Ravens, seagulls, and dark angels

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Ravens, seagulls, and dark angels

Towards the novel “On the lonely shore by the sea” by Zoran Ferić, translated from Croatian by Vladimir Jankovski, Ili-Ili, 2020

Although as a child he dreamed of being an astronaut, an architect, or at least a successful gangster, Zoran Ferić (1961) published his first poems in a school newspaper at the age of 15 and realized that he actually wanted to be a writer. Nevertheless, he spends his whole life as a high school teacher, although he claims that he thought of devoting himself exclusively to literature, he thinks that his life would completely fall apart if there is not that frame of living in rhythm from one summer-holiday to another (Jurčić, 2020: 82). In his witty biography, Ferić says that “he wants to read and has read a lot of books, but he has forgotten most of them. He wrote some, but soon he will probably forget them too.” (Ferić) The truth is that his biography is actually quite serious and in his opus includes two collections of short stories and several novels, which are almost without exception well accepted by both the audience and the critics. This is evidenced by the “Decade” awards he received for the collection of short stories “Walt Disney’s Mousetrap” (1996), “Xaver Shandor Djalski” and the “Jutarnji list” award for prose book of the year for the collection “Angel in Offside” (2000), and especially the awards “Vladimir Nazor”, “Jutarnji list”, the award of the city of Zagreb and the award “Cyclops” awarded by the book fair in Pula, which he received for the novel “The Mayan Calendar” (2011, in Macedonian published 2016 by Ili-Ili).

“After the great success of the mentioned ‘Mayan Calendar’, many wondered if he had written the book of his life and if he could write another novel of the same quality. Fortunately for Ferić and his fans, he proved very quickly that he can and, on the contrary, that we should not worry at all about whether he will be left without inspiration for his future works.” (Glavina, 2016) His next novel “Na osami blizu mora” (2015), which was published in Macedonian as “On the lonely shore by the sea” (Ili-Ili, 2020) in an excellent translation by Vladimir Jankovski[1], is the core of this text. And the center of the novel revolves around the lives of several friends and their love adventures on the island of Rab, although the author claims that his goal was to draw a much bigger character besides his characters: the island itself, to whom he owes everything, because here he spent the most beautiful summers, met the woman of his life and made good friends.

And it is this island and its sentimental descriptions that build the first level of pleasure that comes from the novel as if you can smell the rosemary, gaze at the oleanders and acacias, hear the bubbling of the sea and the sway of the ships, imagine yourself on the longest sandy beaches or the terrace of one of the hotels. Although the storyline sometimes moves to other places from nearby Rijeka and Zagreb, through Graz and Krakow all the way to Africa, the summer atmosphere and youthful world on the banks of the Rab remain the most important chronotope in the novel. “Ferić’s new prose, placed under the common umbrella of the casual and popist title, is created in that endlessly sad gap between free sex as a metaphor for pleasure, youth, and freedom, but also the sorrow and death that lurk around the corners of every harmless summer day that smells of free time, relaxation and sex.” (Pogačnik, 2015)

Ferić’s focus is on a group of boys and their sexual conquests and love vicissitudes over the years – Luka, Boris, Raven, Shkembo, then Lena, Alka, and numerous foreign girls who spend their summers on the island and enter into their conquest nets. The fragmentary way in which the novel is written does not allow us to identify only one main character. In fact, almost all the characters are equally well portrayed, even the seemingly minor ones like, for example,  Luka’s grandmother who ran away from her wedding and ended up on a mission in equatorial Africa, or some other episodic characters who lead the action in some other locations and at another time.

Precisely because of those episodes shown in the nine parts of the novel, which themselves could have been expanded and become a separate novel, “Sometimes it seems to me that this book could work perfectly as a collection of short stories because they can stand autonomously, but the final scene of the funeral, where the company reunites after many years, fantastically outlines the direction envisioned by the writer. What begins as an easy story about summer conquests and children’s problems, through further action offers an open picture of life difficulties that we will all, to a greater or lesser extent, encounter. We could argue whether this is a pessimistic or simply a realistic depiction of the average life as Ferić sees it, but in any case, it is clear that it is perfectly skillfully described and written. (Glavina, 2016)

[1] In the novel, some of the dialogues are written in Dalmatian dialect, but the translator and the editors decided to translate them into a standard Macedonian language, in order to avoid the trap of the text containing a caricature dimension or too many footnotes that would burden the reading. Without going into the justification of such a procedure, for us as readers the most important thing is that the novel sounds great in Macedonian and is easy to read in accordance with the dynamic development of the action.

AuthorAna Martinoska
2021-04-03T19:30:27+00:00 March 31st, 2021|Categories: Reviews, Literature, Blesok no. 136|0 Comments