele krupno kao magarčić. A Motovun treba i mlijeka.

— Gospodine, da je vidite? Naša je kuća tu blizu. I on me povede. Barbara mu pročita na licu što je sa sinom pa udari u kukanje, povuče se nekamo. Ja se nađoh u trošnoj zadimljenoj kućici gdje je, za ogradom, preživala u polumraku krava. Malena, mršava, bez jednog roga a — pričini mi se — i bez repa.

Starac kao da je zaboravio na sina. Gladi kravu i govori:

— Zlatna! Ide iz nje mlijeko kao voda niz Mirnu.

»Pjan ili omamljen žalošću?« — pitam se ja i žurim se da odem. Jedva se otimam seljaku koji mi viče, i izdaleka:

— Laginja! Nagrada!

*

Novačenje već gotovo; čeljad sišla iz grada, slegla se uza stolove pred gostionicom pokraj stanice. Ko ne čeka na vlak, sjedi i pije sa znancima prije odlaska u selo. Novaci okitiše šešire, drže se skupa i pjevaju. Starija čeljad kukaju i tuže se da su momci iz grada i ove godine dobro prošli. I sada je motovunski načelnik pomagao građanima. Uzeše u vojnike malne same seljake. Sjedi pokraj njih i nekoliko Motovunjana koji dopratiše znance na stanicu. Odgovaraju težacima. Ove je pak vino osokolilo; ljute se:

— Mi moramo sve za vas. Kopati. Orati. Pa čak i pušku nositi.

Ne znam što je sve bilo. Najednom vidjeh: stolovi se ruše; Motovunjani bježe; neki jure za njima. Kamen doleti, udari o sto; neka djevojčica jauknu.

— Ubi dijete! Oni iz grada!

Komešanje. Ljutnja velika, no izgledalo je da će vikom i svršiti, kad iz gomilice novaka izađe neki mršavi dugonja, zasuče rukave, dignu štap:

— Ljudi! Za mnom!

— U grad! — planuše novaci.

Stariji se nećkali; zahtjevali da se miruje i ne prave ludosti. No se mlađarija stavljala u red, vikala dugonji: »Jože, vodi!«, a na licu dugonjinu blistale oči, treptao svaki mišić. »Ne puštajmo ih same!« vikale žene od kojih se u nekima budila vučica što se boji za svoje mladunče. Sva se čeljad dignu. Povorka se stvori; krenu uza cestu.

Uđoh i ja u nju.

Spočetka se samo vikalo i psovalo prijeteći pestima, mašući štapovima. Dugonja je široko koracao, izbacivao iz sebe oštre usklike. Kupilo se usput kamenje, trgale se motke iz plotova, prihvaćalo sve čime bi se moglo udariti. Išlo se hitro uzbrdo dišući sve teze, više od nemira no od napora. Gore, na domaku prvih kuća, vođa stade, a s njime i povorka.

— Sad će biti zla.

— Natrag, djeco!

Mlađarija uđe u ulicu. Stariji se uskomešaše očekujući početak borbe. No mjesto vike i lomljave ču se pjevanje:

Ko će tebe, travo, kosit
Kad ja pojdem pušku nosit?
Trava zelena!

Gomila se maknu, uđe čitava u grad.

A Motovun pust i šutljiv kao groblje. Sva vrata i svi prozori zatvoreni. Ni psa na ulici. Strah građana utoli, odmah i sasvim, ljutnju seljaka. Čuđenje pa luda radost. Dugonja je sada skakao pjevajući iz svega grla na čelu povorke. Izbacivao iz grla pobjedničke krikove, udarao štapom o zatvorena vrata, smijao se grohotom jeki što bi na to zatutnjila u ovećim kućama. Seljani su za prvi put prolazili, pjevajući i kličući, ulicama gdje su se do tada usuđivali samo šaptati. Hvatalo ih čudno pjanstvo. Prometali se u obijesnu djecu. Igrali se na trgu, jurili okolo grada po zidini i uzalud zvali sad ovog sad onog građanina da otvori prozor i da se pokaže. A onaj dugonja — u znak prezira, iz prostakluka, ili od neprobavljena vina? — stade baš pred načelnikovom kućom, odriješi gaće i — čučne.

Na stanici vlak zviždnu; sve potrča niz brdo.

Stigosmo na vrijeme, ali nas bilo toliko da i ja ne nađoh mjesta u kolima.

Prenoćio sam kod seljaka ispod grada.

Sjutradan u Motovunu sve mirno. Građani se hvalili kako su svojim mudrim vladanjem uradili da hitro izvjetri sva obijest pjanih novaka. Bili su sigurni da se nije pokvario odnošaj između njih i njihovih radinih i dobrih kmetova. No se odmah uvjerih da nije baš sve tako.

Između seljaka, koji su tog istog jutra nosili u Motovun zelje, mlijeko i koješta što građaninu treba, upoznah i dugonju.

I u njegovih kretnjama, pa i na njegovu licu, nije više bilo svih onih tragova bojažljivosti i pokornosti. Nešto se bijaše već promijenilo.

*

Vratih se ipak loše volje u Kopar.

Doskora vidjeh da sam baš u Motovunu našao što sam tražio.

Lik kmeta-orijaša Velog Jože stvori se najedanput – gotov i čitav — pred mojim očima. U njega lice i kretnje, poroci i vrline, duša i tijelo svih onih što ih do tada nisam znao umijesiti sve skupa u jedno i prožeti to svoje djelo dahom života. Ugledah ga pomaknuta u prošlost, u dane kad su njegovi gospodari bili još jači, on još slabiji, al je prva iskra samo­svijesti već vrcala iz njega. Uza sve ono što bijah vidio po Istri i doživio u Motovunu, ja sam sada osjećao da Velog Jože — buntovnika i bjegunca — ipak ima, a njegov dan — ma i polagano — da ipak sviće. Gledao sam ga u prošlosti, pod motovunskom zidinom i na Proglavčevu brdu, s legendarnim banom Dragonjem daleko na planini iza njegovih leđa i s galeotom Ilijom u galiji na obližnjem moru, jer ga nisam još mogao vidjeti u jednoj od njegovih idućih preobrazba – u liku mladoga mučenika Vladimira Gortana.

I godine 1907., u Kopru, napisah priču o njemu. Mislio sam da govorim o zgodama koje su davno započele a onda se baš dovršavale. Ko bi bio tada vjerovao da će se 1919. desiti nepravda što će Velog Jožu iznova dovesti u onu trošnu kolibu ispod Motovuna? I da će moja pripovijetka biti nešto što priča i o njegovim današnjim nevoljama?

