Martina Vidaić was born in Zadar, Croatia on February 19, 1986. She graduated in Croatian language and literature at the University of Zadar. In 2011 she won the most important national poetry award – the Goran prize for young poets and for that occasion her first book of poetry Era gmazova (Era of the Reptiles) was published. Her poems have been published in several Croatian and international anthologies. In 2016 her collection Tamni čovjek Birger (Dark Man Birger) was published. Her next poetry book Mehanika peluda (Pollen Mechanics) was published in 2018 and awarded for the best poetry book written in Croatian in two years period. Her first novel Anatomija štakora (Anathomy of Rats) was published in 2019 and was acclaimed by the critics and well accepted by the readers in Croatia. Her next poetry book Trg, tržnica, nož (Square, Market, Knife) published in 2021 won Janko Polić Kamov Award. Her latest book is the novel Stjenice (Bedbugs) published in November 2021.
© Picture Nikola Kupresanin
A young architect deals with the loss of her partner writing a letter. In the letter, i.e. entire novel the protagonist reflects her story walking around the city rethinking the ugliness of the streets, meeting unknown people, remembering some situations and details from her previous life. After losing perspective in Zagreb she returns to her family, to her hometown where she meets her dying mother and complicated family relationships. The narrator, with her fine psychology and sharp eye, pictures details of the surrounding spaces, houses, streets and human characters whose destinies are presented through tiniest detailed excerpts and peculiar life scenes. Same as the protagonist, the reader continuously asks questions: how to face life in its complexity and how to arrange the world to avoid things which would hurt us. The names of the main characters – the protagonist whose surname Hrabrov means “courage” and the addressee named Hladna – Cold – lecture what to do knowing that all the people are deeply cold and unable to help anyone else but him/herself. We are alone and we recognize the same loneliness within our family, friends, everyone. And there are also reflections of that loneliness in the entire material world around us.
Agent / Rights Director
Naklada Ljevak, 2021
Jaja su se kuhala, brojila sam u sebi sekunde. Sto. Sto pedeset. Dvjesto. Kad bi barem, mislila sam, izvadila ta jaja u idućih tridesetak sekundi. Dvjesto dvadeset. Dvjesto dvadeset pet. Dvjesto četrdeset. Kad bi ih izvadila sad, mislila sam, i ona i ja bile bismo spašene. Još nije prekasno da ostanu dovoljno meka da kažem: «Sićaš li se kad si za maškare..?» Pa da se ona zacrveni, razvedri i prizna: «Naravno!» Pa da Jere kaže, posprdno ali dobrodušno: «A vas dvi...» Pa da se svi skupa nađemo u smijehu i dugo prepričavamo kako je ono jednom Kate za maškare, ne želeći uništavati korisne žutanjke i bjelanjke kao ostala dječurlija, ponijela za bacanje na fasade kuhana jaja, namjeravajući ih kasnije, kad nitko ne bude gledao, pokupiti, donijeti kući i pojesti, ali ih je kuhala prekratko pa su ostala meka, i žutanjci su se ipak razmazali po nečijoj kući. Takva je bila naša Kate: uvijek u težnji da bude savršena i uvijek s nekom komplikacijom na plećima zbog te težnje. Ili me sjećanje varalo? Promatrala sam je dok je sjedala za stol noseći zdjelu punu jaja i dva mala tanjura s priborom. Djelovala je usklađeno s vlastitim pokretima i s prostorom, kao da uopće ne žali što je odustala od Medicine i vratila se roditeljima. Primaknula sam