In memory of Gustav Krklec
The time of the festivals of All Saints Day and All Souls Day is always a special period of the year when we slow down our pace and devote our thoughts and memories to our most beloved who are no longer here, but also start reflecting on our own departure from this world into eternity for which the time will eventually come at some point in the future. We remember all those who we once knew but who are no longer among us. This year the National and University Library in Zagreb wishes to use this occasion to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Gustav Krklec. On 30 October thirty-five years ago this Croatian poet left the earthly dungeon of time and went away along his distant, heavenly, silvery road.
Gustav Krklec, one of the most prominent Croatian writers of the 20th century, was born on 23 June 1899 in Udbinja near Karlovac. He spent his childhood in Maruševec, in the gentle hills of Hrvatsko zagorje, which later significantly marked his poetry.
He had his first experiences with the world of literature very young, still as a sixteen-year-old student of the secondary school in Varaždin. His appearance at the Croatian literary scene coincides with that of Krleža, Andrić, Ujević and Šimić. The year 1919 stands out as particularly important in his literary biography. Then, together with A.B. Šimić and Nikola Miličević, he started the literary journal Juriš and he published his first collection of poetry (Lirika). That same year the journal Scena published his only play, Grobnica, which was not put on stage during his life. Much like Grobnica, his first and only novel Beskućnici, which was published in 1921 in Zagreb, did not receive any special attention from literary critics. His second poetry collection, Srebrna cesta, was also published in 1921, and owing to its highly favourable reception from the public and the great acclaim that it received from the critics, its second edition was issued in 1928. This collection heralded some of the most typical features of Krklec’s poetical style: concision, forthrightness and precision of expression, which he employed in conveying both gaiety and joy of life and his recognizable metaphysical anxieties.
A natural forcefulness and agility of character which he showed already in his youth led him to join the protests against the viceroy (ban) Cuvaj, as a result of which he was expelled from the Varaždin school. He soon became a student of the classical secondary school in the Upper Town of Zagreb, but due to his poor grades he was forced to quit this school as well and eventually went to Sušak. In the autumn of 1921 he began studying philosophy and psychology in Zagreb, then went to Prague where he became an assistant to Karel Čapek, and finally decided to go to Belgrade where he stayed until 1941. There he wrote his most mature collections Darovi za bezimenu (1942) and Tamnica vremena (1944).
During the war he moved to Slankamen with his wife Mirjana and the end of the war found him in Samobor. Later he returned to Zagreb and his wife joined him in September 1945. From then on he lived and worked in Zagreb.
Along with poetry, Krklec wrote essays, reviews, travel books, feuilletons and aphorisms. He also translated, mostly from Russian and German, but also from Slovene and Czech, and his translations of Puškin, Prešern and Brecht are particularly valuable. Using the pseudonym Martin Lipnjak he wrote a great number of critical reviews and essays. As he was getting older he was writing more and more children’s poems and published them in the children’s magazine Radost, of which he was one of the cofounders. He also published several collections of children’s poetry: Put u život, Telegrafske basne, Zvonce o repu, Drveni bicikl, Majmun i naočale and San ili java. During his life Gustav Krklec received numerous prestigious awards for his prolific and accomplished literary work, including the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award (1969). Marking the one hundredth anniversary of his birth on 23 June 1999 the Varaždin branch of the Central Croatian Cultural and Publishing Society (Matica hrvatska) and Maruševec Municipality put up a commemorative plaque on the front of the house in Maruševec where Krklec spent his happy childhood to serve as a permanent memorial to this Croatian poet. The Varaždin Public Library houses a memorial room dedicated to Krklec.
The National and University Library in Zagreb owns a valuable part of Krklec’s literary legacy.
From the literary works and other writings by this unique artist as well as from all that we know about his life, we cannot but gain the impression that he was a playful soul which immensely enjoyed life. He lived an interesting life, saw most of the world, but was always returning to his native Zagorje. Once he said about him himself “I am happy because I am human”.
Gustav Krklec died on 30 October 1977 in Zagreb.