*

»Veli« je »Jože« bio napisan i — čini se — već i tiskan u »Balkanu« što ga je u Trstu Nehajev uređivao, kad se otvori u Kopru Istarski sabor, i ja se nađoh s doktorom Laginjom. Opisah mu — uz smijeh — jadnu kravicu Boškarinu i donijeh poruku kumpara Zuana iz sela motovunskoga.. Ali ozbiljno Laginjino lice jedva da se promijeni. Ne progovori ni riječi dok sve ne ispričah. A onda reče:

— Nazore, nemoj tako! I ako je kumpar Zuan bio onog dana malko pijan, znao je što govori: imao je pravo; bio je iskren. Pače. Da, čitav potok mlijeka teče iz vimena njegove krave. Znam već davno svu silu takvih kumpara Zuana i njihovih krava. Naša Istra nije — kako je razglasiše — jadna sirotica, jer gotovo svaki kumpar Zuan ima u njoj svoju Boškarinu. I čitava ti je ta naša mala seljačka pokrajina takva jedna čedna ali blagoslovljena kravica što je neki samo muzu. Kad ti je kumpar Zuan dao, na odlasku, ruku, jesi li osjetio koliko ima žuljeva na dlanu? Jesi li u Motovunu pomislio ko hrani sve one dokone građane? Motika Velog Jože i krava kumpar Zuanova. A Boškarina je doista nešto golemo. Starčić to osjeća pa ga boli što na njegovu kravicu niko i ne gleda, a rugaju se i njoj i njemu ponajviše baš oni koji se hrane njenim mlijekom. Komisija za nagrađivanje domaće stoke! E, da. Ona nagrađuje krave dovedene iz daleka, gojne i krupne, ali koje ne mogu živjeti u čednim stajama naših seljaka i ne znadu pretvoriti u mlijeko oštre sokove svih trava na istarskim pašnjacima što su često puni kamenja i drača. Zna kumpar Zuan što govori i što se njemu hoće. Zna on svoju zemlju i svoju živinčad. Jest, njega ide nagrada, jer je malena i mršava Boškarina zbilja »čudo od blaga«. A pođeš li opet onamo, pozdravi mi staroga i reci mu da primam njegovu poruku.

Starog Zuana nisam više vidio, ali ga nisam zaboravio. Napisah priču o njegovoj kravi. Vidio sam je napokon onakovu, kakva je lebdjela pred očima doktora Laginje. Sad sam tek razumio kumpara Zuana, njegov gnjev i njegovu žalost.

A poslije rata i okupacije Istre, godine 1919., u Zagrebu, razgovarao sam jednom s Laginjom o novim nevoljama naših seljaka između Učke i Trsta. U njegovu je glasu nešto drhtalo, dok reče:

— A možda će baš oni, ti rabotnici svoje zemlje i čuvari svoje stoke, najlakše odoljeti. Neće stari Zuan u selu motovunskom ni klonuti ni propasti, ne otmu li mu i kravicu. Velika je u njoj moć. Možda se baš uz nju najlakše i — čeka.

*

Tako su dakle nastale te dvije priče koje možda grade najvjerniju sliku ljudi i dogođaja baš ondje gdje izgledaju najviše fantastične pa čak i groteskne.

Sve ono o mraku koji nosi pjanog seljaka po noći — pa i o načinu kako ga kumpar Zuan ukroti — uzeto je iz narodnog praznovjerja u srednjoj Istri.

»Veli Jože«, koji je, kao knjiga, izašao u nakladi »Matice Slovenske« (Ljubljana, 1908) uz ilustracije Šaše Šantela. ima i svoje pokraćeno ilustrovano izdanje za djecu (»Narodna Knjižnica«, Zagreb, 1923.). Obe su pripovijetke ušle u II. izdanje mojih »Istarskih priča« (»Hrv. pripovijedači, Dr. B. Vodnik, Zagreb, 1917.). I te dvije blizanice, ponovno dotjerane, izlaze opet skupa, praćene samo jednom svojom mlađom sestricom, legendom o Divičinu gradu u Puli, a u knjizi s naslovom »Istarski bolovi«, jer ćemo baš sada naići u njima na koješta što peče i boli.

V. N.
Crikvenica, 1930.

My English translation of this foreword is included in my new translation of Nazor’s original 1908 verison of Veli Jože and this is now available as a paperback and ebook on Amazon as well as many other ebook channels – more info here.

Join the Veli Jože in English Facebook group.

Ringo Starr – lost 1970 interview

Issue 935 of the Yugoslav informative weekly VUS – Vjesnik u srijedu (Herald on Wednesday) published in Zagreb on 1st April 1970 contained an interview with Ringo Starr by the Croatian journalist Konstantin Milles (Miles) at Apple’s offices in London. This interview has seemingly never been published in English. So, I decided to translate the text as it was printed in VUS. It would seem that this interview was conducted just weeks before The Beatles announced their separation because the LA première of The Magic Christian and the police raid of Lennon’s Bag One exhibition are mentioned – i.e. January 1970. Barrie Wentzell’s photographs are seemingly dated to 1969.

Obviously my translation will not be an exact transcript of the original conversation but I think it contains insight into Ringo’s life and The Beatles at this critical point in time. If anyone can provide extra details I would be grateful 🙂

Ringo Starr – THE MUSICAL BEARD

Konstantin Miles’ conversation with Ringo Starr, the simplest and most modest Beatle, who finds the meaning of life in his family and “kids.”
(Photographs by Barrie Wentzell)

When I entered the room into which I was led by secretary Derek Taylor, the Beatles’ “press chief,” something almost unbelievable happened to me. I was well aware that Ringo Starr had changed his look. I had seen at least thirty photographs of him in recent months with a “new edition” – that is, with a beard. Just a short time before that, I’d looked at his photos taken in Los Angeles at the United Press headquarters, at the gala premiere of the film (The Magic Christian – 29th January 1970) in which he stars with Peter Sellers – and in those photos, of course, he had a beard. But anyway, when he suddenly approached me now, in this big office in Apple, I still looked around, looking for him, even though he was standing right in front of me, offering me his hand.

The Ringo Starr, which was standing in front of me, was a bit confused because he (maybe) realised that something was going on, this Ringo Starr was completely different from the shaggy drummer I’d seen in hundreds of photos. The difference is not only that he now has a beard, and it should be emphasised that it is very neat, his beard – is a beard that could have been worn by some respectable and serious French statesman from the end of the last century. (This beard is something completely different from the famous beard that Lennon had when I interviewed him in Amsterdam: it is the beard of a man who, obviously, looks after himself and to the tidiness of his appearance.) There are also other reasons. Today, Ringo has a carefully groomed hairstyle, and he dresses with a discreet, measured elegance (of course by modern terms and standards, which means that no university professor or reputable banker would dress like that yet, but from today’s youth’s point of view, these clothes are quite conservative). A month before Derek Taylor spoke to me about Lennon: “Did you see his haircut? And what he’s wearing!” He said this almost with surprise, and then he added: “Well, he’s dressed kind of like you!” I burst into laughter: “So like some old philistine, a square, right? Is that what you want to say?” “No, I didn’t mean to say that…”Taylor began but then burst out laughing too. “The main thing is that we understand each other!” I said. Derek Taylor hadn’t told me that by accident. His statement “fell” into the context of the conversation we had had with him. And that again was all in the context of the events that have been going on with the Beatles lately (actually the last few months), about all kinds of rumours about them and so on. I don’t mean that stupid rumour about the death of Paul McCartney that had resonated so sensationally. I was not interested in that rumour, simply because I suspiciously thought that it was “mounted” by the Beatles’ propaganda service, and therefore ultimately my interlocutor Derek Taylor. (Truth be told, I have to admit that I don’t think so now, but since McCartney is “alive and well,” it doesn’t matter anyway.) I was with Taylor for the last time shortly before Lennon’s interview. After leaving that interview, I cursed myself because of inexplicably circumstances I had simply forgotten to ask him why he always used the past tense whenever he spoke of himself as a Beatle. The events that were taking place in the “Beatles Empire,” the various rumours that were circulating, made this very issue more and more important.

