Novak, Slobodan 1924-

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Novak, Slobodan 1924-


Born November 3, 1924, in Split, Croatia; son of Duje (a caterer) and Marija Novak; married Nada Nedeljkovic; children: two sons. Ethnicity: "Croat." Education: Graduated from University of Zagreb.


Home—Zagreb, Croatia. E-mail—[email protected]


Izvor ("Source"), cofounder, editor, and contributor, 1948-51; Krugovi, founder and coeditor; Croatian National Theater, Split, director of drama; Moguc'nosti ("Possibilities"), editor; Slobodna Dalmacija ("Free Dalmatia"), editor for publishing houses Lykos, Zora, and Naprijed; Radio Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia, worked as journalist; writer. Participated in World War II as a member of National Liberation Movement.


Drustvo hrvatskih knjizevnika (Society of Croatian Writers), Croatian Academy of Science and Art.


City of Zagreb prizes, 1955, for Izgubljeni zavičaj and 1961, for Tvrdi grad; awards from Yugoslav Radio Television Festival, best radio play, 1966, for Majstore, kako vam je ime? and international award, 1968, for Zakrivljeni prostor; Matica hrvatska prize, 1968, NIN prize, 1969, and Vladimir Nazor Prize, 1969, all for Mirisi, zlato i tamjan; Vjesnika Prize, 1994; Miroslav Krleža Prize; and August Šenoa Prize, both for Pristajanje; Slobodne Dalmacijy Prize, 2005.


Glasnice u oluji (poetry; title means "Harbingers in the Storm"), Novo pokoljenje (Zagreb, Croatia), 1950.

Iza lukobrana (poetry; title means "Behind the Breakwater"), Zora (Zagreb, Croatia), 1953.

Izgubljeni zavičaj (title means "Lost Homeland"), Pododbor Matice hrvatske (Split, Croatia), 1955.

Književno vecče—Ispovijed koju niste zavrijedili (title means "Literary Evening") 1958.

(With Stjepan Perovic') Trofej (title means "Trophy"), Lyksos (Zagreb, Croatia), 1960.

Tvrdi grad (short stories; title means "Fortified City"), Zora (Zagreb, Croatia), 1961, published as Novele (title means "Novellas"), Prosveta (Belgrade, Yugoslavia), 1962.

Mirisi, zlato i tamjan (novel), Nakladni zavod Matice hrvatske (Zagreb, Croatia), 1968, translation by Celia Hawkesworth published as Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, Most/Bridge (Zagreb, Croatia), 1991.

Dolutali metak, 1969.

Izvanbrodski dnevnik (title means "Off the Ship Diary"), BiblioTeka (Zagreb, Croatia), 1976.

Izgubljeni zavičaj i dvanaest novela, Znanje (Zagreb, Croatia), 1980.

Izabrana proza, 1981.

Grada za portret pisca, 1988.

Djela Slobodana Novaka, (title means "Chosen Works"), six volumes, Globus (Zagreb, Croatia), 1990.

Sabrana djela (title means "Collected Works"), six volumes, Globus (Zagreb, Croatia), 1990.

Digresije—razgovori s Jelenom Hekman, 2001.

Protimbe—preradene i proširene Digresije, 2003.

Pristajanje (novel), 2005.

Contributor to numerous literary journals, including Republika, Forum, and Vjesnik.

Novak's works have been published in various languages, including English, German, French, Italian, and eight other languages.


Strasno je znati, 1961, published, 1966.

Trofej, 1964.

Majstore, kako vam je ime? (title means "Maestro, What Is Your Name?"), 1966, published, 1968.

Zakrivljeni prostor (title means "Crooked Space"), 1968, published, 1969.

Skoljka sumi (title means "Murmuring Shell"), 1975.

Redukcija (title means "Reduction"), 1983, published, 1991.

Zakrivljeno vrijeme (title means "Crooked Time"), 1984.

Hlap (title means "Lobster"), 1988.


Several of Noval's works have been adapted as films or plays. Mirisi, zlato i tamjan was adapted into a film by Ante Babaja, 1971, and as a play by Bozidar Violic', produced at Theater Zagreb, in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1974.


The body of work of Slobodan Novak is small but significant to Slavic literary history. He has written poetry, novels, short stories, plays, essays, and critical articles, and has been published in several newspapers and journals. According to Aldijana Sisic, writing in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Novak's published works have managed to rank "among the highest accomplishments of contemporary Croatian literature."

