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‘Amidst the river crossing’: Feelings of tenderness and overwhelming desire prevail


Nov 20, 2023

The new novel by one of the most awarded Croatian writers is at the same time wild and painfully tender, a transgressive love story between a fifty-three-year-old man, otherwise a writer, and a twenty-two-year-old student of sculpture, says the publisher’s review of Ferić’s novel “While Crossing the River”, which was included in a wider selection of 13 books for Fric award. This novel is based on Marguerite Duras’ cult novel “The Lover”, not only in terms of content but also in the title, but this one, instead of from the perspective of a fifteen-year-old lover, is written from the perspective of a lover, in a different time and place.

In the novel “While Crossing the River”, Ferić is, as the announcement of the work says, different, his handwriting is condensed and spasmodic, the text poetic, irrational and passionate. Ferić stepped onto the scene thirty years ago, this writer from Zagreb profiled himself with ironic discourse but also very unusual realistic poetics that is intertwined with the grotesque and the absurd. He first won over the audience with the story collections “Walt Disney’s Mousetrap” (1996) and “Angel in the Offside” (2000), followed by the books “Death of a Girl with Stamps” (2002), “Children of Patras” (2005), “Mayan calendar” (2011), “Alone by the sea” (2016) and “Travelling theater” (2020).

There is tenderness in this novel, but desire, it seems to me, dominates. Somewhere at the end of the novel, a sentence appears that the main character is afraid of, and that the “great director” – read – God could say to him: “More reality, please.” In one part of the novel, this sentimental story certainly dominates, perhaps it would be more accurate to say idealistic or platonic. However, the characters move in their reality, in their captivity, not only in a sado-maso relationship, but at one moment they cannot escape from what they are, as they were formed by opportunities, genes and circumstances of life. But they are built, perhaps even self-built, and there is nothing they can do about it.

In Von Trier’s film “Nymphomaniac” there is a scene in which the main female character, a nymphomaniac who at one point works for the mafia and collects debts, meets a pedophile. But a pedophile who never realized his fantasies and in reality satisfied his desire by abusing a child. He even says that the majority are like that. We are trapped in our desires, especially if they are deformed, but ultimately we can resist them. And this novel is dominated by a strong desire, not only for someone else’s body, but also for someone else’s life, for love – said Ferić about the work.

Fiction prose books written in Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian or Montenegrin languages, but first published in Croatia between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023, competed for the prize. One author will win a mobile sculpture and €10,000 (gross). On the last day of the literary manifestation Sa(n)jam book in Pula, the results of voting for the shortlist will be presented to the public, and then the winner will be chosen. So far, the winners of the Fric award have been, in order: for the 2016/17 season Damir Karakaš for the novel “Memory of the Forest”, 2017/18 Jurica Pavičić for the novel “Crvena voda”, 2018/19 Darko Cvijetić for the novel “Schindler’s Lift”, 2019/20 Marko Gregur for the novel “Vošicki”, 2020/21 Damir Uzunović for the novel “Ja sam ” and 2021/22 Miljenko Jergović for the collection of stories “Trojica za Kartal”.

By Editor

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