Slavicek, Milivoj 1929-
SLAVICEK, Milivoj 1929-
PERSONAL: Born October 24, 1929, in Cakovec, Medjimurje, Croatia; son of Mato (a lawyer) and Dragica Slavicek. Education: University of Zagreb, B.A., 1954.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Krscanska Sadasnjost, Marulicev trg 14, 41000 Zagreb, Croatia.
CAREER: Poet. Has worked as a salesman, a teacher, and a librarian.
MEMBER: Omladinski literarni kruzok (Youth Literary Circle), University of Zagreb.
AWARDS, HONORS: Several Croatian literary awards.
Zaustavljena pregrst, Mladost (Zagreb, Croatia), 1954.
Daleka pokrajina, Lykos (Zagreb, Croatia), 1957.
Modro vece, Zora (Zagreb, Croatia), 1959.
Predak, Naprijed (Zagreb, Croatia), 1963.
Noc'ni autobus ili naredni dio cjeline, Zora (Zagreb, Croatia), 1964.
Soneti, pjesme o ljubavi i ostale pjesme, Ogranak Matice hrvatske (Cakovec, Croatia), 1967.
Purpurna pepeljara, naime to i to, Naprijed (Zagreb, Croatia), 1969.
Poglavlje, Razlog (Zagreb, Croatia), 1970.
Naslov sto ga nikad nec'u zaboraviti, Veselin Maslesa (Sarajevo, Bosnia), 1974.
Otvoreno radi (eventualnog) preuredjenja, Alfa-August Cesarec (Zagreb, Croatia), 1978.
Trinaesti pejzaz, Znanje (Zagreb, Croatia), 1981.
Teror/Terror Biblioteka Biskupic (Zagreb, Croatia), 1981.
Sjaj ne/svakodnevnice Naprijed (Zagreb, Croatia), 1987.
Nastanjen uvijek Krscanska sadasnjost (Zagreb, Croatia), 1990.
Izmedju: Izbor pjesama Bagdala (Krusevac), 1965.
Izabrane pjesme, Nakladni zavod Matice hrvatske (Zagreb, Croatia), 1987.
EDITIONS IN ENGLISH
Silent Doors (selected poems), translated by Branko Gorjup and Jeanette Lynes, Exile Editions (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1988.
Poetry has also appeared in English translation in anthologies, including Contemporary Yugoslav Poetry, edited by Vasa D. Mihailovich, Iowa University Press (Iowa City, IA), 1977, and in periodicals, including Bridge, Journal of Croatian Studies, and Exile.
(Editor) A Collection of Modern Croatian Verse, Hrvatski centar P.E.N. Cluba (Zagreb, Croatia), 1965.
(Editor) Wewnetrzne morze. Antologia poezji chorwackiej XX wieku, Wydawnictwo Literackie (Krakow, Poland), 1982.
SIDELIGHTS: With its aberrant and individualistic nature Milivoj Slavicek's poetry pronounces its rebellion against politically sanctioned literature. The seeming simplicity of his poetry is a political statement and a celebration of the individual perspective as opposed to the collective viewpoint. His innovative use of language further reveals his individuality.
Although the majority of Slavicek's poetry suggests his defense of individuality, the political pressures of 1950s Yugoslavia strongly dictated the forms and functions of literature. Under these pressures, Slavicek occasionally subordinated his talents by writing on acceptable themes in acceptable forms. As Aida Vidan at Harvard University, writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, commented: "Although Slavicek's first verses announced the arrival of a potentially interesting contributor to the Croatian literary scene, it should be noted that not all of his early poems are of equal quality. The pressure of political factors in Yugoslavia in the 1950s and the demand for an optimistic, collective viewpoint in literature made Slavicek occasionally succumb to themes and forms not well suited to his talent." Vidan identified two of Slavicek's early works, Zaustavljena pregrst ("The Restrained Armful," 1954) and Daleka pokrajina ("A Far Away Province," 1957), as his most politically docile. Vidan wrote that "even in these one can find poems such as 'Pusim lulu, drzim je prstima, i gledam u dim' ('I smoke my pipe, hold it in my fingers, and look at the smoke') that announce Slavicek's typical simplicity, or cycles such as 'Vode' ('Waters'), a group of six sonnets in which the author experiments with this traditional form."
Slavicek's early poems display his affinity for commonplace elements that refute Romantic themes. According to Vidan: "This tendency deepens and becomes more prominent as Slavicek matures, gradually transforming the somewhat sentimental overtones of his early poems into the tongue-in-cheek attitude or even openly voiced sarcasm and irony in his later works." What Vidan called Slavicek's "tendency toward a 'democratic' expression in verse" has prompted a stir among his critics. As Vidan indicated: "Some critics have seen this approach as a deliberate statement, stressing Slavicek's conscious and (in the later period) consistent avoidance of both poetic devices and poetic language."
According to Vidan, sound experimentation "remains for the most part foreign to [Slavicek's] style." The result of this, Vidan asserted, is that "much of his poetry comes close to 'spilling' into prose, and it is only in the correlation and juxtaposition of phrases and syntactic units that one can recognize poetic principles at work." Vidan went on to say: "On the lexical level it is not only that Slavicek brings urban colloquial expressions into his verse, but that he also refuses to use romantically colored nature vocabulary in the fashion typical for most of his predecessors and contemporaries. Nature, in its concrete manifestations, is absent from Slavicek's poetry. On the rare occasions when it is mentioned, it is mostly viewed from an urban environment as something distant, almost symbolic."
Slavicek's refusal to romanticize nature derives from the fact that his central focus has been humanity. As Vidan maintained: "Because Slavicek's primary concern is with humanity, he observes nature exclusively in relation to human existence, to which it remains secondary. As specific as Slavicek can be about urban landscapes, he remains distant and abstract in his rare evocations of images from nature. This can be observed, for example, in the poem 'Rijeka i ja smo u neprijateljstvu' ('The River and I are in a State of Enmity') from the collection Modro vece (Blue Evening, 1959). In eleven rebellious verses, in which Slavicek calls for and celebrates individuality, the motif of the river is used as a metaphor for everything that is mainstream, obedient and unchallenging. Throughout the poem the river remains an abstract notion and is stripped of any specific attributes." In Vidan's view, Modro vece is an important collection of poetry not only for what the poems reveal about Slavicek's relation to nature and humanity but also because of the courage Slavicek exhibits by rejecting common forms. Vidan, however, stresses a greater significance: "In addition, his preoccupation with the position of the common person in the alienating conditions of twentieth-century, civilization clearly takes a central position in this book. Even the title of one of its poems, 'Vrijeme je da se dogadja napokon Covjek' ('It Is Time for the Man to Finally Happen'), is enough to indicate this concern."
Vidan concluded by addressing Slavicek's work as a whole: "From Slavicek's first book of poetry to the most recent, certain themes and techniques recur. Moreover, the author quite often brings the works of previous years into his new collections, thereby encouraging the reader to disregard the chronology and to read the poems not as separate entities but rather in relation to one another. It could even be argued that they are to be perceived as different chapters of a single text whose logic does not depend on a temporal sequence. The tone that connects different chapters of Slavicek's oeuvre is one of simplicity, resistance, and protest, which is what makes this poetry 'with a mission' or 'poetry of detail' so recognizable."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 181: South Slavic Writers Since World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1997, pp. 327-331.*