Croatia: travel books to read before you go

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This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Croatia guide provides a selection of literature to get you in the mood for your trip.

There are plenty of excellent pickings from Croatia for bookworms, both written about Croatia and by Croatian authors.

Black Lamb and Grey FalconWe have to start with the classic travel book on Yugoslavia: Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Written in 1941 as the world was becoming enmeshed in WWII, West recounts her journeys through Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro, weaving her observations into a seamless narrative.

Another Fool in the BalkansTony White, a British writer, retraced West’s journey in Another Fool in the Balkans (2006), juxtaposing modern life in Serbia and Croatia with the region’s political history.

Croatian NightsWhite also co-edited and contributed to Croatian Nights (2005), together with Borivoj Radaković and Matt Thorne, an excellent anthology of 19 short stories by prominent Croatian and British writers such as Gordan Nuhanović, Vladimir Arsenijević, Zoran Ferić, Toby Litt, Edo Popović and the editors themselves.

Nobody's HomeTwo important Croatian writers to look out for are Dubravka Ugrešić and Slavenka Drakulić. Ugrešić (www.dubravkaugresic.com) published Nobody’s Home in 2007, a book that is part memoir, part travelogue, with stories of travels across Europe and the US, and essays on literature, geopolitics, the East and the West.

Cafe EuropaDrakulić’s Café Europa – Life After Communism (1999) is an excellent read, wittily detailing the pervasive infiltration of Western culture in Eastern Europe, and highlighting the reluctance with which the West handles Eastern European culture.

Gold, Frankincense and MyrrhGold, Frankincense and Myrrh by Slobodan Novak, originally published in Yugoslavia in 1968, has recently been translated into English. The book is set on the island of Rab, where an elderly Madonna is dying, and her carer – the narrator – reminisces about his life, love, the state, religion, duty and memory. It’s considered to be one of the pivotal works of 20th-century literature and Novak’s writing is compared to that of Chekhov, Borges, Beckett and Kiš.

CroatiaCroatia: Travels in Undiscovered Country (2003), by Tony Fabijančić, recounts the life of rural folks in a new Croatia.

More travel literature reading lists for other destinations can be found here.