Especially the rumours that the Beatles were “in crisis”, that the disintegration of that band is “imminent” (a rumour that is completely absurd), that the Beatles have “came to a dead end,” that they are facing “financial ruin”…

But then things began to happen that were, to say the least, interesting: first there was a “court coup” in Apple, allegedly to save the entire concern from financial ruin that it almost ran into due to the long-standing “bohemian” leadership. The financial management, precisely with dictatorial powers, was taken over by a completely new man, brought in from America – and he then in a short time laid off half of the staff and liquidated half of the companies that belonged to Apple. Now the financial situations are reportedly settled (which is not difficult to achieve in the situation where money, after the release of each new long-play record, flows into the kitty like a torrent). As a Yugoslav, it was not difficult for me to notice the differences between the former “working atmosphere” at Apple’s headquarters (it was almost a “club” atmosphere, about which domestic readers do not need much explanation) and that of today’s. Many familiar faces have disappeared, such as the Greek inventor, with whom the Beatles had created a fantastic laboratory, spending several hundred thousand pounds on it. Since I had a big interview with him, I was interested in his subsequent fate, and more so because talking to him, I noticed that he was under a lot of nervous pressure, in a real situation of “non-stop stress,” “Where is Alex?” – I asked. “I don’t know,” answered Taylor. “I heard he was somewhere in London.” I didn’t ask any further. However, when Taylor told me that George Harrison was just in the process of buying a “new house” (a 120-room country mansion) that would cost him £150,000 – it became absolutely clear to me that, despite the rumours, the financial circumstances of Apple (and the Beatles) were absolutely fine. However, the disappearance of that bohemian “go and come” atmosphere, due to which Apple had always been my favourite place for business visits in London, it’s not just the atmosphere that rules in Apple. Although, not everything has changed. And not all the colourful creatures that gathered here have disappeared. For example, I was glad to find the young Londoner with the hair of a Papuan cannibal (which makes his head half a metre in diameter), who still serves drinks there, and in the meantime types up letters with one finger on each hand. Beat compositions were still constantly echoing in the rooms, and since my last visit, someone had mounted a small moving film projector that throws psychedelic optical effects on the walls. However, the beat music today is mixed with the constant brisk typing of typewriters, urgent business conversations being made over the phone – everything is somehow different, “business-like.”

The fact that Lennon cut his hair and dresses “like a philistine”, Ringo’s great tidiness in the way he dresses, the strange and perhaps slightly sad seriousness that reigns today in Apple (where for weeks they say the staff have been using the black humour question instead of a greeting: “Haven’t you been fired yet?”) – all of this suggests that great things are happening in Apple. I told Taylor this openly, and then suggested that he arrange interviews with at least two Beatles and Apple executives, because I wanted to write a report on the subject of WHAT ARE THE BEATLES ACTUALLY PLANNING? Taylor answered: “Yes, that would be a great subject, but you’ll have to be patient.” “How long?” I asked. He replied that he didn’t know, that he could not say for sure, but then, in a later conversation, in a different context, he informed me that this month the Beatles were meeting “for important decisions… very important decisions”… and that because of this, as cardinals when electing a new pope, they will be unavailable to outsiders, primarily to journalists, for a time. “Does this mean that a big turnaround is indeed being prepared? That the Beatles have found themselves at the end of the road… at least this current time? Of this stage?” I asked. “Something new and significant is sure to happen, but what…” “The Beatles themselves don’t know that yet, do they?” I said. Taylor looked at me and shrugged.

In this atmosphere of great changes, of which only the external symptoms I could see, and there “on the spot,” there where it has a completely different and greater meaning, more weight than in newspaper columns, in this atmosphere it was inevitable that I didn’t recognise Ringo at first glance, that I almost asked him where Ringo was, and when he would arrive. We sat down, or more precisely sank into huge armchairs at a large teak table that stood in front of the fireplace where real logs were burning. The Beatles had bought the only large three-story house, built in the Georgian style, in Saville Row several years ago, then they remarkably tastefully remodelled and modernised it, however, they left many things reminiscent of the past, most notably the fireplaces in the luxurious “boss” offices. Today this white building is one of the most beautiful in the City. Just as guardsmen are on duty in front of the royal palace or the Horse Guards barracks, there are always a few girls in front of the entrance to this building, waiting to see the Beatles “come to work.” On the very ground floor, at eye level, are the two windows of Lennon’s office with a typical “Beatles stunt”: the windows have been replaced with mirrors, and when a girl climbs the iron fence in front of the house, wanting to peek inside instead of Lennon or Yoko Ono’s they see their own face: something that always happens to little provincials. Ring’s office is located on the mezzanine floor but facing the courtyard of the building. Harrison holds court in a room next to Taylor’s, whilst Paul McCartney reportedly doesn’t have his own office at all, and when he comes to Apple, he borrows someone else’s. But this has been very rare lately anyway. In fact, only Lennon and Ringo Starr “sit” in the office every day, whilst the other two work from home.

We began to chat, waiting for the Papuan to bring us drinks.

MILES: There is a lot of talk about you and the other Beatles, and much is being written too. For example, like you feel that you’re losing touch with your audience, as though you consider you’ve moved away from the “source,” that you’ve retreated into some ivory towers. It is said, for example, that you lament for the good old days when you performed in public, went on tour…

STARR: If you were in our shoes then, you wouldn’t think so now. That was something scary. Something we certainly couldn’t stand anymore. We were young then. We are, admittedly, still today… aren’t we?… but still not so young…

MILES: Still, I have the impression that you feel some nostalgia for those times. And yes, you recently performed at some concerts and drummed in front of the audience…

STARR: Yes, but not with The Beatles. I did indeed go on one little tour with another group. I did it out of curiosity… maybe out of nostalgia too… but going on new tours with the Beatles… it’s simply out of the question. Touring is something terribly hard, something that is for people younger than us.

MILES: I wasn’t thinking that you’d really go on tour. I was thinking of the rumours that you were organising public concerts in front of an audience again… Now and then.

STARR: We won’t do that.

MILES: Is it because your music has become so complicated and so dependent on electronic gadgets that it would be impractical?

STARR: That is one of the things that we’d take into account if such a thing came to mind. But, that’s not the only thing. There is something much more important. We could be able play more simply, and so we could therefore perform in front of an audience, and yet our “sound” would be good, interesting, attractive. After all, you also know that some of our new compositions are very simple.

MILES: So what it is about then?

STARR: About something infinitely simpler. We know what such concerts would look like. These would not be concerts at all, just as our former performances in front of the audience were not concerts at the time when we were still Beatles… Man, we didn’t even hear ourselves in that hellish noise! They were not concerts. It was a circus. We are serious enough today that we wouldn’t want to put up with that.

MILES: You said: “Whilst we were Beatles…”Why do you and Lennon use the past tense when talking about yourself and the Beatles? After all, you’re still Beatles, aren’t you?

STARR (laughing): Of course we are, and yet we’re not… we’re not in the old sense. When we say that we were Beatles, then we mean those Beatles who raced around the world and performed in front of audiences, the Beatle-moptops, howlers… in that sense. We mean the young Beatles, the green Beatles, the red-faced Beatles…

MILES: But, isn’t that connected to something else? With something that only in a certain sense relates to the past, but is actually about what happened after that past, that affects the present, and even more, actually concerns the future. It is said that nothing could be said about you today that someone once… then… said wittily about you: that one does not really know whether you are one head with four bodies or one body with four heads; you used to be inseparable. Today you no longer are. You were inseparable in what you did. Today you all do your own thing.