se. Jaja su bila sasvim tvrdo kuhana. Očistila sam ih, podijelila vilicom i posolila. Gledala sam sir i rajčice koje je upravo stavljala na stol. Hladna, ne možeš ni zamisliti koliko je bila mršava, onda u Zagrebu, na Medicini. Zašto sam je vidjela samo dva puta u te tri godine? Zašto se nisam više brinula za nju? Sjećala sam se da smo se našle, oba puta, u dvorištu Studentskog na Savi, sjećala sam se da je bila kao ptičica u snijegu pod debelom bijelom bundom i prevelikom kapom, ali nisam se mogla sjetiti zašto sam je bila spremna ostaviti da izdahne u hladnoći. Iz straha? Ili običnog nemara? Gutala sam jaja kao što gladni gutaju, ali svejedeno su teško klizila niz grlo. Zamirisao je kravlji sir. Njegova bijela boja bila je identična boji tanjura na kojem se nalazio, tako da se činilo kao da je sir ranjivo mjesto tanjura, meka grba u kojoj je razotkrivena lažna kompaktnost keramike. Kapljice vode, načas napete, pucale su i klizile po neprirodno pravilnoj kori rajčica. I ti ljudi s druge strane stola, mogla sam čuti kako im pod zubima krckaju sjemenke i padaju niz jednjak u želudac da opet izađu van. Sve je bilo tako glupo, tako uzaludno. Tako užasno, Hladna. Odložila sam vilicu i pokrila oči dlanovima. «Što ti je?» upita Jere. «Ništa», rekoh. Spustila sam ruke. «Ovdi je vruće u pičku materinu», ustvrdila sam, pokušavajući zvučati vedro. Gledali su me, više začuđeno nego zabrinuto. Ustala sam, pomislivši načas da se jednostavno pokupim i odem, ali onda ipak rekoh: «Moram pišati.» Zaključala sam se u zahod, sjela na školjku i pokušavala se pribrati. «Sjeti se zašto si tu», šaptala sam si. Ali koliko god se trudila, nisam se mogla uvjeriti da je ikad postojao jasan cilj koji sam željela postići. Zapalila sam stan, pa su tinejdžeri vikali pokraj «džamije», pa sam otišla na kolodvor i kupila kartu. Tako je bilo. Što se nalazilo ispod toga, koju sam logiku slijedila, nisam mogla dokučiti. Policija će me svejedno naći, a novca za posuđivanje, čak i kad bih uspjela prevaliti molbu preko jezika, u ovoj kući ionako nikad nije bilo. Zašto sam onda tu? Brojila sam četkice u čaši. Ne četiri. Pet. Sad je s njima živio i Jerin sin, momak kojeg je majka dovukla s Kosova prije pet-šest godina i ostavila s ocem kojeg ne poznaje. Pokušavala sam dokučiti koja je četkica njegova, ali sve su izgledale isto, osim Draganove, koja je djelovala i kao da je korištena godinama i kao da se uopće ne koristi. Tješilo me: jedna od četiri četkice mogla je biti i moja. Razgledala sam prostor. Sve je izgledalo onako kako je oduvijek izgledalo. Crvenosmeđe pločice dolje, blijedoplave gore. Oguljena kada. Premaleni lavandin. Kamenac na slavini. Ogledalo kojem nedostaje komad, a nitko se ne sjeća kako je razbijeno. Klaustrofobična sigurnost prostora bez prozora, čija me longitudinalnost oduvijek podsjećala na unutrašnjost kakvog brodskog kontejnera. Dok sam sjedila na školjci, uvijek mi se činilo da putujem i da ću, kad izađem, doći na neko drugo mjesto. Sad sam ustala i stala pred ogledalo. Šminka nije bila razmazana, ali se već jasno vidjela nemoć da zadrži lice koje je probijalo van. Pronašla sam vatu, namočila je losionom i uklonila puder, rumenilo i ruž. Krenula sam i prema lijevom oku da uklonim maskaru i sjenilo, ali sam se zaustavila. Znala sam kako će izgledati moje golo oko: izloženo u svoj svojoj ranjivoj toplini, bez pomoći trunke prijetećeg crnila. Uklonim li šminku s očiju, znala sam, postat ću umorna i tužna, i neću uspjeti izdržati dan koji me čeka. Bacila sam prljavu vatu u koš, napila se vode i izašla.
