Delighted because of the love statement, but intimidated by the apocalyptic threat of her attacking relatives, put into an awkward position of humiliating herself, in the nick of time that demands a response, she leans towards her lover only to throw it in his face: “Aren’t you sorry for your new trousers?” The insulted lover flees from the village and is gone for 3 years.
It is this point in the novel that Ivo Frangeš’s lesson alludes to “All things have their time3F”. Pavle is the right man, on the right place, in the wrong time. The existentialist would say that a human’s life is nothing but fear of wrong choices. Pavle uses the same mechanism – in order not to make a wrong choice he won’t choose at all. But that’s exactly the trick since not-acting at all is the worst possible choice. This is a well-known mechanism — choosing the worst in order not to be surprised by disappointing experiences. In other words, this is a scene that initiates Pavle’s development as a passive figure, a man thinking but not acting. Ivo Frangeš calls him “the Croatian Hamlet”, (“Leskovars are … Hamlets who tear life apart by thinking, they suffer but don’t fight, they drown but don’t try to escape”4F) The critic intuitively recognizes a character of this kind, but he is not yet created by the text of the novel. It is our duty to show how and when that happens.
And then the other woman shows up. It is a scene given retrospectively as well. In the big city Pavle encounters a genuine Nemesis. Maria is a widow, meaning —a woman with experience, a woman with past. About her temperament others will speak, saying that her husband has died of a stroke. Maria gets rid of the undesirable help, but the invited Pavle doesn’t call on. When some fortress long under siege would be conquered, the ancient Latins used to say: “vae victis”, meaning “woe to the vanquished”. Pavle may have said “woe to Maria” because her fortress is easily conquered. But he doesn’t visit her because he says “woe” to himself. The first time he runs away from a woman because he doesn’t succeed, the second – because he does. So, escaping becomes a mechanism: he runs away both when things work out and when they don’t. But the woman whose husband dies from a stroke develops a lavish and expert tactics. She gets Pavle, and now he returns home after many years as Maria’s fiancé.
Proust says: “NO is the greatest stimulus for the wooer”, therefore the rejected doesn’t forget about their failure. It has been said that the human psyche doesn’t function on the basis of emotional reciprocity, but on the basis of a hero-epic psychology. The interest increases with the rejection. The rejecter tickles the rejected by the mystery of the untouchable. Proust’s elegant definition conceals the phantom that conquered in order to (only) possess things. Pavle is influenced by this phantom who tells him that Ljudmila, apart from showing a stoic worry for the condition of his trousers, has also said the famous NO to him. So Pavle unexpectedly becomes a man in schism between two women.
3. Pavle’s idleness
The novel commences with all these episodes in the past. What is to be seen are the consequences from the life past. One of the most authoritative narratologists of the contemporary literary theory, Roland Barthes, introduces two kinds of narrative scenes which are immanent in the respect of the narration– clusters of the stories, called nests, which are opposed to scenes used to slow down the action until the next important joint in the story takes place, i.e. catalysts. The 15 pages that we have chosen are exactly the catalysts between two nests. The nest that precedes is the first scene in the novel – a meeting between two former lovers in a church. The following nest is a point when the present Pavle’s fiancé5F arrives. Between the two meetings in two whole days, as catalysis, Pavle “is killing time” with the following predications:
1. At his house he finds the old LOCKSMITH, who has come to invite him at his neighbor’s estate. (The stocky locksmith Mihalj Hrestak is almost a psychological caricature: if disease in the village appears he hides, if he gets sick he cries, panicking that he might die. His fear is not a normal human emotion, but almost a demon).
3. see Janko Leskovar “Fallen Castles “, fragment cited, pg. 12.
4. Ibidem, pg. 11.
5. before this nest a joker-scene takes place. It is a visit of some relatives to the Dobrovac castle, that resembles the visit from many years ago when Pavle was turned down by Ljudmila. This is a replay of the situation evoking of his wrong choice maybe a new attempt under the same circumstances. This scene is a reduplication of the nucleus which was retrospectively given; this is a scene that relativizes the narrative perfect and the narrative present.