Miro Gavran Interview – Novi List, Rijeka
October 29, 2023
1. It has been 40 years since the appearance of “Creon's Antigone”, your brilliant debut that immediately caught the public's attention. What were the literary aspirations of the young man named Miro Gavran back then? Did you perhaps have a sense that things would be at least somewhat like they are today?
Even back then, I knew with certainty that I wanted to dedicate my life to writing. I hoped to reach as many people as possible with my texts, but I must admit that reality exceeded even my wildest dreams from that time. It is an exceptional privilege to be able to live off writing and for writing, and I am grateful to God for that.
2. Being in literature for forty years is neither easy nor simple. Yet, it seems that in the past two years, you have been working more than ever – theater, Matica Hrvatska, the poem “Defense of Jerusalem”, a book of selected dramas, and now a four-hundred-page novel... What is happening? Where does so much energy come from?
As time goes by, both a writer's literary and life experience grow. I feel that the emotional and experiential reservoir is getting deeper, and I can draw more complex stories from it. And what is most beautiful: I enjoy writing just as I did when I was sixteen, during summer holidays when I wrote my first five or six short stories and felt joy in that play with words. Writing has never been a problem for me... Travel, experiments, literary performances, and leading a large institution I am in charge of require more energy, but the unusual results give me new strength and help me, at times, surpass my physical and psychological limitations. Contact with concrete, harsh life is invaluable for writers in the long run.
3. “Portrait of a Soul” is a powerful novel about art and the life of an artist. You often turn to this theme. What initiated the creation of this novel?
My life initiated this novel, as well as the need to create a complex text that not only recapitulates my life but also all the emotional states that were close to me and dear to the people around me. It is also a kind of recapitulation of the time I have lived, and I mean the past six decades. It involves personal stories of different characters, from those on the margins of society to those engaged in art, with the backdrop reflecting the Croatian reality over the past six decades. A lot is described in the novel, many characters with their dramas and thoughtless moves, without passing judgment on anyone.
4. The story of Benjamin is conveyed to us by seven women using various forms of expression. Where did the idea for such an approach come from?
As a reader, I noticed that even the best international and domestic authors can
“put me to sleep” with straightforward, expected storytelling. Therefore, I wrote each of the seven chapters in a different literary and non-literary genre, so one chapter is a long letter, one a grand narrative, one an online correspondence, one a chapter of memoirs, one a poem, one a war report, and one a ninety-page film script. I know many people who have seen thousands of movies in their lives but have never held a screenplay in their hands. By changing perspectives and storytelling methods, I believe I provide the reader with plenty of surprises and satisfaction because in this novel, they get a complex and clear plot that would suffice for four novels of average length. With this novel, I surprised my readers and myself. Fortunately, the readers' reactions have been extremely positive, so the effort paid off.
5. How long did the writing take? The impression while reading is that everything flows easily. Was it really like that?
I always strive to write a novel that is easy to read. Writing this novel took a little over three years, and it wasn't easy. I created six different versions... But now, when it's all done, it no longer matters. The path a writer takes to the final version doesn't have to be significant to the reader.
6. Behind you, if I'm not mistaken, is your most extensive novel. What is the experience of creating such a substantial text?
The longer and more complex the process of creating a novel, the greater the satisfaction when reaching the goal. You've correctly noticed that this is my most extensive novel. Except for “John the Baptist”, all my other novels are relatively short.
7. Recently, the fourteenth GavranFest was held in Prague, a festival dedicated exclusively to performing your dramatic texts. What are your impressions, and how do you explain the constant and significant interest in performing your dramas outside of Croatian stages, where you are also well represented?
The impressions are fantastic. Selector and producer František Karoch did an excellent job. The 14th GavranFest brought extremely high-quality performances from the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Germany, with top-notch actors and excellent directors, and, most importantly, I personally witnessed the warm reception from the discerning Czech audience. Going to the theater is an integral part of life for Czechs. It is enough to say that Prague, which is twice the size of Zagreb, has as many as 140 theaters, while Zagreb has only about ten. In addition, this festival also marked the twentieth anniversary of the first GavranFest, held in 2003 at the Jan Palárik Theatre in the Slovak historic city of Trnava. The festival has been held in as many as five countries. In addition to four editions in Slovakia and six in the Czech Republic, there were two editions in Germany, in Augsburg, and one each in Krakow, Poland, and Belgrade, Serbia. There are living writers who have been honored with a festival in their own country, but there is no living playwright in the world who has had a festival dedicated to his theatrical plays in five countries, none of which are his homeland. I am extremely grateful to the organizers from these five countries. In the Czech Republic, I currently have as many as six live performances, three of which are in Prague.
8. What are your future plans related to literature and theater?
Just these days, Theater GAVRAN is beginning to perform my plays in the Small Hall of Lisinski in front of the Zagreb audience. These include the plays “Ice Cream”, “Everything About Men”, “Everything Will Be Fine”, “Spokesperson”, and “Coffee at Noon”. In November, we are also taking “Coffee at Non” to Oslo, Norway, and Pécs, Hungary. In February, Theater GAVRAN is preparing the premiere of my new comedy “The Happiness Agency”, and until May, I have premieres in Graz, Tel Aviv, Prague, Vinkovci, and Dubrovnik. Of course, in the months ahead, there will also be a series of promotions for my new novel “Portrait of a Soul” in Croatia, Hungary, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Contact Miro Gavran
Have questions, inquiries, or just want to get in touch with Miro Gavran?