Love and…in Croatian Renaissance Literature

Although unilingual anthologies (collections of literary works chosen by a compiler) have been around for more than two millennia, bilingual anthologies are not as common, and trilingual are even rarer (see, for ex., Poetry of the Earth: Mapuche Trilingual Anthology in Mapudungun, Spanish and English, or The Bread and the Rose, a Trilingual Anthology of Neapolitan Poetry in Neapolitan, English and Italian). In the glory and fame (dike ter hvaljen’ja, published in New York by the Croatian Academy of America in 2015), the compilers Vladimir Bubrin and Vinko Grubišić have selected 50 poetic, dramaturgical and prose works of 21 Croatian authors who represent the golden age of Croatian literature (about 1475-1600).
It is captivating, from a thematic point of view, to discover the innermost views of Croatian Renaissance poets. The inspirations behind their writings offer a rich array of motivation which goes well beyond love. Of course, love figures prominently but it is not their only concern. There are religious poems and plays, concerns with current events (Turkish invasion and the concomitant strife it brought on the population), character studies in plays, commentary on local mores, pagan elements, especially the recurring description of fairies. Postmodern scholars may find metadiscourses on poetry interesting.
The wealth of information, the beauty of the selected works, the meticulous translations (both into English and into modern Croatian) offer a plethora of riches. The volume will delight those interested in Renaissance literature in general, in the complex intertwining of themes, topoi, characters of Italian Renaissance works with those found in the authors represented in the anthology. Obviously, there are specificities, and they are all to be discovered. The works will enchant linguists and those who cultivate love of languages in general, as it did me, since it makes it possible to compare not only the version of Renaissance Croatian with that of modern Croatian, but also with equivalents in other Slavic languages. The book will fascinate historians of literature and ethnographers – the fact that certain cities in the Dalmatian area (Spit, Dubrovnik, Trogir, Šibenik, Zadar, Hvar, Stari Grad) produced the most famous of the poets and dramatists still has to be satisfactorily explained. The poems will intrigue philologists who study verse types, since dodecasyllabic and octosyllabic verse was used by these Renaissance authors. Clearly, the book is an important source for many readers: the English translations are, after all, the motivation behind the desire to extend the knowledge of these authors beyond local borders. The volume has an intrinsic cultural and historical significance.
In a technologically connected world, it would be highly desirable not only to put the anthology of the works of these Croatian authors on line, but, above all, to have an audio accompanying the volume in order that those who know Croatian, may hear the Renaissance version of it, and for those who are learning it, to help with the pronunciation. Perhaps the Croatian Academy of America will be as generous in its support of that project as it was of this one, as it would really concretize the Academy’s main purpose, that of the promotion of Croatian literature, culture and history among English speakers. And, without doubt, the volume glory and fame (dike ter hvaljen’ja) is the best example of that goal.



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