STARR: It’s obvious that we have distanced ourselves from each other in a certain sense and to a certain extent. But the conditions were different then. We were constantly on the road, so that must have been one of the reasons that we were constantly together. We were mostly unmarried. We didn’t have families, we didn’t have wives, we didn’t have children. In that respect, we were freer, yet on the other hand, we were more restrained, more attached to each other… because of that we were constantly physically together… in the same hotel, on the same planes, under siege. There’s none of that today.

MILES: But even when you stopped touring and returned to London, you were still inseparable. At least for some time. You lived close to each, like neighbours, were constantly together, had dinner and lunch together, listened to records together… Today there’s no more of that…

STARR: Yeah, today there’s none of that really. I repeat: we got married, started families, widened our interests that are not always exactly the same. It’s one thing to keep four guys together, even if each has a steady girlfriend; it’s another to bring together four men who are already approaching middle age and even more their wives. And their children. But we are still connected… and not just because of business, so to speak.

MILES: So the rumours about the breakup of the band are unfounded?

STARR: Not only unfounded, but absurd too. We can do all kinds of outside activities. I, for example, am performing a bit in films, as an actor. John is leading the fight for world peace and organising exhibitions…

MILES: Which the police have raided… (Bag One – raided by police 16th January 1970)

STARR: … However, we know very well that we can only survive or fail as The Beatles, that it all starts and ends there. If we stop being Beatles… if we suddenly stop being Beatles… we would be left without a foundation.

MILES: And according to that…

STARR: … according to that we’re remaining The Beatles, and we will be for as long as the audience wants us. And they show us that they do want us by the successes achieved by each of our new records.

MILES: You mentioned your tours with other groups, and you didn’t, let’s say, mention anything else, which in your case is quite new: that you suddenly discovered you were a composer. How is that only now? And then immediately with such success. Haven’t you had inspiration before, so to speak? Has your muse only now started working?

STARR: I’ll tell you something you won’t believe: I’ve had ideas for compositions before, but I just didn’t know how to make them real…

MILES: What do you mean? That sounds quite unbelievable…

STARR: Melodies and tunes came to my mind… but I didn’t know how to… how can I explain… how to put them on paper, write them down, set them to music, that’s it…

MILES: I still don’t understand…

STARR: I only know how to play the drums. Did you ever hear of some composer composing with a drum?

MILES: Come on, please: you’re not going to claim that you don’t know any instrument other than the drum? And if you really need an instrument: if a melody comes to your mind, you could whistle it nicely to Lennon or McCartney… and they’ll make sure that it’s set to music.

STARR: That’s right, but I haven’t done it. That’s how my melodies came and went… but I just remained Ringo the drummer…

MILES: Whilst the others composed… That didn’t bother you? It didn’t bother you that, for example, it was said that the Beatles have three composers and one performer?

STARR: That I’m a little dull, right?

MILES: Not quite that, but…

STARR: I’ve never had any kind of complex about that. I am a simple and unambitious man… unambitious in the sense that I have no kind of pretensions, no intellectual pretensions, no creative pretensions… and I take life as it comes. That’s how I approach life and I deal only with what makes me happy…

MILES: And that is?

STARR: First of all, my family. I am crazy about my family! I just can’t wait to get back home, you know?

MILES: And what do you do there?

STARR: I deal with the children. I chat with the wife.

MILES: And do you, for example, listen to music… other people’s music?

STARR: I have all the possible electronics and stereo systems, high-fidelity and so on at home… and a huge number of records… but I don’t listen to much music. In fact, I never listen to it in the sense of sitting down, putting the turntable on and then listening. Nobody actually does that any more today. I eventually “listen” to music as a soundtrack to something else…

MILES: And what kind of music do you like to listen to the most in that sense?

STARR: I like rock ‘n’ roll… I like blues… I like country music… I like ballads…

MILES: Are there some performers or composers or groups that you especially like?

STARR: I’m afraid they don’t exist. At least they don’t come to mind now.

MILES: Tell me something that really interests me. Do you, the Beatles, still meet up… I mean in a social sense… with wives, friends… I mean not only for business.

STARR: We still meet, although less and less.

MILES: OK. So, can I ask you a question that just came to my mind… that is, whilst you were saying that you don’t listen to music. Do you, at these kinds of meetings, get-togethers, then play music… I mean for your own enjoyment, for your own pleasure?

STARR: Yes.

MILES: I wanted to say: do you have jam sessions?

STARR: Yes, of course we do. Believe it or not, we love to play.

MILES: And what do you play then?

STARR: Just rock ‘n’ roll.

MILES: I expected that answer. But doesn’t that mean that rock ‘n’ roll, the music that you started out with, is the only music that really makes you happy, that really excites you… and that all that other stuff is intended for the audience?

STARR: I don’t think that could be said. We are also excited by that other music, but differently…

MILES: It’s actually about nostalgia for… let’s say… first love… and the fact that you can’t resist the raw power of rock ‘n’ roll, its originality. But, Lennon told me, his life was decided the moment he heard Elvis Presley’s first record… when he first heard rock ‘n’ roll. At that moment, he decided to buy a guitar and become a musician. Was it so sudden for you too?

STARR: I played in all sorts of groups even before Presley appeared. At the time, I didn’t think I would make a living from playing for the rest of my life. I should have become an engineer. But then the Beatles took me in… as you know, I was the last member of the group to join… they even ditched the guy who played before me…

MILES: You told me you were a simple guy, with no pretensions. But still, you can’t ignore the fact that as a Beatle you are one of the most influential Britons. All the polls prove this… even today. How does that affect you?

STARR: I don’t think about that. That is, I’ve never really thought about it much… I take care of that today…

MILES: In what sense?

STARR: I’m trying, when I already have influence, to make that influence positive. You see, for example, I’m full of family virtues. Besides that, I’m hardworking. Besides, I don’t “perform”… I mean: crazy, I don’t go crazy.

MILES: And yet you did get involved with drugs. And as such as an influential man!

STARR: Yes, but I did free myself, I completely freed myself. Because I realised where it was leading. Because I realised that a man who gets used to drugs… that that man loses his freedom, that he eventually stops being a man, that he turns into a “vegetable” – and ruins everything around him.

MILES: So you didn’t drop the drugs just because of the trouble with the police?

STARR: No. I stopped them because I realised where it was leading. Now I smoke cigarettes.

MILES: When they compare you to the other Beatles they say: “Ringo always follows the others! He’s excellent… a supporting actor!”

STARR: That doesn’t bother me. I don’t have any kind of pretensions. If people think I’m dull and if it pleases them, then let it. Of course, I have my own opinion about that.

MILES: I didn’t mean to allude to something so vulgar. That didn’t even cross my mind. Rather, it is said that you, The Beatles are preparing some great new things… I don’t mean new compositions but something completely new… that you are about to make a great turnaround.

STARR: But we were always creating something completely new. We never stood still. And we won’t in the future either.

MILES: And what will it be new in this case?

STARR: We still don’t know. At least I don’t know. Take that as an answer. If that something already exists, if it is “in progress,” I wouldn’t tell you about it anyway. That’s clear, isn’t it?

Page 3 of the 3-page interview.
The cover of VUS no. 935 published 1st April 1970, in Zagreb, Croatia.

This is the second interview I have uncovered related to The Beatles in old Yugoslav magazines. The first one was with John Lennon – you can read it here.