Excerpt - Translation
Translated into English by Ellen Elias-Bursac
The eggs boiled and I counted off the seconds to myself. One hundred. One hundred fifty, Two hundred. If only she'd take the eggs out in the next thirty seconds, I thought. Two hundred twenty. Two hundred twenty-five. Two hundred forty. If I were to take them out now, I thought, she and I would be saved. It still wasn't too late for them to be soft enough, if I were to say: "Do you remember that time during Carnival week..." And she'd flush red, brighten up, and admit: "Of course!" And then Jere, snarky but well-meaning, might add: "Ah, you two..." And then together we'd laugh and take the time to retell how once Kate, not wanting to destroy perfectly good egg yolks and whites during the Carnival the way the other kids did, brought with her hard-boiled eggs to throw at houses, with the plan of going back later and picking them up when nobody was looking, bringing them home and eating them, but then she cooked them for too short a time so when she pelted the house with them they were soft and the egg yolks smeared all over the house. That was our Kate: always was striving to be perfect and always bearing the complications on her back. Or was my memory playing tricks on me? I watched her as she took her seat at the table, bringing a dish full of eggs and two small plates with silverware. She seemed in sync with her own movements and the space around her, as if she weren't at all sorry she'd given up the study of medicine and come back to her folks. I pulled up my chair. The eggs were hard hard-boiled. I peeled them, broke them into pieces and salted them. I looked at the cheese and tomatoes she was putting on the table. Hladna, you cannot imagine how thin she was while she was studying medicine in Zagreb. Why did I see her only twice in those three years? Why didn't I look after her better? I remembered that we got together, both times, in the yard of the student dormitory on the Sava River, I remembered she was like a little bird in the snow in her thick white coat and oversized cap, but I couldn't remember why I was prepared to abandon her there to expire in the cold. Out of fear? Or simply neglect? I devoured the eggs the way the hungry gobble down food, but the chunks of egg had trouble going down my throat. The cheese was fragrant. Its white color perfectly matched the color of the dish it was sitting on, so the cheese looked like a vulnerable spot on the dish, a soft hump exposing the fake compactness of the ceramics. Droplets of water, momentarily tense, burst and slid along the unnaturally regular skin of the tomatoes. And the others across the table from me, I could hear how hear the seeds crunched under their teeth and dropped down their throats into their gut, only to come out again later. All this was so stupid, so pointless. So horrible, Hladna. I put down my fork and covered my eyes with my hands. "What's up?" asked Jere. "Nothing," I said. I put my hands down. "It is a fucking furnace in here," I said, trying to sound upbeat. They looked at me, more surprised than worried. I got up, thinking for a moment that I should collect my things and go, but then I said: "I have to pee." I locked myself in the bathroom, sat on the toilet and tried to pull myself together. "Remember why you're here," I whispered. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't convince myself that there had ever been a clear goal for me to achieve. I set my apartment on fire, then teenagers were partying around the "mosque," and then I went to the bus station and bought a ticket. That's how it was. What lay beneath this, what logic I was following, this was beyond me. The police would find me, regardless, and even if I were to muster the courage to ask for some, there was no money in this house anyway for me to cadge. Why was I here, then? I counted the number of toothbrushes in the glass. Five. Not four. Jere's son was living with them now, too, whose mother had delivered him here from Kosovo five-six years before and left the boy with his father who had never met him until then. I tried to figure out which of the toothbrushes was his, but they all looked the same except Dragan's which looked as if it had been used for years and was not being used any more now. I was consoled: one of the four brushes might be mine. I looked around the room. Everything looked as it always had. Reddish-brown tiles below, light-blue above. The peeling bathtub. The bathroom sink that was too small. The mineral stains on the faucet. The mirror that was missing a piece, yet nobody could remember how it had been broken. The claustrophobic sense of safety of a room with no windows, whose longitudinality always reminded me of the interior of a ship container. While I sat on the toilet, I always felt as if I were on a journey, and that when I came out, I'd be arriving somewhere different. Now I got up and stood in front of the mirror. The makeup hadn't smeared, but by now I could see it couldn't contain the face that was pushing its way out. I found some cotton balls, soaked them in lotion and stripped away the powder, rouge and lipstick. I moved up toward my left eye to wipe off the mascara and eyeshadow, but then I stopped. I knew what my bare eye would look like: exposed in all its vulnerable warmth, without the help of the mask of threatening blackness. If I stripped the makeup from my eyes, I knew I'd be tired and sad, I wouldn't be able to get through the day ahead. I tossed the dirty cotton balls in the wastebasket, drank a glass of water and came out.