Miro Gavran, Croatia
Reason is not the only thing that distinguishes us from animals
Which books have given you the most and from which books have you been able to take more than you believed it possible?
I think that as a reader I have taken the most from the books I read in my childhood and youth, i.e. when I developed my personality and literary taste. To me, the novel remained the most impressive literary genre, because only the novel could suggest the complexity of life itself.
What is the destiny of fine letters now, and what could this destiny be in the near and in the more distant future?
I think the future of fine letters is more than brilliant and certain… In other words, neither cinema, nor television and even less Internet have succeeded in replacing literature, and they never will. More books are published and read now. The only problem are the artificially proclaimed hits, the false best-sellers, which are only read because much money is invested in their promotion. Such works are often mere trash, and they come to us mainly from the big languages, respectively, from powerful economic centers.
The cultural crisis of today has its causes and its signs, but it also has a remedy that is basically universal. Perhaps, the purely Slovenian specifics of this remedy remain out of focus?
I can see a crisis, which is the consequence of the atheistic and materialistic approach to life… this comes from the French Revolution… If we look at life as a spiritual phenomenon, there is no crisis. The problem of the European culture results from the fact that the majority of intellectuals and writers in the past 250 years approached life from an atheistic and materialistic point of view… The situation in Croatia is not much different. That explains the empty decadent literature, which is worthless and cannot offer a real artistic experience and catharsis. Fortunately, more and more young people reject the primitive materialistic vision of the world and know that reason is not the only thing that distinguishes us from animals.
There are many secrets to a book, and the author’s mastership tends to be among the most mysterious. Have you reached a conscious explanation for yourself of everything that you have created – as creative art, besides a pure will, is also the product of the artist’s instincts, of the artist’s enigmatic and mysterious self that he deciphers only partially in his texts to the reader?
You need inspiration to write, though skill is essential too. The form is essential, the content is essential. As a child I used to play chess and I think this has influenced my writing, especially my drama writing, which requires masterly expression with a few instruments and a few sentences.
What has been the major source of hope and belief for you through the years?
Personally, I love people very much. I think I have always had a life-asserting approach. I have never been alcoholic, I do not drink coffee, I do not smoke and I have not eaten meat for 23 years now… I have always believed that a work of art must and can make a man better. A book should make us laugh or cry. As a reader I expect emotion and catharsis from literature and I try as a writer to achieve that. This is probably the reason why my dramas and books have been translated into 20 languages, why I have more than 100 premieres in 15 countries. I have always recoiled from affected empty literature that lacks men of flesh and blood.
What is your vision of Croatia at the end of the 21st century? What does Time mean for you?
At the end of the 21st century Croatia may be what it is now: a tourist country, in which people live in slight discrepancy with their dreams. What is important is that Croatia should remain an interesting and inspiring place for writers, as it is today. I am only afraid lest globalization and Americanization threaten us; I wrote about this in my latest drama, How to Kill the President, where the protagonist was an anti-globalist.
What is the weight of values created over the last hundred years, and what is the burden that these years have placed on us?
In the past one hundred years there was too much ideologization of reality in Europe… in fact the “clever” intellectuals, who worshipped the golden calf, inflicted the biggest damage on their suffering peoples.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the destiny of the Balkans and mankind, and why?
When the Balkans are concerned, I am both optimistic and pessimistic… As far as destiny of the people in this region is concerned, it is the big countries that decide and they have often misused it for their purposes.
What would you choose – if you had to choose today – between a bag of gold and an eternal book? And what would have been your choice 30 years ago?
I think a bag of gold has never brought happiness to anybody. I wish I remained on a deserted island with a full bag of good books.
Do you think that in these times when the path to the reader is difficult and uncertain, new names could emerge? Could the experience with your own public recognition be useful today? How did you gain recognition, was it easy?
I’ve been lucky in my life: when I was just 22, a student, I debuted in the famous Gavela theater in Zagreb; at 23 I published my first book; I have large readership and audience in my own country and I am accepted as one of their own writers in some ten other countries… I stage a play or publish a novel every month. I work a lot, I have been writing a lot ever since I was 16 and I have never cared about the reception of my works… I have always spent most energy on retelling the latest story that has captured me. To be a famous writer is normal to me. I am happy that people read my books a lot and like watching my dramas and comedies. I am happy that my works are studied in many universities from Paris to New York, from Sarajevo to Bratislava.