Članstvo u dhkp-u

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08.09.2021 – Postao sam član dhkp-a.

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.

Moj profil: http://www.dhkp.hr/Drustvo/Clan/2891

On 8th September 2021 I became an official member of the Croatian Literary Translators Association after my collection of Kamov’s Farces & Novellas was positively reviewed for membership.

Farces & Novellas je dostupna na Modernist.hr, Amazonu i u mnogim knjižnicama.

http://www.dhkp.hr/Drustvo/Clan/2891

John Lennon – lost 1971 interview

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.

Cover inset picture “The Beatles dream was a lie” – pic © Barrie Wentzell

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.

John Lennon photographed in the park of his county mansion with Yoko Ono. When asked how much this estate cost him, he said: “So much it makes my head spin.” Pic © Barrie Wentzell

“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).

“One woman couldn’t make four grown men fight,” Lennon says about the rumours that the Beatles broke up because of his relationship with Yoko Ono. Pic © Barrie Wentzell

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.)

JL: Absolutely.

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

Lennon insisted that we photograph him in front of this American poster, where it is statistically proven that America’s genocide is greater than any previous one. Pic © Barrie Wentzell – “John specifically requested me to take this picture. At first glance it just appeared to be a mural of the American flag but when I realized what it was really about I became a bit apprehensive. John had mentioned earlier that they were thinking of moving to New York and were planning an anti “Tricky Dicky” (i.e., Nixon) tour. I protested but he insisted. John was inspirational, showing great courage and conviction in his and our pursuit of “Giving Peace a Chance.”
Barrie Wentzell“I visited John and Yoko one afternoon accompanying a foreign news reporter (Konstantin Milles). Yoko had just published a book called Grapefruit and John was standing shoulder to shoulder with her fielding press and publicity duties. We spent a long time in their kitchen during the interview while the laundry was running, the food was cooking, and the kettle was whistling. John and Yoko were exploring ideas and plans for making a better world.” Tittenhurst Park, Espon.

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.

NB: In May 2022 I found another interview from the same magazine this time from 1970 with Ringo Starr here

The Beatles memorabilia

I’ve been a Beatles fan since I was a boy. I’m always delighted to find Beatles memorabilia here in Croatia. Here are a couple of things I’ve found in Rijeka.

The 2nd Beatles Souvenir Song Book, published in England in 1964. It features the sheet music of 8 songs and many photos. How did it get to Rijeka?
‘Oko’ broadsheet paper dated 8-22 January 1981 (1st of 2 pages) with John Lennon’s obituary by Borivoj Radaković.
‘Oko’ broadsheet paper dated 8-22 January 1981 (2nd of 2 pages) with John Lennon’s lyrics translated by Borivoj Radaković.
3rd May 1967 issue of džuboks magazine

Thank you Tomo @ Antikvarijat Mali Neboder, Rijeka

Hits of Beatles – Yugoton 1966

Interesting that this issue has a different name to the rest of world although the labels are A Collection of Beatles Oldies. Catalogue number: LPPMC-V-264.

Sleeve of flexi-disc that was free with issue 23 of džuboks magazine

Rijeka and Brighton – my home towns

Rijeka and Brighton – a brief comparison prompted by the opening day of Rijeka’s European Capital of Culture year in February 2020.

It was almost 20 years ago to the day that I first came to Croatia, more specifically to Cres, Opatija and Rijeka. I was here to write a travel piece for a Brighton based magazine for which I was the production assistant – when the editor called out across our office “who wants to go to Croatia for a week?” I stuck my hand into the air eagerly although not being 100% sure about where I’d be going. On that trip, I experienced a tiny piece of Croatian life and the Rijeka Carnival and was greatly impressed. In 2003, I left Brighton and Hove (the city’s full title) and moved to Rijeka.

Rijeka and Brighton

In the following years, I visited many parts of the country but I always thought that the city was different and even the Croats I met on those trips told me that Rijeka stood out as being alternative. From music to art to literature this city has proved this to me with the opening of the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture (ECoC) this February and it made me realise that Brighton and Rijeka have several things in common so I put together a list:

