Croatia

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FICTION
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Damir Karakas worked as a journalist and a war reporter from war-fronts in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. In 2001 he moved to Bordeaux, and a year later to Paris, where he stayed for the next five years, making his living by playing the accordion. In 2000 he published his first novel Kombetars (2000) and later a short stories collection Kino Lika (2001) which earned cult status on the Croatian literary scene. He further published a ‘docu-novel’ How I entered Europe, and two more short story collections Eskimos and Colonel Beethoven. Damir’s more recent works are Perfect Place for Misery and Blue Moon. His writing has been translated into French, German, English, Italian, Czech, Macedonian, Slovenian.

Forest Memories (Sjećanje šume)

Sjećanje šume is a novel comprised of thirty-three short chapters that follow the coming of age of a boy with a heart condition.  Set in a mountainous middle-of-nowhere Balkan province, it tells the story of a family gripped by bitterness and violence and of a poverty stricken upbringing; about expensive doctors and old village beliefs; mean grandfathers and mysterious old ladies, about the harsh life in the hills.  Cutting deep into the flesh of petrified patriarchy, Forest Memories is a catalogue of unrealized ambitions: to become an army officer, a basketball player, a bodybuilder, to sell hazelnuts, to shoot a bear… There is no empathy, only a brooding violence, among the members of this household. Emotions are for the weak and, no matter what, need to be hidden, suppressed, swallowed. Until they explode to permanently scar a childhood that is not an idyllic place, but rather a place of unease and horror.

132 Pages – Original language: Croatian (Sandorf, 2016 and Buybook, 2017)  –  Rights Sold: Serbia (L.O.M., 2017), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Buybook, 2017), Slovenia (Beletrina), Macedonian (Makedonika Litera, 2018)

German and English language sample available.

[Damir Karakas]

Blue Moon
Damir Karakaš new novel follows a young rockabilly fanatic at the end of the Eighties. A failed student who cares deeply about his pompadour hairdo and whose existential bewilderment is magnified by the stifling pre-war anxiety that grips the discussions in the streets of Zagreb and amongst family members. Ostracized by colourful family and friends, facing a society storing up on hatred and preparing for suffering and pain, our protagonist is permanently (comically) on the run. Unable to fit in, his outsider status provides him with an understanding of the futility of the national, social and mental divisions about to become the sparkle of the Balkan tragedy of the early ‘90s.
Blue Moon talks about the inability of a world that is approaching a new war, to self-reflect. About a quiet, mute but persisting love towards the Ustasha crimes of World War II, when Serbs from the neighbouring village were slaughtered and thrown into a pit. When, however, the violent fathers and grandfathers of the protagonist speak from their fundamental cartoonishness about what was, and what will be, about war and slaughter, the story is unexpectedly delicate. Karakaš finds empathy towards everyone’s suffering. Including the suffering of those who suffer because they’re not capable of articulating, living through and overcoming their misfortune.
Told with care and sense of responsibility, youthful subcultures and tragic family heritage collide in the story about the vanishing and transformation of Zagreb’s Serbs.

135 pages – Rights Sold: Serbia (L.O.M., 2014) – Original Language: Croatian (Sandorf, 2014), Macedonian (Makedonika Litera, 2019)

[Damir Karakas]

Perfect Place for Misery
is the story of today’s vast European population living in big cities without any legal status: mostly illegal immigrants from other continents or Eastern Europe. Damir Karakas managed to portray Paris of today writing very lightly on a supremely heavy topic. The novel was also staged at the National Theatre in Rijeka in 2011. This is a novel about a different Paris, a novel about demystifying illusions.

280 Pages – Rights Sold: Italy (Nutrimenti), Germany (Dittrich Verlag), Serbia (L.O.M.) Czech Rep. (Doplnek), Egypt (Maktabet Dar El Kalema), Macedonia (Makedonska rec) – Original language: Croat (Samizdat B92, 2012)

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On behalf of Ivan Sršen, Sandorf Literary Agency
Olja Savicevic is one of the best Croatian contemporary authors and a representative of the so called ‘lost generation’. Politically and socially engaged, Olja’s work has been included in a number of Croatian anthologies and international selections,. Her writing has been translated into German, Czech, Italian, Spanish, Slovenian, French, English, Slovak, Macedonian, Polish, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Albanian and Zulu language. Her short stories collection To Make a Dog Laugh won the prize for best author under thirty-five awarded jointly by Vijenac.

Singer In The Night
A seemingly conventional love story, turns into a multi-layered play on genres – road novel, bildungsroman, and a parody on soap opera plot twists. All of it embroidered with Savičević-Ivančević’s rich and lyrical language, bizarre and entertaining characters, and the enchanting narrator, Naranča (Orange, as in fruit) Peović, a famous soap opera script writer.

Naranča is slowly losing her memory, for this reason she decides to embark on a literal road trip down memory lane (on a golden convertible) in search of her greatest love and ex-husband. Slavuj (Nightingale in Croatian) was an artist whose uncompromising artistic integrity is opposed to Naranča’s fickle falling into TV soap opera fame. It is the memory of a series of letters by Slavuj, written over several weeks and hand-delivered to the inhabitants of the street where they lived, that cracks open the novel. The letters, triggered by a mysterious couple who make loud love for hours in the middle of the night, keeping the neighbourhood awake, touch upon – among other things – the nature of love, war, lust, nationalism, capitalism, and childhood, highlighting the paradox of the human condition through playful humour.

Naranča starts her quest in Split, then across Dalmatia, all the way to war-torn Bosnia to a village where war ruins are being conquered by nature, in a kind of macabre celebration of the force of life.

But are the memories Naranča is trying to preserve just a fantasy? The second part of the novel -told in a third person narrative (the first part uses the I)- will reveal a different angle from which past events are seen.

A comment on perception, on how life is lived – never objectively, never encompassing the whole truth, and yet real to us, nonetheless. The novel, finally gives a playful warning on the consequences of choosing banality – whether it be nationalism, vanity or fame – over true human connection.

155 Pages – Rights Sold: Italy (L’asino d’oro, 2017);  Germany (Voland & Quist); UK (Istros Books); Serbia (LOM) – Original language: Croatian (Sandorf, 2016)

[Olja Savicevic]

Farewell, Cowboy
The novel follows Dada who returns to her home town, in Mediterranean Dalmatia, where her brother Danijel committed suicide four years earlier. Looking for clues to her brother death, taking care of her mother, Dada meets a series of colourful characters, falls in love and faces the harsh reality of a broken society.

The author took inspiration from the Italian ‘spaghetti western’ movies, in which the protagonists are driven by money and self-interest, rather than moral values. The novel was warmly welcomed by critics and the public for the power and charm of his language.

Adapted for the theatre, Farewell Cowboy depicts post war Croatia and its the ‘lost generation’

“Dada represents the generation which the war in ex-Yugoslavia has catapulted into a new future. A future, in which redskins were suddenly no longer cooler than the cowboys who had embodied the imperialist West.” – Die Zeit

… a wild ride through the dusty streets of a coastal city in Dalmatia; clouds of memories are stirred up and verbal hot lead fills the air. The dust settles to reveal a subtle and cleverly crafted family story, which revolves around a pervasive past waiting to be addressed.” Wortlandschaften

205 Pages – Rights Sold: USA (Mc Sweeney’s), Germany (Voland & Quist), Italy (L’asino d’oro), Slovenia (Littera Picta), UK (Istros Books), Spain (Baile del Sol), Serbia (B92), Netherlands (BananaFish), Sweden (Gavrilo) – Original language: Croat (Algoritam, 2010)

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