Hands. Just what do those thousands of human hands moving about the city look like? Human hands that kill, shed the blood of other animals, construct machines, prick with needeles, hold burning irons, lamps, banners, razors, tools, people carry them in the street as if they did not know what to do with them. They take off their hats, wave their sticks, carry things in their hands, cigarettes, books, one hand holds another with the magnetism of physical contact, human hands are warm, they sweat, grow rough, can be wounded, bathed, painted, make meaningless gestures, follow the movement of human bodies like flashy ornaments of monotonous size, moving about the streets together with the people, in that long and fruitless human procession which flows and swells between the walls of cities as water. (…)
There is sorrow in every human eye, like an animal peeping out of a cage; human gestures are like hyenas’ and vunerable because everything is barred and everything is locked, and painting is altoghether unnecessary in cages. How could one possibly stop those human streams and begin talking to them in terms of painting?
Miroslav Krleža, The Return of Philip Latinowicz
Well, I though, why not mention a Croatian author on my blog. So, here he is, the most famous of all – Miroslav Krleža. Miroslav Krleža was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature seven years in a row, from 1958 till 1964, but he was never awarded.
I actually had to read The Return of Philip Latinowicz three times – first in high school and then twice in college. I didn’t like it the first time, until we started to talk about it. Miroslav Krleža is known for his descriptive style and too long sentences, but I grew to like this book and truly appreciate Krleža.
It is a novel about a man who returns to his hometown after spending many years away. He is a painter who cannot find inspiration for his work. Along the way, he meets several interesting characters, and none of them are very likable. He also has to deal with some issues from his past which cause him to have a love-hate relationship with his town. The novel gives quite a bleak view of people and human nature, and even has elements of Naturalism. For a large part, it discusses the purpose and futility of art – which I think is reflected in the chosen quote. The quote is long, yes, but that is quite fitting considering Krleža’s style in general.
Hope you enjoyed this little trip to Croatian literature!