  • They are both cities by the sea – south of their capitals – obvious I know. Brighton is the closest big city to London and a huge tourist destination. Rijeka is Croatia’s third-largest city, not, unfortunately, a big tourist destination, however, in the past it was a very important industrial and transport hub and with ECoC and all that this investment, opportunity and status will bring, it now has much more potential.
  • Theatres – both cities have theatres which came into popular use in the late-19th century. In Brighton the Theatre Royal and in Rijeka the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc. In each city, there is also an unused venue. Rijeka’s Opera hall was recently opened for the opening day of ECoC when several rock bands played well into the night and it has recently hosted a dance event, which will surely boost its rejuvenation. Whilst in Brighton the Hippodrome’s future is still in the balance. Both these venues have seen better days during their century-long lives.
Rijeka’s Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc and Brighton’s Theatre Royal
Rijeka’s Opera hall and Brighton’s Hippodrome
  • Both cities have old original cinema theatres. The Duke of Yorks picture house in Brighton is an art-house cinema. It was one of the first in the world and was opened in 1910. It has experienced many lows and highs over the years but has survived and today it is still the oldest working movie theatre in the UK. Rijeka has Art-kino, which under a different name was founded about 1928 and then went through many variations and premises over the decades. The movies were incredibly popular in Rijeka, with films being shown from all parts of Europe, America and the Soviet Union. In fact, at one point in time Rijeka county had more cinemas screens than any other town in Croatia (45) and in the first six months of 1950 more than 750,000 cinema tickets were sold in the city. A law was even in force at the time which meant that the sale of tickets by touts outside before a popular film was screened became a criminal offence – those found guilty were fined, imprisoned or even expelled from the county! During Rijeka 2020 ECoC there will several locations arranged for open-air film screenings around the city and even on the roofs of tower blocks. Brighton also has open-air cinema shows during the summer. Both cities also have multiplex cinema complexes, however, these two small independent art-house cinemas have survived where other theatres have disappeared or been repurposed, and they still draw in the crowds.
Rijeka’s Art-kino and Brighton’s Duke of Yorks picture house
  • Graffiti and murals. Both cities are adorned with murals and let’s say artistic graffiti. With tasteful and professional illustrations buildings, parks and other public spaces can be really brought to life, enhance the image and even become talking points and landmarks of towns and cities in place of drab, grey, depressing, crumbling structures. During Rijeka 2020 ECoC there will be an international festival of murals and street art will appear around the city painted by local and foreign artists.
Brighton’s Prince Albert pub mural and Rijeka’s IVEX building mural
  • Rijeka was and still is a centre of new music. In the 60s the first rock bands in the former Yugoslavia emerged here, in the 70s and 80s punk and new wave groups such as Paraf flourished. Later in the 90s and early 2000s, the club and dance scene was led by the Fun Academy and Quorum Colours. Brighton has always been an innovative place for new music. In the late 80s and 90s, it was a key place for the emerging dance and rave scene, which I really enjoyed. In the mid-90s I played bass in a rock band. My friends and I did it for the joy of music – we didn’t expect to be famous – we weren’t – but like so many others we did it for the fun of playing. 3-4 times a week we went to gigs, in pubs and clubs. This is similar to the feeling I have in Rijeka now – there is a varied musical scene, from flamenco to bluegrass and I have got to know several musicians by helping them with their English language as well as reminiscing about the heady 90s rave scene and concerts by bands that people here would have enjoyed seeing. Of course, all the musicians I’ve met here are much more proficient and professional than I was back then. One particular star from Brighton, Fatboy Slim has played in Croatia several times and Nick Cave, who is immensely popular in Croatia lived there for many years (bumped into him twice in Brighton’s shops).
  • Brighton is one of the key centres for the publication of The Big Issue magazine which was established in 1991 to help homeless people get back on their feet and make a small living from writing and selling the magazine. The Big Issue was one inspiration for Rijeka’s own magazine called Ulične svjetiljke which is now sold throughout Croatia.
The Big Issue was the inspiration for Rijeka’s Ulične Svjetiljke
  • Universities – both cities have renowned universities and big student populations. Several campuses and faculties are spread around each city. The students’ energy and enthusiasm are a constant drive in both communities. And of course, with large numbers of students come festivals and events to cater for them. Rijeka has the multi-day Student Day Festival – the largest in the region, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary. It features cultural, educational, sports, humanitarian, entertainment and scientific events for up to 40,000 students from Rijeka, all over Croatia as well as nearby countries. The highlight being the weekend of free concerts in the very centre of the city featuring famous local names – something that made me reminisce of student gigs back in the early 90s in Brighton.
  • In Brighton the culture of recycling is firmly established. It is the only city in the UK which has a Green Party Member of Parliament. In the city, every household has separate bins for each kind of waste that is then collected by the council and dealt with. The City of Rijeka is trying – with separate containers for waste plastic, paper and glass for each neighbourhood, and it regularly distributes leaflets about how to cut down on unnecessary waste and raise awareness of recycling. Recently the city received more money from the government for the expansion of its recycling facilities. There is also one excellent initiative in the city called Riperaj, which is Croatia’s first repair café. It was opened in late 2019 and offers its citizens a free repair service (excluding any necessary spare parts) for their household electrical items and furniture and anything that would otherwise be thrown into the rubbish and end up in a landfill. It also offers a programme of workshops for everyone who wants to learn more about recycling and repairing household equipment. Repair cafés are a rapidly worldwide growing concept. Brighton also has its own Repair Café which was opened in 2012. During ECoC there are several green initiatives, such as Zeleni Val, beginning in Rijeka including the conversion of previously unused roofs of tower blocks into gardens and the greening of deserted areas owned by the city. Something that the local communities are invited to get involved with.
Rijeka’s Riperaj repair cafe opened in 2019 – the first in Croatia.
  • There are many other ways which Rijeka could also benefit from sustainable and renewable energy. Off the coast of Brighton, there is a massive wind farm with more than 100 windmills. Imagine the electricity which could be generated when the fierce “bura” wind blows!! Solar power too when considering the number of sunshine hours which the Adriatic Sea enjoys – in fact, a solar power plant on the nearby island of Cres is due to be constructed. Recently the Port of Rijeka was given a waste collection device – the Seabin – the first in Croatian waters. This simple, inexpensive bin for collecting surface waste is a global initiative that aims to clean up the water around harbours and ports.
  • Brighton has a very big gay community. The Brighton Pride Festival is the largest and proudest LGBT event in the UK with an average of 450,000 attendees every year. Although Rijeka does not come close to this kind of event, it is important to note that in 2013 the people of Rijeka voted against the proposed Article 61 of the Croatian Constitution which was upheld nationally as proclaiming that “Marriage is a living union between a woman and a man” – effectively meaning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Croatia’s first lesbian organisation – LORI – was established in 2000 in Rijeka and it supports the rights of the LGBT community in society. During ECoC there will be the annual Smoqua festival of LGBT culture which will feature performances, a concert, an exhibition, artist and activist interventions in public spaces, workshops, panel discussions and other activities in order to introduce visitors to the importance of queer and feminist history and it will be attended by participants from around the world. Just recently, in 2019 a new website, aimed at gay travellers and tourists was launched by a woman from Rijeka – gaytravelcroatia.net. Since living in Rijeka I have met many friendly, open-minded people of all generations from school children and pensioners, artists, writers, musicians and professors with whom I share the same passions, opinions and positive outlooks as those I know back in Brighton. Although the two cities do not share similar histories, I think that Rijeka’s past has only added to its diversity and tolerance for others as well as the desire for change and improvement.
  • Both Rijeka and Brighton like to feel as though they are different and independent. People visit Brighton for a weekend away, for the arts, nightlife and shopping. The community feeling is very close. In the 2016 Brexit referendum 68% of Brighton’s residents voted to remain in the EU. For me, Rijeka too has a similar feeling – immediately after the ECoC opening ceremony on the blackboard of a popular bar in Rijeka – Caffe la Guardia – whose daily pearls of wisdom over the years have been highly amusing and succinct, stirred up some reactions – read into this what you will.…..

Of course, this is just a quick list of things that immediately came to my mind after enjoying the opening ceremony of Rijeka’s year of holding the title of European City of Culture – many people I spoke to in the days following that day agreed that Rijeka should have a similar, although more modest, event every year. The year-long programme and the lasting effects after 2020 could be the initiator for a new annual Rijeka festival – RiStartFest (?) which would bring extra energy and interest to the city just like Brighton’s world-famous Festival

Late February saw the annual Rijeka Carnival Parade through the city centre. An extra special event this year to celebrate the European Capital of Culture, and something that I experienced 20 years ago on my first visit to Croatia. Every year I am always impressed by the effort, ingenuity and joy that its people can create and in doing so make it unique – just like my previous home of Brighton.

So Rijeka, in the words of your own annual carnival slogan may you always “be what you want to be.”

I was on Croatian National Television’s HTV1 chatting about Rijeka and Brighton with ‘Romano Bolković – 1 na 1’

Novi List interview

This is a reproduction of my interview for Rijeka’s Novi List daily newspaper with Marinko Glavan published on 15.03.2020.

Životna želja! Prevesti Kamovljevu Isušenu kaljužu na engleski

Martin Mayhew, pisac, prevoditelj i novinar, Britanac je koji već 17 godina živi u Rijeci. U međuvremenu je stekao hrvatsko državljanstvo, a uz svakodnevne poslove prevođenja s hrvatskog na engleski te proofreadinga, posla u kojemu »dotjerava« već prevedene tekstove, bilo da je riječ o poslovnoj komunikaciji ili tekstovima pjesama domaćih bendova koji pjevaju na engleskom, kako bi bili posve u duhu engleskog jezika, započeo je s prevođenjem djela Janka Polić Kamova na engleski jezik. Već je preveo zbirku Kamovljevih pjesama Psovka, a velika mu je želja na engleski prevesti Isušenu kaljužu, vjerojatno najznačajnije djelo riječkog pisca, kako bi, ističe, ovaj čudesni roman predstavio čitateljskoj publici s engleskog govornog područja.

Da Hrvati sele u Veliku Britaniju nije ni najmanje neuobičajeno, no suprotnih primjera, poput njegovog, vrlo je malo, u stvari u čitavoj Hrvatskoj trajno živi svega šačica Britanaca pa na pitanje kako je uopće došlo do toga da se iz Brightona preseli u Rijeku, odgovara da je ispočetka sve bila čista slučajnost. U Rijeku i na Kvarner prvi je put stigao prije točno dvadeset godina, radeći kao novinar turističku reportažu s Kvarnera.

