Zima, Zdravko – Adam and Eve in Paradise

Zima, Zdravko – Adam and Eve in Paradisez_zima_adam_eva

2012, 240 pages

Price 7 USD







Zdravko Zima, b. in 1948, in Malinska on the island of Krk, is a graduate of the University of Zagreb, with a major in Yugoslav languages and literatures. He has been contributing essays in literary criticism and other types of writing in all the leading Croatian newspapers and periodicals. He has been the editor-in-chief of the weekly Danas (Today) as well as of periodic publications such as The Bridge, Lettre Internationale, and Cicero. In recent years, he has been active as a literary critic and columnist of the Rijeka based Novi list (New Paper).

He has published the following books: Noćna strana uma, (Nocturnal Side of Mind), 1990; Zvjezdana prašina, (Stardust), 1992; Zagreb je kriv za sve, (It is all Zagreb’s Fault), 1993, Best book of essays award by the literary review Gratis; Purgeri u pugatoriju (The Zagreb Pure-bloods in Purgatory), 1995; Porok pisanja (The Vice of Writing), 2000, the Julia Benešić Award for the best book of literary criticism; Zimsko ljetovanje (A Winter Time  Summer Vacation), 2001; Močvara (The Swamp), 2002; Prikazi, prikaze (Reviews and Apparitions), 2003, Gondoljier na Vltavi (The Vltava River Gondolier), 2004, the Kiklop (Cyclops) best book of essays award; Metak u petak (A Bullet on a Friday), 2005; Lovac u plamenu (A Hunter in Flames). Relations, a periodical publication for the promotion of Croatian literature abroad has published a selection from Zima’s opus in German (double issue, 1-2/2011). All the texts in this book were published in the course of 2010, in Rijeka-based Novi List.



In my student days, long gone by, I was a contributor in Aćin’s and Tešić’s Literary Word, while past a few long, and at the same time brief decades, during which the Balkans retouched its face, it was my fate to have to explain – to myself as well as to others around me – why I was having a book published in Serbia. The easiest answer to this in many ways superfluous question would be a counter-question: why not? While politicians or criminals chum around at will across ethnic and national lines, the rest of us constantly have to defend our freedom of communication. If culture is not communication above and beyond boudaries, real or imagined, it is difficult to establish its raison d’être. It is not time to lament, but the Balkans have always been a sphere of blackmail, in which the most successful navigators were fakers and frauds the best trained in making others pay the price for their own manipulations. It is hard to say if it was worse yesterday, when cultural values were defined by cops, or today when the laws of profit and permanent enertainment hsave transformed culture into a fetishistic simulacrum.

In recent past, the greatest Croatian writers have been attached to Belgrade by various strings. As a deserter from the Austro-Hungarian army, Matoš was incarcerated in the Petrovaradin fortress, from which he escaped and managed to reach Belgrade via Novi Sad and Pančevo. He spent three years and three months in the Serbian capital, active as a musician (chellist), a journalist and a literati. Due to diseased right hand, during his second stay in Belgrade (1905), he had to write with his left hand as well as stop playing chello, and when Pera Todorović died, he bore witness to the energy of this founder of modern journalism in Serbia, praising his style and calling him one of the greatest orators of his nation. He concluded his obituary to Todorović by a remark  that the death of an extraordinary mind is equally cause for sorrow in Croatia as it is in Serbia. Two most important collections of poems by Tin Ujević,  another Croatian writer who spent time in Belgrade, The Serf’s Lament and The Ring were published in Cyrillic by a major Serbian publisher Svetislav B. Cvijanović, born in Županja, and, from the perspective of recent times and always smoldering antagonisms, particularly interesting is the great poet’s text i which he states that Serbia is ”more Croatian than Croatia itself”. The course of Krleža’s life was fatefully determined by the Balkan Wars (1912 and 1913) and by his escapes to Serbia, which by sheer accident didn’t end fatally for the former Budapest cadett. It is a notorious fact that in 1934, in Belgrade, Krleža started, with a group of people sharing his opinions, a monthly publication ”Danas” (Today), and more significant than the police ban on this publication after only five issues is the fact that its circulation had amounted to more than  three thousand copies.

Naturally, the trouble is in the lack of will on all sides to separate culture from politics in areas in which they do not belong together, and in which the commitment of the mind cannot be reduced to petty daily calculations. Didn’t Ionesco explain how man dies from politics, (whether we take his statements literally or as figures of speech)? In the eyes of this celebrated dramatist, politics are an evil that manipulates the human being, and, since the manipulation is relentless, the question is whether there is any way out of that quagmire. Krleža taught us that, from the Antiquity on, man has been a zoon politikon, while Matoš sought refuge in the outsider status, advocating an aesthetic approach to life, sensing acutely that his walk down the primrose path might, in the end,  exact a price in blood (as he noted in his novella Camao). Nevertheless, the greatest cultural figures could hardly free themselves from politics, bearing it on their backs as a cross, or as a shadow emanating the other, dark, nature of being, and the opposite of light.

At the time of Austria-Hungary, my ancestors migrated to Slavonia from the Czech town of Hradec Králové. That northern locality is known as the home of the piano manufacturing company ”Petrof”, but also as a birthplace of Jara Ribnikar, who came to Belgrade as small child with her father, a pianist and a university professor, Emil Hayek. Jara remained in Belgrade, just as my father’s ancestors remained in Slavonia. Then, my father headed for the island of Krk, where he was to meet his future wife and my mother, Draga. This is a long and a different story, and suffice it to say that in this mixture of Bohemian-Hungarian and Dalmatian-insular roots I see the most fortunate dimension of who I am. My father was horrified when I ended up, in 1984, in Šuvar’s White Book. The truth is that, as a convinced communist, he was more horrified by his son than by those who, guided by a deep-seeded careerism, had placed his son among the enemies of the state and extreme nationalists. I do not know what my father’s attitude toward me would have been had he lived to see the war and the emergence of new Balkan states, for during that time I quickly evolved into a Yugophile and a unitarian. I am not trying to defend myself from any of the above mentioned disqualifying labels; they speak less of me than of the world in which we live, of the unbearable lightness of sticking a label on anybody who does not accept always same and always obscurantist philosophy of the crowd. And, what about the miracle called the State, of which nationalists of all stripe have made an altar? Nietsche believed that a man’s freedom begins where the state stops; Joyce emigrated from Ireland, convinced that the individual is eccentric, while the state is concentric; and the pioneer of the American anarchism, H. D. Thoreau maintained that, while he had a dream of an ideal state, he had never seen one in an awakened state.

The texts collected in this book, for whose publication I am indebted to the good will of Ivan Čolović, are a part of the chronicles I have been writing every week for some odd twelve years Supilo’s Novi list (New Paper). Twelve is the number of a world and of a time completed, in which the mixture of the true and the false is in synch with all manner of catastrophic prognoses.  My own prognoses, if not diagnoses, can be found on the pages of this book. My thanks go to those who will take them into consideration, as they are.


Zagreb, early spring, 2012