Novak was born in Split, Croatia, on November 3, 1924. He was the son of a caterer, Duje Novak. His mother died early, so he went to live with his aunt on Rab, an Adriatic island. He returned to Split to attend the Catholic Seminary and state high school, but halted his studies at the outbreak of World War II, when Italy came to occupy Dalmatia. Novak completed his secondary education in Susak, near Rijeka. After he graduated he joined the National Liberation Movement forces (Partisans). He had begun writing in high school, and continued to write through the two years between high school and college, sending his work to war newspapers. After the war he attended the University of Zagreb, graduating with a degree from the philosophy faculty. While in college he contributed poems, essays, and criticism to the periodical Studentski list.

Novak and his literary friends founded a literary journal called Izvor in 1948. He served as its editor and contributed articles. Two years later he published his first volume of poetry, Glasnice u oluji and joined the Society of Croatian Writers. After Izvor folded in 1951 Novak launched a new literary journal, Krugovi. This was an important journal to young Croatian writers interested in modernist ideas and disenchanted with the dogmatic literature of a generation before. Novak and his colleagues contributed Western-European inspired literature, essays, and reviews. Novak also worked as a chief editor, journalist, writing for the Zagreb newspaper Studentski list Vjesnik, and he published a collection of poems in the book, Iza lukobrana.

After this, Novak's career reached a turning point. From 1952 to 1954 he began writing prose fragments in literary journals. His first volume of short novels, Izgubljeni zaviaj was published in 1955. That year he was appointed the director of drama at the Croatian National Theater in Split. Izgubljeni zavicaj is told through the eyes of a child, and depicts a prewar childhood on an island. Later in the book, the protagonist returns to the island as a young man following World War II, searching for his forgotten memories and homeland; he finds them vanished, and leaves the island. Sisic wrote in Dictionary of Literary Biography that "Novak also shares with his readers the pain that comes with broken hopes, unfulfilled love, and disillusion." Critics applauded the book, and Novak became known as the first Croatian writer of this period to write without a clear ideological dogma. His work freed other authors to break from socialist realism and write less politically-oriented literature.

Through the late 1950s and early 1960s, Novak edited for the literary journal Moguc'nosti, the newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija, and the publishing house Lykos. He also worked as a journalist at Radio Zagreb. He published his second prose volume, Tvrdi grad in 1961. The volume consists of short stories written since 1952, some previously published in journals, and concerns the life of a Catholic nun, the death of newborn children, ways of dying, suicide, and execution during war. Death and graveyards feature prominently in the work of this period. Novak was absorbed with the contrast between life and mortality, and his work is driven by a desire to understand human existence. These short stories also explore the psychological damage incurred by war. Slobodna Dalmacija was another critical success. Sisic wrote, "This collection of stories assured his standing in Croatian literature, demonstrating that the accomplishment of Izgubljeni zavicaj was not mere chance." In 1960 Novak published his first dramatic text, Trofej, coauthored with Stjepan Perovic. The drama was performed over Radio Zagreb in 1964. Through the 1960s and 1970s Novak had several of his fiction pieces adapted and performed for Radio Zagreb.

From 1964 to 1983, Novak worked as an editor in the publishing houses Zora and Naprijed. He published only two books during this period, Mirisi, zlato i tamjan and Izvanbrodski dnevnik. Mirisi, zlato i tamjan is the story of a retired former partisan who, with his wife, cares for a dying elderly woman on an Adriatic island. When his wife leaves for a time, the protagonist is left to contemplate the experience of death and the meaning of life. He grows from impatience to devotion for the elderly woman, who represents the passing old ways of pre-war Croatia. Through her, readers witness "the fading of moral and human values as the new system overcomes the old one, and using irony as his main form of expression, Novak offers a bitter perception of the new world, articulating the feelings of a whole generation of like-minded fellow writers," noted Sisic. Novak won three prestigious literary prizes for this novel, and it was adapted into a film by Ante Babaja in 1971 and into a play by Bozidar Violic' in 1974. Violic's play was performed in the Theater Zagreb for twenty years. The book Izvanbrodski dnevnik is considered a tool of self-defense for a disillusioned writer. In it, Novak is more revealing of his ethics, and he makes his moral values and beliefs clearer. The story is about a journey from an island, to the mainland, to a town, and back to the island, through the eyes of a sarcastic mental hospital patient. In this book, stated Sisic, Novak "expresses his awareness of the hidden ethical whirlpools inside the human mind and indicates his concern for the survival of human individuality."

Sisic concluded in her article in Dictionary of Literary Biography: "By the complex body of work he has created, Novak has contributed immensely to Croatian literature and has rightfully become one of its most prominent writers."



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 181: South Slavic Writers since World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997.