“Došao sam u zemlju o kojoj nisam znao puno. Radio sam za jedan časopis, a naš urednik imao je ponude turističkih zajednica iz gotovo cijelog svijeta da dođemo i pišemo reportaže o različitim destinacijama. Tog dana, kada se odlučivalo tko će u Hrvatsku, nitko od kolega novinara nije bio slobodan pa je urednik šetao po redakciji, pitajući „Tko želi ići u Hrvatsku?“. Kako u tom trenutku nisam imao puno nekog drugog posla, rekao sam „OK, ja ću to napraviti“. lako nisam imao pojma gdje idem niti što mogu očekivati. Kad sam rekao svojim prijateljima i poznanicima da idem u Hrvatsku, bilo je svakakvih reakcija, poput one da uzmem sa sobom pancirku, jer je tamo bio rat“, kaže Mayhew.

Niša na tržištu

Po dolasku, proveo je tjedan dana putujući po Primorju i otocima, s grupom od još pet turista i kako naglašava – fantastično se proveo.

„Na Cresu smo bili u Eko centru Beli, gdje zbrinjavaju ozlijeđene bjeloglave supove. Upoznao sam a zaljubio sam se ovu zemlju, i ovaj kraj. U iduće dvije godine promijenio sam posao, vratio sam se u tisak, kao menadžer za proizvodnju u velikoj tiskarskoj tvrtki, ali sam i još nekoliko puta posjetio Hrvatsku. Posao menadžera bio je vrlo stresan i jednom sam trenutku odlučio sve promijeniti, doslovce promijeniti svoj život. Odlučio sam preseliti se iz Brightona u Rijeku. Počeo sam učiti hrvatski i nakon godinu-dvije sam krenuo s prevođenjem i proofreadingom, tada uglavnom za lokalne ljude i tvrtke, ništa pretjerano znanstveno ili na razini prevođenja književnosti“, kaže Britanac.

Kroz godine provedene u Rijeku uspio je stvoriti vlastitu nišu na tržištu, u kojoj se bavi isključivo prijevodima s hrvatskog na engleski, ne i obrnuto, jer iako je, prema onome što smo čuli tijekom razgovora, hrvatski jezik savladao vrlo dobro, kao izvorni govornik engleskog jezika i pisac, smatra kako puno više može postići prevodeći hrvatske tekstove na engleski.

„Najviše se, zapravo, bavim takozvanim proofreadingom, provjerom ispravljanjem tekstova na engleskom koji su pisali Hrvati, kako bi taj tekst bio posve, ne samo gramatički i pravopisno ispravan, nego i u duhu engleskog jezika. Kroz sve ove godine zapravo sam sam stvarao svoj današnji posao. Bio sam uporan, učio sam hrvatski koji je za nas Engleze vrlo zahtjevan jezik. Sintaksa. gramatika, padeži, rodovi, sve je vrlo drugačije. Hrvatski, po svom sudu, ne .govorim baš najbolje, ali ga odlično razumijem, a to je najvažnije kada je riječ o prijevodima s hrvatskog na engleski“, kaže Mayhew.

Zaljubljen u Kamova

Posao mu je vrlo specifičan, posebno kada je riječ o proofreadingu. Radi se o, da tako kažemo, finom tuningu prijevoda s hrvatskog na engleski, u čemu je već stekao popriličnu reputaciju i broj klijenata.

„Dakle, ne govorimo o klasičnom prevođenju, nego o finim nijansama prevođenja. Ljudi mi pošalju tekst na engleskom i ono što ih zanima je zvuči li to zaista dobro. Zvuči li zaista onako kako bi to napisao ili rekao izvorni govornik. Na tom području surađujem I s nekim bendovima koji pjevaju na engleskom, poput Sarah & The Romans čije tekstove provjeravam. Stvorio sam mrežu poznanika i suradnika koji me dalje preporučuju drugim ljudima i tako to funkcionira“, kaže Mayhew.

Što se tiče prevođenja, „zaljubio“ se u Kamova. Do sad je preveo zbirku pjesama Psovka, a prijevod je objavio u vlastitom izdanju, specifičnom po tome što je uvez i grafički dizajn identičan izvornom, prvom izdanju Kamovljeve zbirke pjesama.

‘Psovka’ original edition and ‘The Curse’ in English – available on Amazon as ebook and paperback here

Kad sam prvi put čitao Kamova, za mene je to bilo otkriće. Bio sam oduševljen. Krenuo sam u prevođenje njegove poezije, trudeći sa da to bude zaista najbolji mogući prijevod. Čitajući njegova djela i prevodeći ih, odlučio sam napraviti i cijeli rječnik prijevoda njegovih izraza na engleski, što mi je pomoglo u daljnjem prevođenju, a na taj sam način i bolje upoznao hrvatski jezik, jer je on u svom pisanju koristio izraze i arhaična glagolska vremena kakva se u suvremenom hrvatskom više ne koriste. Želja mi je da napravim kvalitetan prijevod Isušene kaljuže na engleski i tražim izdavača koji bi bio spreman u tome sudjelovati. Riječ je o vrhunskom književnom djelu koje zaslužuje biti prevedeno na engleski kako bi došlo do šireg kruga čitatelja u svijetu. 1tažio sam potporu hrvatskog Ministarstva kulture, kao i britanske ambasade, ali potpora je uvjetovana nalaženjem izdavača Vjerujem da ću uspjeti naći izdavača zainteresiranog za ovaj projekt“, kaže Mayhew.

Modern and original editions of ‘Isušena kaljuža’
My collection of Kamov’s ‘Farces and Novellas’ is also available on Amazon. More details here.

Otvorene luke

Kao novinar proputovao je većinu europskih zemalja, ali kaže kako mu nigdje nije bilo tako lijepo, niti je igdje bilo tako mirno kao u Hrvatskoj, posebno u Rijeci i okolici, iako nije riječ o turističkom gradu. Rijeku je, ističe, izabrao zato jer je cijeli život živio kraj mora, iako je Brighton po pitanju turizma, kao jedno od najpopularnijih odredišta u Engleskoj, posve suprotan Rijeci.

„Brighton je vrlo orijentiran na turizam i vrlo popularan u Britaniji. Proputovao sam i dobar dio Hrvatske, ali sam odlučio da mi dom bude u Rijeci. Volim atmosferu ovog grada, volim, da tako kažem, onaj idealistički dio socijalizma koji se zadržao u ovom gradu. Rijeka i Hrvatska su, osim toga, vrlo sigurni. Možete se šetati sami, bilo kojim dijelom grada, u bilo koje doba noći, bez straha da će vam se dogoditi nešto loše. U nekim dijelovima Londona ili Brightona to nije moguće, ako šetate sami u neko doba noći, postajete meta pljačkaša I sam sam bio opljačkan na ulici u svom rodnom gradu, Brightonu. Osim toga, ljudi u Velikoj Britaniji su prestrašeni od terorističkih napada, a ovdje toga nema“, kaže Mayhew.

Rijeku je odabrao, što je i naglasio u svom nedavno objavljenom tekstu, zbog sličnosti s Brightonom. U oba slučaja riječ je o lučkim gradovima, otvorenima za ljude koji dolaze iz svih krajeva svijeta kroz dugi period povijesti.

