ZAGREB FESTIVAL OF WORLD LITERATURE
I was invited to attend the Festival of World Literature my Croatian publishers, Fraktura, were organising. Never having been to that part of the world before, the answer was obviously ‘Yes’ and I am very pleased that I went.
Fraktura is owned and run by Seid Serdarević and, as quickly became apparent, he sees Fraktura as something more than a business. Seid has a real passion for books, hence, the Literary Festival, which was as well-organised and as well-attended as any I’ve been to in the UK. As an indication of the care Seid and his staff had gone to, the programme was embellished with line drawings of all the thirty-odd writers who were speaking at the festival. This is mine (the work of Danko Friŝĉiĉ).
Rod Rees à la pointillism! I think it’s great.
I did one interview before the festival audience (conducted by a very sharp lady, Tanja Tolić) which I think went pretty well and then a panel discussion with two Croatian writers Franjo Janeŝ and Edo Popović. Here I was asked what I was working on next. My reveal that it’s an SF story featuring Nikola Tesla caused something of a reaction … I hadn’t realised that the theatre where I was speaking was on Nikola Tesla Street. Tesla is something of a national hero in Croatia (and in Serbia!) and I suppose there’s a worry that I might treat him with a lack of respect. As an indication I was approached after the panel discussion by a professor at Zagreb University enquiring if I had portrayed Tesla as homosexual: my answer that he is shown to be asexual seemed to put the guy’s mind at rest.
All-in-all three days well-spent. I loved Zagreb – a beautiful city which put me in mind of Paris – and the people were astonishingly well-read (they all spoke English too!). I’ll be going back but next time I’ll take Nelli along.
Many thanks to Said, all the staff at Fraktura, my interviewers Tonja and Iva and to a simply wonderful simultaneous interpreter whose name I didn’t catch.