Miroslav Krleža, On the Edge of Reason

Second paper, rough draft due

Miroslav Krleža (1893–1981), Croatia, Yugoslavia.

Krleža is generally considered the most significant figure in Croatian literature in the 20th century - a playwright, novelist, essayist, poet and lexicographer - and one of the all-time big authors in Yugoslav literature. He was born in Zagreb (then still the main city of an Austro-Hungarian province) and was sent to study at a military academy in Budapest. (Where he can't have fit in very well.) During the First World War he fought in Galicia. Between the wars he lived mostly in Zagreb and Belgrade, founding literary journals and writing prolifically, though his writing was often censored or banned due to his radical leftist views. He refused to collaborate with the Quisling Ustaša government during the Second World War, and his life was in danger several times. From 1950 to his death he was director of the Yugoslav Lexicographical Institute in Zagreb and also general editor of the Encyclopedia of Yugoslavia. He wrote important works in many genres: poetry, such as the dialect “Ballads of Petrica Kerempuh” (the name is as funny in Croatian as in English), drama (Gospoda Glembajevi (tr. as The Glembajs, 1928), U agoniji (Death-throes, 1928) and Leda (1958)), short stories and novels. Povratak Filipa Latinowicza (The Return of Philip Latinovicz, 1932) is the first and best-known of his novels; Jean-Paul Sartre reportedly said that if he had read it first, he would not have bothered writing his famous existentialist statement, La Nausée. (Note the spelling of Philip’s last name: “w” and “cz” are not used in Croatian spelling, and here they are signs of the other languages - Polish?, Hungarian? - that along with Croatian were spoken in parts of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.) Shockingly, the novel is out of print in English. I just checked amazon.com to confirm this, and found used copies being sold for $92.00.

We will be reading Na rubu pameti (On the Edge of Reason); it's less well-known than Philip, but also full of interesting things. This edition was translated by Zora Depolo.

Questions for reading:

Other books by Krleža:


Works about Krleža:

Web links about Krleža:

You might enjoy comparing Krleža’s work to Vladimir Nabokov The Gift, or (in its mood) to Gunther Grass's The Tin Drum or The Flounder or The Call of the Toad. Another story of alienation in the early 20th century is Deszö Kosztolányi's Anna Edes. Or take Sartre at his word and read La Nausée.