„U Rijeci sam upoznao mnogo ljudi, ali nikad se nisam susreo s predrasudama Ovo je, kao i Brighton, vrlo otvoren grad. Doduše, nisam živio nigdje drugdje u Hrvatskoj parni je teško reći je li Rijeka drugačija od ostatka zemlje, ali uspoređujem je s onim što najbolje poznajem, a to je Brighton, koji je također vrlo otvoren, u kojemu se ljudi iz bilo kojeg dijela zemlje ili svijeta osjećaju dobrodošlo. Mislim da je mentalitet Rijeke drugačiji nego ostatka Hrvatske, jer je riječ o luci i industrijskom gradu u koji su oduvijek dolazili brodovi, pomorci, radnici, poslovni ljudi iz raznih krajeva, različitih nacionalnosti, što je stvorilo drugačiji mentalitet. Brighton je turističko središte i također imamo ljude koji dolaze izraznih krajeva. U Brightonu, kao i u Rijeci, prevladava mišljenje kako je grad drugačiji Od ostatka zemlje. Primjerice, iz Brightona je jedini zastupnik zelenih u parlamentu, dok je u ostatku zemlje izbor samo između laburista i konzervativaca. Mislim i da ovdje u Rijeci ima puno prilika, ako želite nešto učiniti, možete. Bit će prepreka, prvenstveno administrativnih, na koje se zbilja teško naviknuti, ali prilika ima Inače, birokracija u Hrvatskoj je zaista problem. Upoznao sam mnoge strance koji su ovdje došli s namjerom da ulažu, ali kad su vidjeli s kolikom birokracijom i papirologijom su suočeni, na kraju su odustali od svojih namjera Na kraju radije kupe kuću ili apartman, nego pokreću biznis, što je velika šteta“, kaže riječki Britanac.

Riječki EPK

Rijeka je, ističe, drugačija od ostalih hrvatskih krajeva uz obalu i po tome što nije turističko odredište, barem ne u segmentu masovnog turizma. Isprva ga je čudilo što u gradu, tijekom vrhunca turističke sezone, u srpnju i kolovozu, ne samo da nema turista u velikom broju, nego ni Riječana.

„Pitao sam zašto ljudi odlaze ljeti. što to Rijeka nema, a svi ostali gradovi uz obalu imaju. Ali s vremenom sam zaključio da je možda i bolje tako. Je li to dobro za Rijeku, ili loše, jer dolazi manje novca od turizma, ne znam. Nadam se da će projekt Europske prijestolnice kulture ipak dovesti više ljudi, iako je teško bilo što prognozirati, s obzirom na epidemiju koronavirusa“, kaže Mayhew.

Kao prevoditelj i sam je uključen u projekt Rijeka EPK 2020. Do sad je preveo cjelokupan katalog svih događanja tijekom riječkog prijestolovanja europskom kulturom, u dva navrata, što je rezultiralo pozamašnim izdanjem na engleskom jeziku u kojemu su predstavljena sva događanja planirana tijekom ove godine.

Prvo izdanje

„To je bio prilično velik posao. Prvo izdanje na engleskom bilo je otprilike upola kraće od drugog, a sada pripremam treće, koje će biti još opsežnije, kaže nam, pokazujući nam podeblju knjigu, katalog zbivanja Rijeka EPK.“

Drugo izdanje

„Zahvaljujući tom prijevodu dobro sam upoznat s programom događanja i zapravo sam zahvalan što sam imao priliku u tome sudjelovati. To mi je i prilika da pokažem što radim, ali i da engleskim medijima približim Rijeka EPK projekt. Do sad nisu pokazali neki golemi interes, ali ipak ga ima. Imam i dalje kontakte u Engleskoj, u medijima, ali oni su uglavnom zainteresirani za Dalmaciju ili Istru, kao najpopularnije turističke destinacije. Ne znam zašto ova regija nije toliko prepoznata, iako je geografski savršeno smještena, a ima i puno toga što vrijedi vidjeti i posjetiti. Možda biste vi meni to trebali objasniti“, kaže Mayhew.

Dvostruko državljanstvo

Uz Britansko, odlučio je uzeti i hrvatsko državljanstvo, što je, smatra, bio ispravan potez, nakon Brexita, jer ostaje građanin Europske unije. Snažno se protivi izlasku Ujedinjenog Kraljevstva iz Europske unije, što smatra potpuno pogrešnom politikom.

“Nisam siguran da su Britanci, glasajući o Brexitu, sasvim razumjeli za što glasaju. Nevjerojatno je da su za Brexit glasali birači laburista. Mislim da će Brexit naštetiti svima. Neki dijelovi Velike Britanije izgubit će mnogo, posebno zbog izostanka sufinanciranja projekata iz EU, poput Walesa, u kojemu je velik dio javnih projekata bio sufinanciran europskim sredstvima. Škotska će, vrlo vjerojatno, izglasati neovisnost od Ujedinjenog Kraljevstva, ne vidim kako se to može spriječiti. Ali tu su i druge stvari, poput razmjene studenata, razmjene znanja, kulture, mislim da će svi na kraju biti na gubitku. Na primjer, čak i glazbenici iz Europe trebati će radnu vizu za nastup u Engleskoj. Glazba je važan dio mog života, a posebno me vesele nastupi britanskih izvođača u Hrvatskoj na koje redovito odlazim, no s vizama, tko zna hoće li i koliko tih nastupa ubuduće biti, hoće li im biti preskupo i prekomplicirano da nastupaju u Hrvatskoj. štete će nastati i po pitanju slobode kretanja, studentske razmjene, znanosti, industrije, svega“, kaže Englez.

O životu i radu u Hrvatskoj i Rijeci kaže kako je drugačiji nego u Brightonu.

„Život u Engleskoj puno je skuplji. Za stan koji ovdje plaćam tristo eura mjesečno u Brightonu bih plaćao barem tisuću. Izlasci, restorani i kafići ovdje su puno jeftiniji. Lako treba uzeti u obzir i da su plaće u Engleskoj znatno veće. U Hrvatskoj su plaće nedovoljne, a to utječe na čitavu kulturu življenja. Ovdje mladi ljudi ostaju živjeti s roditeljima znatno duže nego u Engleskoj, na primjer, jer nemaju dovoljno sredstava da žive sami. To stvara drugačiju sliku društva U Engleskoj, čim završiš školovanje, odlaziš od kuće i očekuje se da skrbiš sam za sebe. To u Hrvatskoj ne vidim i nisam na to navikao, jer sam i sam napustio roditeljski dom kad mi je bilo osamnaest“, kaže Mayhew.

Unatoč razlikama, kaže kako nema namjeru napuštati Hrvatsku. „Kada prestanem raditi i odem i mirovinu, mislim da ću ostati ovdje. Barem za sad, nemam namjeru seliti negdje drugdje. Ovdje sam si stvorio život, našao prijatelje, želim ostati u Rijeci“, zaključuje Mayhew.

Thanks to Marinko Glavan and Marko Gracin @ Novi List.
Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić i Janko Polić Kamov pod kontrolom – ja i Sabina Gvozdić. Ogulin – Rijeka 🙂

Romano Bolković – 1 na 1: HTV1 interview

I was recently interviewed by Romano Bolković for his ‘1 na 1’ talk show programme for Croatian National Television HTV1. It was broadcast on 02.03.2020.

At the same I wrote an article for the Total Croatia News portal about the similarity between the city of Rijeka and the city of Brighton in England where I come from after the opening day of the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture year-long celebration. You can read it here.

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….

It is also available to buy from the publishers Modernist in Varaždin.

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

Novellas

‘Ecce homo!’
Grief – Žalost
Freedom – Sloboda
Bitanga

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