I’ve heard my colleagues at Ooligan Press talk about our small collection of Croatian translations, but until recently, I hadn’t looked into them. The press published the first book, The Survival League, in 2005, which was shortly followed by Zagreb, Exit South and Do Angels Cry? Each book, at less than two hundred pages apiece, proves to be a quick yet inspirational read. Not only do these stories teach us about a war many know little about—the Croatian War of Independence—they also provide rich characters and themes that anybody can relate to, even way over here in Oregon. To be honest, I was at first intimidated by the idea of a Croatian book, translated or not. The concept sounded like something I would have a difficult time understanding. However, the books are so well written (and translated) that I would recommend them to anyone. I personally appreciated the edgy humor each of the books features. While they tell of a dark time for Croatia, they show the resilience of its people.
Do Angels Cry?, written by Matko Marušić, is a collection of short stories, each of which focuses on the pride the Croatian people have for their country. After war broke out in 1991, everyone was left struggling to find purpose and meaning. In their search, they turned to the innocence of their children, the love of their families, and the bravery of their soldiers. Marušić is the perfect person to tell these stories: during the war, he began documenting the civilian lives lost, which he used as the subjects of the stories in Do Angels Cry?, originally published in Croatia in 1996.
The Survival League, written by Gordon Nuhanović and translated by Julienne Buŝić, also tells the stories of the individuals affected by the Croatian War of Independence. Nuhanović focuses on the fact that humanity is universal, using edgy, dark writing to show the optimism of his people. The everyday challenges and events are those to which any culture can relate. Nuhanović worked as a reporter during the war, and his firsthand experience helped shape this uplifting work about a tragic time.
Zagreb, Exit South, written by Edo Popović and translated by Julienne Buŝić, focuses on postwar Croatia and a middle-aged writer as he avoids going home and ends up introducing us to a diverse set of characters. As he wanders from bar to bar, he reflects on his life and experiences, and forces us to do the same. As with the other Croatian titles, Zagreb, Exit South uses dark humor to tell a story of hope in even the worst circumstances. Popović has been a journalist since the war, and also participated as a soldier. His reports of the war appeared in Croatian newspapers and helped him write this novel.
I hope Ooligan considers translating more books from different countries. They provide insight into worlds other readers and I may have overlooked otherwise. They also connect us to publishers and readers in other parts of the world, creating community around books we all love.