The Croatian Novel Critical Essays


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Croatian fiction had an early beginning in Petar Zorani’s Planine (1569; mountains), but that was an isolated case. Like the Serbs, the Croats were dominated by a foreign power for centuries, this time the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The true development began with August enoa (1838-1881), who wrote several historical novels during the Romantic period in Croatian literature. enoa approached his novels more like a realist, especially when describing social conditions. Historical events and figures from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries were used by enoa to inspire his people in their struggle for independence and social order. Toward the end of his life, he turned entirely to topics from everyday life, foreshadowing several realist novelists concerned almost exclusively with social problems. Ante Kovai (1854-1889), Eugen Kumii (1850-1904), Josip Kozarac (1858-1906), Vjenceslav Novak (1859-1905), Ksaver andor Djalski (1854-1935), and Janko Leskovar (1861-1949) attempted, in their individual ways, to cope with the pressing problems besetting their people while striving to advance the novel. Some novelists reflected a local milieu, while others showed the influence of Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Ivan Turgenev, and the naturalists. Although they were usually successful with one or two novels, they all helped in establishing a tradition in Croatian fiction that was lacking before and that would later bring forth outstanding works.

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, realism lost its vitality, and new currents, spurred by developments in West European literatures, especially the French, began to take hold. A movement called Moderna (modern) established itself as the leading literary trend, as it did in Serbian literature on a smaller scale. Leading novelists of this period—Milutin Cihlar Nehajev (1880-1931), Dinko imunovi (1873-1933), and Janko Poli Kamov (1886-1910)—advocated close ties with European literatures, considered form as important as content, and demanded full independence for the artist. Their efforts were soon overshadowed by the most dominant writer in Croatian literature between the two world wars—indeed, in all of Yugoslav literature in the twentieth century—Miroslav Krlea (1893-1981). His political activism, based on humanitarian communism, colored his approach to literature as well, primarily in the topic selection and in...

(The entire section is 979 words.)